May 14, 2004
The International Crisis Group and the US Committee for Refugees, two of the nongovernmental organizations that have worked most impressively and resourcefully in responding to Sudan’s continuing crisis, have in recent days articulated the case for humanitarian intervention in Darfur (see below). Though different in rhetorical tenor, both of these deeply informed and morally urgent statements make clear that the international community can no longer accept either Khartoum’s ongoing obstruction of humanitarian aid to the desperate people of Darfur or the regime’s refusal to rein in its Arab militia terrorists (the Janjaweed).
Both these statements should remind UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan of his own words, uttered now over a month ago:
“U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Wednesday that outside military action may be needed in western Sudan to halt ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the strife-torn Darfur region. Annan said humanitarian workers and human rights experts needed to be given full access to Darfur to administer aid to hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes, many into neighboring Chad.” (Reuters [Geneva], April 7, 2004)
But it is not enough for the Secretary-general to use the somber 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide to make an appropriately strong statement, only to retreat into silence. Where is Mr. Annan’s resolve today, when the case for humanitarian intervention is even clearer? Has he forgotten the genocide in Darfur he so pointedly invoked? Why are the voices of the UN Security Council so scandalously silent? Where is the moral and political leadership in Europe and Canada?
We may be sure that Khartoum heard Mr. Annan say,
“‘If [full humanitarian access] is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action. By “action” in such situations I mean a continuum of steps, which may include military action.'” (Agence France-Presse, April 7, 2004)
There is no such humanitarian access to date.
And we may be sure that the regime also heard Mr. Annan declare:
“‘The international community cannot stand idle,’ declared Annan, who has himself acknowledged more should have been done to halt the orgy of killing in Rwanda in 1994. ‘The risk of genocide remains frighteningly real.'” (Reuters, April 7, 2004)
These words were heard, but there is no evidence that they have been taken truly seriously in Khartoum—even as the “risk” of genocide now stands clearly revealed as genocide realized. So it is Mr. Annan who must now hear the words of the International Crisis Group and the US Committee for Refugees: not to do so is to fail again in facing the ultimate crime.
“Khartoum may be betting that the world is too preoccupied with Iraq to care what happens in Darfur. If Sudan ignores a Security Council resolution, the international community must be ready to show that this is not the case by providing the necessary political will and military resources to hold it comprehensively to account.”
—Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Groups
“One million internally displaced persons and refugees are facing starvation as a result of Sudan’s atrocities and denial of unrestricted access for humanitarian relief. In a few weeks the rainy season will make the roads impassable, and hundreds of thousands may starve to death. President [George Bush] must not let this happen. He should act to ensure that massive amounts of food and relief supplies reach everyone in Darfur who needs them and that unimpeded access is not merely requested but immediately achieved.”
—Lavinia Limn, Executive Director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees
“The world should be ready to intervene in Sudan”
International Herald Tribune, May 14, 2004
Gareth Evans (BRUSSELS)
The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has called it “ethnic cleansing.” President George W. Bush has condemned the “atrocities, which are displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.” Others are starting to use the word genocide. Whatever you want to call what is going on today in Darfur, in western Sudan, the time for forceful outside intervention is unmistakably approaching.
Since it came to power, the Khartoum regime has undertaken one scorched earth campaign after another in Sudan. In the past year, it has done so against Muslims of African descent in the west of the country, arming and supporting the Arab militias known as Janjaweed, which inflict collective punishment against the civilian populations in Darfur whom the government accuses of supporting a rebellion there—principally the Fur, Zaghawa and Massalit tribes.
Supported by aerial bombing, Janjaweed attacks have led to wholesale destruction of villages, targeted destruction of water reserves and food stores, indiscriminate killings, looting, mass rape and huge population displacement. To date, tens of thousands have been killed, and more than one million displaced, many now living in squalid camps where they are dying from disease and malnutrition. According to the U.S. Agency of International Development, even if the war were to stop immediately, as many as 100,000 people will probably die in Darfur in the coming months because of the desperate humanitarian situation. Another 110,000 have fled across the border to Chad.
At the UN commemoration last month of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Kofi Annan rightly highlighted the current situation in Sudan, demanding improved access to those in need of assistance and protection. If humanitarian workers and human rights experts were not given full access to Darfur, he said, the international community had to be prepared to take appropriate action, “which may include military action.” One month after that dramatic and forceful statement, Khartoum is still preventing full access. Aid agencies can now reach some of the internally displaced, but that is far from enough. Meanwhile, the Janjaweed assaults continue, and hundreds of thousands of lives remain at risk.
The case for military intervention grows with every passing day. Resorting to collective military action, overruling the basic norm of nonintervention that must continue to govern international relations, is never an easy call. But nor is it easy to justify standing by when action is possible in practice and defensible in principle. The primary responsibility for the protection of a state’s own people must lie with the state itself. But where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of nonintervention should lead to a larger principle, that of the international responsibility to protect.
These are the basic principles, now quietly gaining international currency, identified in the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, of which I was co-chairman in 2001 with Kofi Annan’s special adviser on Africa, and the current UN Sudan negotiator, Mohamed Sahnoun. Our report, “The Responsibility to Protect.” also spelt out some more specific guidelines for military intervention for humanitarian purposes. There must be serious and irreparable harm to human beings in progress or imminent: either large-scale loss of life because of deliberate state action, inaction or inability to act, or large-scale ”ethnic cleansing” carried out not only by killing, but forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape. Today’s Sudan would pass either of these threshold tests.
Acknowledging, however, that coercive military action should always be an exceptional and extraordinary measure, there are some additional precautionary principles that need to be considered. The motivation must be right, aimed purely at halting the human suffering. The intervention must use the minimum force necessary. It must be guided by clear objectives, and likely to do more good than harm. And it must have a clear mandate from the right authority, always most appropriately the UN Security Council.
