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4/27/04 - U-N COMMISSION AND DARFUR - 2004-04-27

At the end of its annual meeting, the United Nations Human Rights Commission expressed “grave concern” about what it called “reported human rights abuses” in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. But the April 23rd commission statement says nothing about the atrocities, including ethnic cleansing, committed by the Sudanese government and the Arab militias it has armed and supported. These atrocities have been reported both by U-N officials and human rights groups. Because the commission statement was so weak, the U.S. refused to vote for it. Richard Williamson represented the U.S. at the U-N commission’s meeting. He says the text of the statement on Sudan does not begin to reflect the horrors that have been occurring in Darfur:

“An acceptable commission product must condemn -- condemn this ethnic cleansing -- must hold accountable those who are engaged in these deplorable acts, must call on the Sudan government to stop. It must have an effective mechanism.”

Arab and African communities in Darfur have often clashed over land and scarce resources. The current conflict began about a year ago when two African opposition groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement, or Army, and the Sudan Justice and Equality Movement, demanded that the Sudanese government deal with grievances over Darfur’s lack of development. In response to attacks by the opposition groups, the government began supporting Arab militias, mainly the Janjaweed, in a campaign of killing and village-burning.

Thousands of people have reportedly been killed in Darfur, and nearly one-million have been driven from their homes. A few weeks ago, a humanitarian cease-fire was negotiated, but there is little evidence that the Sudanese government or the Arab militias are living up to the agreement.

Richard Williamson, the U.S. representative to the U-N Human Rights Commission, says the U.S. will continue to speak out for the victims in Darfur:

“Our work on the ethnic cleansing in Darfur is not over. It is just begun. We must find the courage to stand up and be strong to condemn unconscionable acts.”

As President George W. Bush said, “the government of Sudan must not remain complicit in the brutalization of Darfur.”