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11/30/04 - U-N REJECTS CONDEMNATION OF SUDAN - 2004-12-01

A committee that includes all members of the United Nations General Assembly did not permit consideration of a resolution to condemn human rights abuses in Sudan. The Committee on Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian Affairs voted to take no action on the U-N General Assembly resolution, sponsored by the U.S. and the European Union. The resolution focused especially on the situation in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where government-supported Arab militias have committed major atrocities over the past year and a half. The atrocities include attacks on African Sudanese villages that have caused tens of thousands of deaths and driven more than one and a half million people from their homes. There have also been reports of systematic rape by the militias, called the Janjaweed.

The failure of the U-N General Assembly to condemn the atrocities in Darfur contradicts actions of the U-N Security Council, which has passed three resolutions calling on the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed to stop attacking civilians and facilitate aid deliveries to them.

Gerald Scott is the U.S. delegate to the U-N General Assembly committee. He pointed out that three times this year, U-N members have failed to respond to human rights abuses in Sudan. In April, the U-N Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution on Darfur that didn't even mention the atrocities committed by the Sudanese-government-supported Arab militias. And in May, the U-N Economic and Social Council added insult to injury by selecting Sudan to serve as a member of the U-N Human Rights Commission. Ambassador Scott says the refusal to condemn atrocities in Sudan is "indefensible":

"Three consecutive failures of member states of the United Nations to present a unified front against well-documented atrocities represent nothing less than the complete breakdown of the U-N's deliberative bodies related to human rights. If these bodies cannot speak with one voice on an issue as clear as Darfur, what can they do?"

John Danforth, U.S. Ambassador to the U-N, says the U-N General Assembly's refusal to take a strong position on what amounts to genocide in Sudan is mystifying:

"I can't understand why the General Assembly would not take a very strong position supporting cooperation with the commission that the Secretary-General has set up to investigate whether or not there's genocide."

In the face of such failures, says Ambassador Danforth, "one wonders about the utility of the [U-N] General Assembly." Clearly, all parts of the United Nations need to recognize the importance of ending the atrocities in Darfur.