For today’s Sudan these conditions do not present impossible obstacles. Some important members of the Security Council have been dragging their feet, including Britain and France as well as those more reflexively opposed to intervention, but there is growing international indignation at the atrocities in Darfur and increasing will to take action against Sudan’s government. All that said, there is one final condition that must be met before military intervention is justified: the use of force has to be a last resort, with every nonmilitary option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis explored and found wanting.
The record so far of options falling short of force in Darfur has not been good. Demands from the UN secretary general, the United States and the European Union have fallen on deaf ears in Khartoum. The United States and the EU already have general sanctions in place against the regime, and it is not likely that more of them will provide much more leverage, though they should not be excluded. But targeted sanctions freezing the overseas assets and restricting the travel of key Sudanese leaders may change the calculations of some intransigent Khartoum officials, and raising the prospect of international legal accountability for crimes committed may concentrate minds a little more.
The last best hope, if force is to be avoided, is for the Security Council to take hold of the situation, apply whatever further pressures short of force that can be applied, and spell out unmistakably in a resolution that the option of military force is very much on the table if Khartoum’s behavior does not rapidly improve. A resolution should include at least these five points.
First, it must condemn what has been happening: the violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur, particularly the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the obstruction of humanitarian assistance by the government and its continued support of the Janjaweed paramilitary forces. Second, it must demand that the Sudan government stop the slaughter, with Khartoum disarming the Janjaweed and allowing unhindered access to Darfur by humanitarian agencies and international human rights monitors. The resolution should impose an arms embargo on the warring parties, with enforcement mechanisms. All sides must respect the ”humanitarian” ceasefire signed 8 April in Chad, but there must also be internationally facilitated political negotiations between government and rebels in Darfur.
Thirdly, the resolution must call for the safe return of displaced persons to their villages of origin, reversing the ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Fourthly, it should authorise a high level team to investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Finally, it should warn Khartoum unambiguously.
The UN Secretary General should be asked to provide a further report to the Security Council within three weeks, reviewing Sudan’s progress. And it should be made unmistakably clear that – in the event this report indicates a continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, ongoing indiscriminate targeting of civilians and obstruction of humanitarian assistance by the government – the Security Council will authorise the application of military force on “responsibility to protect” principles.
Khartoum may be betting that the world is too preoccupied with Iraq to care what happens in Darfur. If Sudan ignores a Security Council resolution, the international community must be ready to show that this is not the case by providing the necessary political will and military resources to hold it comprehensively to account.
[Gareth Evans is president of the International Crisis Group, whose latest report on Darfur is at www.crisisweb.org]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For further information contact:
Steven Forester (202) 347-3507
Evenings: (202) 215-3183
“Lead More Boldly on Darfur, Mr. President;
Don’t Repeat Bill Clinton’s Historic Mistake on Rwanda”
WASHINGTON DC, May 12, 2004 — In 1994 President Clinton failed to act to stop genocide in Rwanda when 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. The world knew about Rwanda then and it knows about Darfur now. Visiting Rwanda in 1998, Clinton “apologized,” saying we “did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide.” For the sake of his name in history, Mr. Bush must avoid ever having to make a similar apology over Darfur.
“We concur with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Senator John McCain among many others who warn that we cannot stand idly by and who call for strong action now. Unless President Bush heeds these calls, he risks repeating Clinton’s mistake in Rwanda,” said Lavinia Limn, Executive Director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees.
“One million internally displaced persons and refugees are facing starvation as a result of Sudan’s atrocities and denial of unrestricted access for humanitarian relief. In a few weeks the rainy season will make the roads impassable, and hundreds of thousands may starve to death.”
“The President must not let this happen. He should act to ensure that massive amounts of food and relief supplies reach everyone in Darfur who needs them and that unimpeded access is not merely requested but immediately achieved. Otherwise hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children may die, and President Bush may be found wanting in the eyes of history for failing to rise to the awful specter of this genocide in the making. His leadership and political will are needed now,” said Limn.
“We commend President Bush for referring a month ago to Khartoum’s atrocities and brutalization of Darfur and for indicating that relations won’t be normalized, regardless of any potential resolution of the north-south conflict, unless Khartoum ends its ethnic cleansing and permits unrestricted humanitarian access. But these and other steps haven’t succeeded in stopping the atrocities and gaining access to one million people who are facing starvation now,” said Limn.
Calling it “genocide” would require action under the Genocide Convention, so officials avoid using the word…as they avoided using it in 1994. But everyone knows what’s happening and who’s to blame: the Sudanese government, which has been committing massive crimes in an area the size of France to displace the indigenous population, has not disarmed its proxy Janjaweed militia, and is blocking access by the international community to hide the extent of their atrocities and prevent food and medicine from getting in.
“Mr. President, you must succeed in this. Failure to do so would be a mistake of historic proportion for which you would be remembered.”
U.S. and UN officials and the reports of human rights and humanitarian relief groups all have referred to atrocities, ethnic cleansing, a scorched earth policy, a reign of terror, crimes against humanity, war crimes, massive human rights violations, mass rapes and abductions of girls and women, systematic and indiscriminate aerial bombardments and ground attacks on unarmed civilians, systematic burning of villages, death camps and marches, mass executions, the poisoning of wells, the pillage and destruction of livestock, property and infrastructure, hundreds of square miles of depopulated villages, and one million isolated and desperate Darfurian internally displaced persons and refugees facing starvation unless they get massive and immediate outside aid.
“The eyes of the world and of history are upon President Bush right now,” said Limn.
[The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) is a public information and advocacy program of Immigration and Refugee Services of America (IRSA), a nongovernmental, non-profit organization. Since 1958, USCR has defended the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons worldwide.]