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23 July 2004

U.S. Congress Terms Situation in Darfur "Genocide"

Senate, House pass concurrent resolutions on Darfur

By Charles W. Corey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Both chambers of the U.S. Congress adopted concurrent resolutions July 22 condemning the continuing atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan as "genocide" and asking the international community to join with the United States to help bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe that is under way there.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version (House Concurrent Resolution 467) in a vote of 422-0, with the U. S. Senate approving its version (Senate Concurrent Resolution 133) by voice vote.

A concurrent resolution is a legislative proposal that requires the approval of both houses but does not require the signature of the president and does not have the force of law. These resolutions are often used to express the sentiments of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In debate in the House of Representatives preceding the vote, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Ed Royce (Republican-California), said that with the vote, "the House of Representatives will go on record declaring the atrocities being committed in the Darfur region of Sudan to be 'genocide.' H. Con. Res. 467 is a statement for the world, and a stark warning to the Sudanese government.

"We've heard about the atrocities government-backed militias are perpetrating in Darfur," he told his fellow lawmakers. "This resolution cites an estimated 30,000 innocent civilians brutally murdered, more than 130,000 people fleeing to neighboring Chad, and more than one million people internally displaced."

Royce reminded the lawmakers that the Subcommittee on Africa has held several hearings on Sudan.

"We've heard about the human suffering. We have also heard about how this killing is targeted and systematic. Villages are razed, crops are burned, and wells are poisoned. I fully support this resolution's determination that genocide is occurring in Sudan, as it played out in Rwanda 10 years ago!

"Those doing the killing need to understand that the world is changing," Royce said. He reminded everyone: "We have international courts to hold human rights criminals accountable. Information is being collected. The days of impunity are ending. That is a message that this resolution sends."

"H. Con. Res. 467 deplores the failure of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to take appropriate action on Darfur," he declared.

Royce said the commission failed earlier this year to support a United States-led effort to strongly condemn gross human-rights violations in Darfur.

He credited the Bush administration with taking the lead in "seeking an end to the slaughter in Darfur" and addressing the humanitarian crisis there.

"Indeed, the administration deserves much credit for achieving a North-South Peace Accord in Sudan. It has played a very good hand with the cards it was dealt. Congress has been supportive of these negotiations, including with the Sudan Peace Act.

"It's cliché," he said, "but in Darfur, Khartoum is showing its true colors. Today, that government is hearing loud and clear that there will be no U.S. aid or improved relations, no support for the peace process, as long as the killing continues in Darfur."

Also on July 22, Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to U.N. headquarters in New York to discuss the situation in Darfur with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to press for Security Council action to pressure the Sudanese government to disarm the Jingaweit militia.

Talking with journalists after their private meeting, Powell and Annan said they had come together not just to put pressure on the government but also to help the hundreds of thousands in need.

Both Powell and Annan stressed that they will continue to insist that Khartoum honor the commitment it made to the two leaders when they visited Sudan in early July.

"We both agree that the international community must insist that the Sudanese government honor the commitments it gave when we both visited Sudan," Annan said. "It is important that the internally displaced people and the villages be protected. It is the sacred responsibility of the government of Sudan to do that and eventually disarm the Jingaweit and the other militias in the region."

Powell said that Khartoum should not look on the U.N. efforts as meddling, but "an effort to save people who are in desperate trouble."

There is no reason why Khartoum can't disarm the Jingaweit militias that have perpetrated large-scale atrocities against Sudanese civilians, Powell told his audience.

The United States has presented a second draft of a resolution on Darfur to the Security Council, both Powell and Annan told reporters.

Powell did not go into specifics on the new draft but said that it "puts down timelines and sets sanctions" if the timelines are not met.

The secretary of state said that since his visit there has been "some modest improvement" in access for aid workers, the delivery of humanitarian supplies, and the number of African Union monitors in the area.

"We are still, it is safe to say, not satisfied with the security situation," Powell said.

Asked about whether the situation in Darfur can be called genocide, Powell responded that the United States is examining the issue very carefully.

State Department officials have been in the Darfur region, interviewing victims in the camps and villages and sending reports back to Washington that will be used to make the legal judgment on whether to classify the situation as genocide.

Nevertheless, Powell said, "whatever you call it, it's a catastrophe."