Of course it’s complex, but when you see entire villages raped and killed, wells poisoned and then filled with the bodies of its villagers, then all complexities disappear and it comes down to simply right and wrong. It’s not getting better. It’s getting much, much worse. And it is only the international community that can help us . . . . It is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked it will not be the last.1
—George Clooney, actor and activist, speaking to the United Nations Security Council on September 14, 2006
Ethnic groups living in Darfur, a territory in the southwest region of Sudan, have competed for essential resources (e.g., land and water) for centuries. These primarily agrarian tribes felt marginalized by the central government in Khartoum, especially since the military coup in 1989. This coup, led by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, favored Sudanese Arabs over Sudanese Africans and has ignored the basic needs of many of the people living in Darfur. However, this conflict reached a new level when rebels representing the three main African ethnic groups in the region (Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa) attacked a government air force base in 2003. Khartoum responded to the rebels’ attack not only by targeting members of the rebel groups but also by attacking Darfuris belonging to the tribes associated with the rebels (Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa). International observers, journalists, and human rights organizations report that the government-supported Janjaweed* and Sudan’s own army are responsible for horrific war crimes: the raping of women is widespread; innocent civilians, especially men, have been killed en masse; children have been kidnapped; wells have been poisoned and villages have been burned. In 2004, Colin Powell, United States Secretary of State at the time, said these acts amounted to genocide and called on the United Nations to launch an investigation into the Sudanese government’s involvement in these crimes.2
On March 31st, 2005, noting the violent events that were occurring unchecked in the region, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the ICC, and his team spent two years investigating matters, gathering enough evidence to demonstrate that government officials have been directly involved in organizing attacks on Sudanese citizens living in Darfur. On May 7th, 2007, the prosecution issued arrest warrants against Ahmad Harun, the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kushayb, an alleged leader of the Janjaweed militia.Six months later the government of Sudan still adamantly refused to hand over the indicted men to face trial in the Hague. While the ICC has no authority to make arrests, ICC member nations do have the power to arrest individuals indicted by the ICC. Harun and Kushayb have remained in Sudan where they are safe from arrest. When Moreno-Ocampo presented his semi-annual report to the UN Security Council in December 2007, he argued passionately that these men need to be arrested to protect the victims of violence in Darfur and to send a signal to the Sudanese government that their crimes would not be tolerated by the international community.
- 1 George Clooney, “United Nations Security Council Address on Darfur” (speech, New York City, September 14 2006), American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/(accessed September 22, 2009).
- 2 CNN News World, “Powell calls Sudan Killings Genocide,” (September 9, 2004), CNN (accessed October 22, 2009).