Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Resort to the G Word Takes Place of Action in Darfur (Financial Times)

A slightly meandering article, but the crucial points are clear enough (and depressing):

Sudanese forces and allied Arab militias had been rampaging through villages in Darfur for months, terrorising and killing thousands of Africans, when Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, spoke of his "deep sense of foreboding" about the crisis in April.

He chose the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide to warn the international community that it could not "stand idle" as the violence escalated in the vast region of western Sudan.

During the 1994 massacre in Rwanda, Mr Annan was head of UN peacekeeping. Then, the world did nothing as more than 500,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. That should not be allowed to happen again, he implied, as he launched an "action plan" to prevent genocide.

"If we are serious about preventing or stopping genocide in future, we must not be held back by legal arguments about whether a particular atrocity meets the definition of genocide or not," Mr Annan said in the speech.

Yet eight months later a debate is still raging on whether genocide has taken place in Darfur as the international community stands accused by human rights groups of not doing enough to prevent continuing violence in the region. [....]

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say that debating the definition of the atrocities has detracted from a key issue: action by the international community to help end the violence and ensure those responsible are brought to justice. [....]

Military intervention, for example, would have to be authorised by Security Council. The council could also refer cases to the International Criminal Court, but it has been largely divided on how to deal with Darfur, with China, Pakistan, Russia and Algeria resisting tougher action against Khartoum.

Human rights activists argue that the international community has a legal and moral obligation to bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes to justice, adding that action such as sanctions, the deployment of international monitors or an arms embargo would at least show it was serious about stopping the violence. But the Security Council has yet to move beyond the threat of sanctions.

Meanwhile Darfur deteriorates, with 1.6m people homeless and violence rising. The only international military presence is the fledgling AU, which struggles with poor resources. The UN and US insist that the AU is the right organisation to handle the operation, while the pan-African body is keen to prove that Africans are able to resolve the continent's crises.


--Jeff Weintraub

===================

Financial Times
January 5, 2005

Resort to the G word takes place of action in Darfur
By Andrew England

Sudanese forces and allied Arab militias had been rampaging through villages in Darfur for months, terrorising and killing thousands of Africans, when Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, spoke of his "deep sense of foreboding" about the crisis in April.

He chose the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide to warn the international community that it could not "stand idle" as the violence escalated in the vast region of western Sudan.

During the 1994 massacre in Rwanda, Mr Annan was head of UN peacekeeping. Then, the world did nothing as more than 500,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. That should not be allowed to happen again, he implied, as he launched an "action plan" to prevent genocide.

"If we are serious about preventing or stopping genocide in future, we must not be held back by legal arguments about whether a particular atrocity meets the definition of genocide or not," Mr Annan said in the speech.

Yet eight months later a debate is still raging on whether genocide has taken place in Darfur as the international community stands accused by human rights groups of not doing enough to prevent continuing violence in the region.

In September, Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, said genocide had occurred and might still be continuing. The Sudanese government and pro-government militia bore responsibility for it, he added. But to the surprise of many, Mr Powell stated that no new action was "dictated by this determination".

"The resort to genocide rhetoric has been kind of a surrogate to taking action. It is clear terrible crimes have taken place," says Dinah PoKempner, a legal expert at Human Rights Watch. "In the end it does not matter if it is called genocide or not - unless someone is willing to take action."

Neither the European Union nor the African Union have used the "G" word. Even human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have refrained from labelling the violence genocide.

They agree that mass human rights violations have taken place, with most atrocities targeting Darfur's Africans. But they question whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that there was "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group", as stated in the 1948 genocide convention.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say that debating the definition of the atrocities has detracted from a key issue: action by the international community to help end the violence and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.

Ms PoKempner says that when the convention was drawn up in the wake of the Jewish Holocaust, nations needed guidelines to detail what steps could be taken against a sovereign state killing its people. In the modern era, she argues, the world's powers have no reason to sit and wait. She cites intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo as examples.

The convention says genocide is a crime under international law that the contracting parties, which include Sudan, undertake to prevent or punish. Any party may call upon the UN organs to take appropriate action to suppress acts of genocide, it says, but it does not make clear what that might be. In effect, what follows is determined by the will of the world's big powers.

"One may wonder if that is the best solution or not but that is the way it is and changing that is going to be very hard," says Juan Mendez, Mr Annan's special adviser on the prevention of genocide. "The convention is highly relevant because the need is there, but the mechanism of the implementation is not satisfactory. It seems to say there is an obligation to act but it doesn't say how or by whom."

Military intervention, for example, would have to be authorised by Security Council. The council could also refer cases to the International Criminal Court, but it has been largely divided on how to deal with Darfur, with China, Pakistan, Russia and Algeria resisting tougher action against Khartoum.

Human rights activists argue that the international community has a legal and moral obligation to bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes to justice, adding that action such as sanctions, the deployment of international monitors or an arms embargo would at least show it was serious about stopping the violence. But the Security Council has yet to move beyond the threat of sanctions.

Meanwhile Darfur deteriorates, with 1.6m people homeless and violence rising. The only international military presence is the fledgling AU, which struggles with poor resources. The UN and US insist that the AU is the right organisation to handle the operation, while the pan-African body is keen to prove that Africans are able to resolve the continent's crises.

The AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, was little more than a talking shop, and the US and UN's humiliating experience in Somalia ruled out any western intervention in Rwanda. The Rwandan slaughter was a blatant campaign by the Hutu-extremist government to wipe out the country's minority Tutsi community. Darfur is less clear-cut - and many argue that genocide has not taken place. While the main violence has targeted Africans, the crisis erupted after rebels from African tribes took up arms in February 2003.

The government then allegedly unleashed the Arab militias, which mounted a campaign of terror in African villages, exacerbating old rivalries over resources between Arab nomads and African farmers. The government, which blames the insurgents for the crisis, also used militias to fight rebels in southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains, but those campaigns received little attention.

Susan Rice, a member of the Clinton administration and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank, says the challenge is how to ignite the political will of key countries.

"In an ironic sense US policymakers, after struggling with the issue decided to call it genocide, then breathed a sigh of relief and told themselves they had done their duty by acknowledging what it was," she says. A UN commission is due to complete its investigation into whether genocide has occurred this month.

This article is part of a series on the future of multilateral relations

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