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5/7/04 - UNITED NATIONS AND SUDAN - 2004-05-07


The Sudanese government has been supporting Arab militias in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Thousands of black African Sudanese have been attacked by the Arab militias. Some reports say as many as thirty-thousand may have been killed. About one-million people have been driven from their homes by the militias, composed mainly of Arabs called Janjaweed. But none of this was enough to keep the United Nations Economic and Social Council from electing Sudan to a third term on the U-N Human Rights Commission.

Sichan Siv, the U.S. ambassador to the U-N Economic and Social Council, called the election “absurd.” He led the U.S. delegation in walking out of the council’s May 4th meeting. Sudan’s membership on the human rights commission, said Ambassador Siv, undermines its work and its credibility:

“The least we should be able to do is to not elect a country to the only global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when thousands of its citizens are being murdered or risk starvation.”

At the U-N Human Rights Commission meeting in April, U.S. chief delegate Richard Williamson described the atrocities committed by Sudanese government-backed Arab militias in Darfur:

“Civilian areas are being directly targeted, their indiscriminate killing of civilians, policy using rape and other serious forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war."

Ambassador Williamson urged the U-N Human Rights Commission to condemn Sudan’s actions. But the commission issued only a weak statement expressing “grave concern” about what it called “reported human rights abuses.”

With support from the U.S. and other countries, the U-N is trying to get food and other humanitarian supplies to the hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes in Darfur. But for this to be possible, says James Morris, director of the U-N’s World Food Program, the Sudanese government “has to do its job.”

And that means, above all else, stopping the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

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