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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Powell going to Darfur (to see "indications" of genocide) 

Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Sudan next week on his way to a meeting with ASEAN leaders in Jakarta. He will visit the capital of Khartoum and the western Darfur region, scene of an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.

A spokesman for Mr Powell said: "The secretary's visit to Sudan is intended to continue to call attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, to do whatever we can to stop the violence there and to make sure that the needy people of that region are receiving ... supplies."

Mr Powell will also "make clear that we believe that much of the hardship is being caused by the violence perpetrated by the militias, that we know the militias are being supported by the government and that the government needs to bring those militias under control," he said.
The United Nations and State Department representatives have consistently referred to the crisis as one of "ethnic cleansing." However, the G word is creeping into the discourse lately, and just today organizations ranging from Physicians for Human Rights to the Holocaust Museum to the Congressional Black Caucus called the situation "genocide" and called for action to stop it.

The House Africa subcommittee held a hearing on Darfur today, and chairman Ed Royce said,

I am going to ask the Administration today to begin compiling the names of those in the Khartoum government complicit in this. An international criminal tribunal should follow. I support backing a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur to protect civilians and humanitarian aid deliveries.
Two Republican lawmakers are leaving for Darfur on Friday to assess the situation:

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) today announced they are leaving Washington on Friday night for Darfur, the war-ravaged region of western Sudan.

The two are heading to the region to assess what some are calling the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world.
All of the attention might pay off, as the government is considering applying the "genocide" label to the crisis.

"I can tell you that we see indicators of genocide and there is evidence that points in that direction," said Pierre Prosper, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes.

"At this moment, we are not in a position to confirm," Prosper added in testimony before the House International Relations Committee. "In order to do so, Darfur needs to be opened up."
Use of the G word, so carefully avoided during the Bosnian and Rwandan campaigns of genocide, is generally held to obligate action under international law. Ambassador Prosper's tiptoeing around the word--"indications of genocide," and "evidence that points in that direction"--is very similar to State's language in 1994 as Rwanda spiraled into an orchestrated campaign of ethnic slaughter. State's standard usage at the time was "acts of genocide."

Ambassador Prosper did say that a legal determination of genocide is "under active review," so perhaps we'll have a clearer stand soon.

That stand needs to be "this is genocide and we will not allow it to continue." Nothing short of that will do. We can't solve every problem or stop violence everywhere. But we certainly have an obligation to our fellow human beings when they are being murdered, raped, starved, and displaced by the millions. (And psst... UN, feel free to join in. Maybe boot Sudan off the Human Rights Commission while you're at it.)
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