Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One small step for a court, one giant leap for mankind

Today the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor named a Sudanese minister and a militia commander as the first suspects he wants tried for war crimes in Darfur and suggested more could follow. This is huge for several reasons:

1) This is the first time a sitting government official has been named as a suspect for crimes against humanity.
2) This is the first time individuals are being held accountable for the murders of my friends in Darfur
3) The ICC normally only acts if the "host nation judicial system is incapable of bringing justice." If the ICC proceeds, it sends a clear message that the Sudanese government has been complicit in the murders.
4) This new attention will up the ante for the Sudanese governement and will make them think twice before encouraging more attacks.

The two people named (and more could come) are Ahmed Haroun, state interior minister during the height of the Darfur conflict, and militia commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb. Kushayb is said to have personally inspected a group of naked women before his men in uniform raped them. Haroun is reported to have personally delivered weapons, ammunition and funding to the Janjaweed.

All told, the chief prosecutor named them in 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2003 and 2004.

This small initial step sends a very strong message that the world is noticing the crisis and will not tolerate it. However, there is still much to be done. First of all, the ICC needs to pursue this and ensure that these two men have charges brought against them if the facts are there. The investigation team gathered over 100 witness statements in 70 trips to 17 countries compiling the evidence. This due diligence should be rewarded with action.

We cannot become complacent, or rest on this success. The crisis in Darfur is a chaotic, fractured mess and many, many more men are responsible for the violence. In order to prevent my friends from being raped, killed and run out their homes, justice must continue.

I urge you to take action, urging the international community (and especially the US) to support the ICC's efforts and continue to increase the pressure on Sudan.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

UNC Taking Action

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has always had an active student body - and this latest generation is no different. Next week starts a Week of Action for Darfur and it begins on Monday, with a vigil and then presentation by yours truly. I have been asked to give a 30-40 minute presentation about the situation for my friends in Darfur. It will be mostly stories in an attempt to "bring the conflict close to home." If you are available, you should come check it out.

When: Monday, Feb. 26.
What: Vigil at 6:30 p.m. and presentation at 8:00 pm
Where: PIT and Student Union on UNC's campus

Hope to see you there!