Friday, July 23, 2004

The situation in the Sudan is a genocide.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  (UN Genocide Convention, 1948)

Why you’re right:

1.  The violence is ethnic in nature.  The Janjaweed militias responsible for the beating, rape, and killing are Arab, while the villagers they attack are largely members of black African tribes.  According to The New York Times, “An ethnic dimension to the attacks is undeniable.”   (NY Times)

2.  The violence is widespread.  At least 30,000 people have been killed, 130,000 forced to flee across the border to Chad, and more than a million internally displaced, according to the resolution to call it genocide that unanimously passed the House yesterday.  The entire pre-conflict population of Darfur was 6.5 million.  The UN definition specifies that genocide is not only the direct murder of members of the group, but also the deliberate creation of conditions that will lead to physical destruction.  Widespread displacement, given dangerous conditions in refugee camps, qualifies as such an action.  (SA, USAID

3.  According to the UN definition, the systematic rape of black women is also genocidal.  Rape causes “serious bodily and mental harm” to its victims, of which there have been many during the present violence.  According to an investigation by the Washington Post, the rapes are perceived as “systematic campaign to humiliate the women, their husbands and fathers, and to weaken tribal ethnic lines. In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child's ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.”  In one village, over 400 women reported having been raped by the Janjaweed.  (Washington Post)  
Why they’re wrong:

Those who hesitate to label the violence genocide point out that the ethnic lines of the conflict cannot be so cleanly drawn.  There are some Arab groups who have not participated in the violence and some who have been victims, but such complication is always part of war and genocide.  As the Times points out, the United States retroactively labeled the violence in Rwanda genocide, despite the fact that some Hutus were among the victims of the Hutu government’s violent policies, policies aimed at eliminating the Tutsi population.  Hitler’s genocide, the tragedy for which the label was created, killed disabled and gay Germans as well as Jews and Gypsies.  Genocide, then, is an act directed at one ethnic, national, racial, or religious group that may, and usually does, spawn violence towards others.  These complications, however, cannot reasonably be used to argue against the classification of a conflict as genocide.