Sudan rebuffs U.S. 'genocide' call
Sudan Foreign Minister says U.S. politicizing crisis
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that "genocide has been committed" in the Sudanese region of Darfur, a charge rejected by Sudan's Foreign Minister.
Powell, who recently visited Sudan, told the U.S.'s Senate Foreign Relations Committee there was evidence of a "consistent and widespread" pattern of atrocities -- including killings, rapes and burning of villages in Darfur.
"This was a coordinated effort, not just random violence," he said.
But Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail hit back Friday, saying the United States was using a humanitarian crisis for political purposes.
Speaking in Seoul, South Korea, Ismail told Reuters the U.S. held "an isolated position" and the genocide declaration was made in the heat of a presidential election to win African-American votes.
"They should not use a humanitarian problem for political agenda," he said.
Citing what he claimed to be a deterioration of the situation in Iraq, Ismail said the U.S. administration wanted to "deflect the concentration of the international community towards other areas."
"They want to jump to say there is genocide, as they jumped and said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he told Reuters.
An international law expert said the statement of genocide did not require the United States to act, but established a basis for it to intervene under international law.
"That Powell has said this is politically significant," said Hurst Hannum, professor of international law at the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston. "It doesn't trigger any legal consequences ...(but) there will certainly be more of a push for something to be done."
Arab Janjaweed militias have been accused of committing widespread atrocities against black villagers and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the huge African nation.
"The government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility," Powell said.
He made his comments as the U.N. Security Council prepared to meet on the matter and study a new draft resolution being circulated by the United States.
The Security Council also will discuss a report on the problem U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan prepared last week.
U.N. resolution on Darfur
The draft resolution, put on the table Wednesday, says the Sudanese government "has failed fully to comply with its commitments" since the last resolution.
"The situation in Sudan constitutes a threat to international peace and security and to stability in the region," the resolution says.
It also demands that Khartoum stop the violence, cease military flights over Darfur, and increase access to international aid. It also calls for a larger monitoring force.
Foreign Minister Ismail said Friday it would be difficult for a U.S.-backed U.N. resolution for sanctions against Sudan to pass "because it is irrational and because it is politicizsed, because it is not balanced."
On July 30, the Security Council passed a resolution threatening action against Khartoum if it failed to disarm the Janjaweed militias and restore security within 30 days. That deadline recently passed.
The conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan, began last year when black Sudanese rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting Darfur in favor of the Arab population in Sudan.
The government responded by sending the Janjaweed to put down the rebellion in Darfur. The warring factions recently agreed to a cease-fire, but violence between them has continued.
Several international human rights groups estimate that 15,000 to 30,000 civilians have died in Darfur since fighting broke out in February 2003.
More than a million people have been displaced by the hostilities, fleeing to other places in Sudan or across the border to Chad.
Talks are continuing in the Nigerian capital of Abuja to "resolve the political dispute driving the conflict," the United Nations said.
Refugees talk of destruction
Powell's assessment is based in large part on interviews in Chad of more than 1,100 Darfur refugees -- a project undertaken by the State Department to determine whether the atrocities committed against Darfur's black Africans were racially motivated.
Powell said three-fourths of those interviewed said "Sudanese military forces were involved in the attack" and "villages often experienced multiple attacks over a prolonged period before they were destroyed by burning, shelling or bombing, making it impossible for villagers to return."
He said Janjaweed and Sudanese forces also "destroyed villages' foodstuffs and other means of survival" and "obstructed food, water, medicine and other humanitarian aid."
The government failed to halt the onslaught "despite having been put on notice multiple times," he said.
Officials have said the findings are consistent with reports from human rights groups that have visited the region.
The U.N.'s Genocide Convention, unlike other human rights treaties, does not establish a specific monitoring body or expert committee to respond to genocide.
It does say that the United Nations can take up the matter and consider the necessary approach "for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide."
How genocide is defined
Powell described the three criteria used to identify genocide under the Genocide Convention:Specific acts are committed -- killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction of a group in whole or in part, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children to another group; Such acts are committed against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, and;Such acts are carried out "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [the group] as such."
"Sudan is a contracting party to the Genocide Convention and is obliged under the convention to prevent and punish acts of genocide," Powell said.
At this time, he said, "it appears Sudan has failed to do so."
"Today we are calling on the United Nations to initiate a full investigation" into genocide, Powell said.
He said he hopes that the next Security Council resolution into Sudan requests an investigation into all violations of human rights law in the country.
"The evidence leads us to the conclusion that genocide has occurred and may still be occurring in Darfur."