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Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2002 / 1 Kislev, 5763

Nat Hentoff

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Sudan convicted of genocide


http://www.NewsandOpinion.com | The Sudan Peace Act -- signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 21 after being passed unanimously by the Senate and overwhelmingly by the House -- is irredeemably clear in its verdict on the government of Sudan.

More than 2 million black, non-Muslim civilians in the South have died from an ongoing civil war since 1983 in that country. The United States now declares in a law that "the acts of the government of Sudan ... constitute genocide as defined by the (1948 United Nations) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

The northern National Islamic Front government in Khartoum has enslaved women and children in the south of Sudan; engaged in ethnic cleansing; bombed churches and schools; and prevented food from humanitarian agencies from reaching the black Christians and animists trying to withstand the armed "jihad" forces of the north.

It has taken years of organized pressure to move the Congress and White House. The extraordinary coalition of the New Abolitionists includes black churches around America, white evangelicals, Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship, the Hudson Institute, Freedom House, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group and determined civil rights leaders Joe Madison and Walter Fauntroy.

Among other crucial people involved is Barbara Vogel, a fifth-grade teacher in Denver, Colo. who told her class that slavery still exists. The children raised money to redeem Sudanese slaves through the Swiss-based Christian Solidarity International. Also pivotal were Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and U.S. Reps. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). Eric Reeves, who teaches Shakespeare and Milton at Smith College, took a two-year leave to focus entirely on valuable research and advocacy to illuminate the atrocities in Sudan.

The Sudan Peace Act authorizes $300 million in aid to the blacks in the south over the next three years for humanitarian purposes and "to prepare the population for peace and democratic governance." Under the law, the president is to certify every six months that the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army are negotiating in good faith. If he finds that they are not, sanctions go into effect.

As described, for example, by the Freedom House, if there is evidence of "continued bombing of civilians, slave raids, and bans on relief flights," the United States will oppose "international loans and credits to Khartoum," and among other punitive actions, seek "a U.N. Security Council Resolution to impose an arms embargo on Khartoum." The Sudan People's Liberation Army in the south must also not unilaterally subvert peace negotiations.

What gives the Sudan Peace Act particular force is the finding by the United States that the government of Khartoum is guilty of actual genocide. The International Convention on Genocide states unequivocally that the countries signing the convention "confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish."

If evidence were to mount that slave raids from the north, accompanied by gang rapes of captured women, have not stopped, and that shipments of food continue to be blocked by Khartoum, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir and his chief subordinates in the northern National Islamic Front could be brought before the International War Crimes Tribunal.

I have talked to a number of the principals in the New Abolitionist coalition, and they intend to keep the pressure on the president and Congress to ensure that the provisions of the Sudan Peace Act are carefully and continually monitored. Also, the Africa desk of the State Department must be held accountable for documenting and reporting all violations of the Sudan Peace Act.

According to a report by Christian Solidarity International, quoting the news service Al-Anbara, "the Sudanese charge d'affaires in Washington, Dr. Harun Khidir, blamed 'members of the extremist Christian rights groups, and a group of the black masses' for pushing the Sudan Peace Act through Congress."

And, on Oct. 16, Agence France Presse reported that after passage of the Sudan Peace Act, "Islamist officials organized a mass demonstration in Khartoum in support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, during which an effigy of President Bush, wrapped in American and Israeli flags and labeled 'the corpse of imperialism,' was torn to shreds and burned."

The Khartoum government will certainly require close watching, and by the press, too. The story of the signing of the Sudan Peace Act was only minimally reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post the next day. A longer piece was published in The Washington Times. None of the pieces mentioned the formal declaration of genocide, the core of the new law. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did include that news.


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JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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