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Jewish World Review April 16, 2003 / 14 Nisan, 5763

Nat Hentoff

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A cruel farce in diplomacy | When the 59th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission opened in Geneva on March 17, the scene - as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times - could have been in a satirical novel. Sitting in their official, righteous capacities were such serial violators of fundamental human rights as Zimbabwe, Syria, China, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

The chairman of the commission is the representative of Libya, Najat Al-Hajjaji. Bayefsky - an international lawyer and a member of the governing board of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch - reported that as the chairman was about to speak, "hundreds of leaflets were dropped in silence from the second-floor balconies" by a group, Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris.

Their message: "Disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, detention without charge or trial, pervasive censorship. Libya ... knows a thing about human rights violations."

In supporting this claim, Amnesty International adds that the torture of political prisoners in Libya includes "attacks by aggressive dogs, causing serious injuries."

One might hope that if U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner, had shown up at this grim opening session of the Human Rights Commission, he would have spoken for the tormented souls in the torture chambers of these nations and nobly expose the shame of the United Nations that permits this grotesque hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, in all these years, Mr. Annan hasn't been a visible protester against slavery and genocide of the mostly black Christian population in southern Sudan by that nation's National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.

When Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in supporting the United Nations, I truly believed there would finally be a place where the wretched and abandoned of the earth would find relief.

However, in addition to the cruel farce of this Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, Mr. Bayefsky writes of "the hapless Iraqi dissident who, weeks ago, frantically climbed into a U.N. inspector's jeep in Iraq, only to be hauled off by Iraqi guards to certain torture." As it was in Rwanda, the United Nations is impotent on these occasions.

Meanwhile, I learned from the American Anti-Slavery Group that the African bloc at the United Nations is working to get the Human Rights Commission to upgrade Sudan's U.N. human-rights status by freeing Sudan from all previous economic restrictions and allowing the United Nations to provide economic support for that violent government.

You would think these nations would be against slavery. And the American Anti-Slavery Group reports that "Libya has been linked in the trafficking of Sudanese slaves into its borders."

In the Sudan Peace Act, passed by Congress last year and signed by the president, the United States flatly accused Sudan of genocide. (According to the law, if Khartoum doesn't stop subjugating its opponents, sanctions will include opposing international loans and credits to the government.) But, in the March 15 Boston Globe, John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International and Charles Jacobs, head of the American Anti-Slavery Group, pointed out that France has "provided Khartoum with military intelligence for the prosecution of [that government´s] jihad" against blacks in the South. Moreover, "French and German helicopters have been used for ethnic cleansing in southern Sudan's oil fields."

As for France and Germany's histories of appeasing the Khartoum government in Sudan, Messrs. Eibner and Jacobs also reported that these two nations, "with the rest of the (European Union) and their new East European satellites in tow, overcame American objections and easily persuaded the U.N. Commission of Human Rights to censor any use of the word 'slavery' from official documents on Sudan and replace it with the euphemism 'abduction' - a lesser offense."

Mr. Eibner, in a March 25 National Review Online article, updated the horrors in Sudan, "While the focus of the United States is firmly fixed on the war in Iraq, southern Sudan's oil fields have again become the scene of ethnic cleansing. In an effort to focus on Iraq - and not inflame the Muslim world - America is ignoring this resurgent aggression in Sudan. This policy can only undermine [America´s] wider fight against terrorism."

But, Mr. Eibner adds, "There are powerful elements within the northern Sudanese opposition that are committed to reaching a political settlement on terms acceptable to southern Sudan, including the right to self-determination. ... Time is running out. The United States will rue the day it imposes a paper peace agreement on Sudan with a terrorist, genocidal regime as its cornerstone."

Last April, after Khartoum forces attacked a civilian village, the Center for Religious Freedom in Washington reports a 4-year-old girl was shot dead as she ran from soldiers. Her 6-year-old brother was beheaded.

Congress passed the Sudan Peace Act unanimously. Is anyone there watching, or will France and Khartoum prevail?

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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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