Sudan: a crime against humanity

March 17, 2005, midnight | By Nora Onley | 15 years, 10 months ago

Genocide (noun): the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political or ethnic group, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Events like the Holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda and Somalia bring to mind horrifying images of violence and death. These same atrocities - rape, murder and displacement - have been perpetrated daily by the Sudanese government militias upon the inhabitants of the Darfur region of Sudan, while the world has passively watched from the sidelines.

On Feb. 1, the United Nations (UN) released its report on Sudan, failing to qualify the violence there as genocide. The UN conclusion rests on legal hair-splitting that finds that the Sudanese killers have not intentionally sought to exterminate the thousands who have been slaughtered and that the murderous militias and their victims are not from distinctly different ethnic groups. Whether or not genocide (as defined by international law) exists in Darfur, horrible crimes against humanity have occurred there on a massive scale, and the U.S. should still set an example for other countries and send aid and troops to Sudan.

Fighting between the rebel group Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Islamist government of Sudan has been nonstop since 1985, when the SPLA staged a coup against the former president that eventually led to a military government takeover. In 2003, renewed bloodshed in the western region of Sudan started when rebels brought arms against the government to protest the poor economy and the lack of African representation in the government. For the past year, the rebels and the Sudanese government have been retaliating against each other. The SPLA has kidnapped and murdered civilians while the government has bombed the villages of innocent people in search of SPLA members. The lives of the Sudanese people have been changed forever: Two decades of violence have caused the displacement of over two million people from their homes and farms, and the country now has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world at 42 years, according to Global Security, a human rights advocacy group.

The UN has failed too many times to act in similar internal conflicts in Rwanda and Somalia. In Rwanda, almost one million people were killed in a violent war of ethnic cleansing. Despite the fact that the names of thousands of people who were scheduled to be killed were passed from military to political groups across the world, the UN, as well as other international organizations, did not act.

In March 2004, former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent researchers to interview Sudanese refugees and found evidence of intended genocide and ethnic cleansing backed by Sudan's government. Since then, the U.S. has been committed to punishing those responsible for the terror in Sudan, proposing economic sanctions and a UN-backed peace tribunal like the one created for the Rwandan conflict.

However, now that the UN has released its report that has made a war crimes tribunal no longer a possibility, it is instead up to the UN to recognize the horrors in Sudan for what they are - the atrocious massacre of helpless people - and push even harder for peace and reconstruction for a war-torn country.

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