[Homestead] Why Should We Shield the Killers?

Gene GeRue genegerue at ruralize.com
Wed Feb 2 11:18:50 EST 2005

Why Should We Shield the Killers?


Published: February 2, 2005

Two weeks ago, President Bush gave an impassioned speech to the world about 
the need to stand for human freedom.

But this week, administration officials are skulking in the corridors of 
the United Nations, trying desperately to block a prosecution of Sudanese 
officials for crimes against humanity.
It's not that Mr. Bush sympathizes with the slaughter in Darfur. In fact, I 
take my hat off to Mr. Bush for doing more than most other world leaders to 
address ethnic cleansing there - even if it's not nearly enough. Mr. Bush 
has certainly done far more than Bill Clinton did during the Rwandan genocide.

But Mr. Bush's sympathy for Sudanese parents who are having their children 
tossed into bonfires shrivels next to his hostility to the organization 
that the U.N. wants to trust with the prosecution: the International 
Criminal Court. Administration officials so despise the court that they 
have become, in effect, the best hope of Sudanese officials seeking to 
avoid accountability for what Mr. Bush himself has called genocide.

Mr. Bush's worry is that if the International Criminal Court is 
legitimized, American officials could someday be dragged before it. The 
court's supporters counter that safeguards make that impossible. Reasonable 
people can differ about the court, but for Mr. Bush to put his ideological 
opposition to it over the welfare of the 10,000 people still dying every 
month in Darfur - that's just madness.

The issue arises partly because the Bush administration, to its credit, 
pushed the U.N. to investigate Darfur and to seek accountability for the 
killers. The result was a U.N. commission's 176-page report, released this 
week, that documents a series of crimes against humanity: people in Darfur 
crucified or thrown into fires, victims having their eyes gouged out or 
being dragged on the ground by camels, women and girls kept naked in rape 
camps, huts burned with children inside, and women forced to hand over 
their baby sons to be killed.

"It is undeniable that mass killings occurred in Darfur and that the 
killings were perpetrated by the government forces" and by a 
government-sponsored militia, the report said.

The U.N. commission then pulled its punches by concluding that Sudan had 
not pursued a deliberate policy of genocide - but it added: "The crimes 
against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be 
no less serious and heinous than genocide." As a result, the commission 
"strongly recommends" that the Security Council refer the matter to the 
International Criminal Court for prosecution, saying that is "the only 
credible way of bringing alleged perpetrators to justice."

At a practical level, it's also a way to pressure Sudan's leaders to stop a 
campaign of terror in Darfur that has already claimed at least 218,000 
lives, according to a new British study.

Prosecution by the International Criminal Court has strong European 
support, but the Bush administration is aghast and desperately suggests 
prosecution instead by a court associated with the war crimes tribunal for 
Rwanda. Alas, that tribunal could take another year and 120,000 more deaths 
to start a Darfur prosecution.

"The I.C.C. could start tomorrow saving lives," said Kenneth Roth, the 
executive director of Human Rights Watch. "With the Rwanda tribunal route, 
you're talking about another year of killing."

The Bush administration is also struggling to find other Security Council 
members who would join it in voting against the referral to the 
International Criminal Court. I hope other countries stand firm, because my 
conversations with diplomats suggest that if the U.S. stood alone in 
opposition, the Bush administration would be too ashamed to exercise its 
veto and might abstain instead.

Kofi Annan called this week for consideration of sanctions against Sudan, 
and his voice as a leading African carries particular weight with that 
country's leaders. So, Mr. Bush, what about you? Will you push harder for a 
coalition for sanctions - forcing China to veto them if it so chooses? Will 
you impose a no-fly zone to stop Sudan's air force from strafing civilians?

After reading a report on Bill Clinton's passivity during the Rwandan 
genocide, Mr. Bush scrawled in the margin: "not on my watch." Now the Save 
Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org) has made green plastic bracelets 
reading, "Not on My Watch - Save Darfur." Mr. Bush might wear one to his 
State of the Union address tonight - and find the courage not just to 
denounce evil, but also to confront it.


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