Human Rights Essays – Grotesque Violation Sudan
Grotesque Violation Sudan
Since early 2003, the world has been witness to the grotesque violation of human right in the Darfur region of Sudan. More than two and a half million civilians have been removed from their homes and roughly four-hundred thousand have been killed in what has been deemed genocide. Despite actions taken by the American and European governments, wealthy celebrities and humanitarians from all around the globe, the conflict in Darfur remains.
It is the moral and ethical responsibility of America, Europe and China to give foreign aid to the suffering people of Darfur and chastise the Sudanese government for allowing these crimes to happen. It is also the peoples’ universal right to be protected from genocide and torture inflicted by the Janjaweed militia and encouraged by the Sudanese government.
Conflicts in Sudan can be dated back as far as the fourteenth century. The main source of conflict today deals with ideology, ethnicity and competition for resources between the people and the Sudanese government, (Snyder, 2007). Torture, rape and murder has been all too frequent for the civilians in Darfur and war has been a major part of their history.
This is no way how people should be forced to live and how a government should govern its people. The current conflict in this region has been labeled by the United Nations as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today”, (Kim, Torbay, Lawry, 2007, 353). Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, began an initiative in 2005 to encourage the international community to accept its responsibility for the crisis in Darfur. He said,
“There can be no excuse, no defense, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow beings in Africa today….It is obscenity that should haunt our daily thoughts that four million children will die in Africa this year before their fifth birthday….I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgment of future generations, where history properly calculates the gravity of the suffering,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489).
President George W. Bush has also recognized that something needs to be done in Darfur. He said,
“I promise this to the people of Darfur: the United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world. For too long the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide. The world has a responsibility to put an end to it,” (Fox News, 2007)
Increasingly large amounts of Western citizens believe that the violation of human rights in Darfur, at least in part, is their own responsibility. This is seen very frequently on television with promotional commercials that state, “Save Darfur!” Documentaries such as “The Devil Came on Horseback” and “Darfur Now” have also helped give awareness to the public about crimes being committed in Sudan.
The West bears a lot of the universal responsibility to provide, promote, and protect human rights. Americans, along with other powerful countries, have a great sense of pride when it comes to helping others. Western states are collectively responsible for much of the current world social and international order, as well as for the political and economical situations of Africa today, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 490). This does not mean that African states and other African actors do not have the same ethical responsibility.
Many African leaders are primarily responsible. It is necessary for key international organizations, such as the United Nations, to sort out global ethics and it is necessary to sort out what ethical responsibilities global actors have, (Reeve, 2006, 6). William J. Talbott argued that, “an appropriate empathic outside observer may be in a better position than insiders to morally evaluate the practice or social arrangement,” (Tablott, 2005, 71). He went on to say,
“First, reliable moral observation, especially across cultures, requires empathic understanding. Not all moral observers have the same degree of empathic understanding. Second, one’s interests or desires can introduce biasing factors that lead to self-serving rationalizations of one’s moral judgment. Other things being equal, moral observers without such biases are more likely to make reliable moral judgments than those with such biases. The problem is exacerbated if the self-serving judgments are socially enforced,” (Talbott, 2005, 76).
Many individuals involved in the world debate about human rights now accept that “to protect against harm and to aid the deprived are strong universal duties,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489). On-the-ground and regional research by the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Refugee International, and Physicians for Human Rights have been the center of important work dating back to the beginning of the conflict, (Reeve, 2006, 5).
The conflict in Darfur shows that the intrastate collective action problem has not been properly addressed by a traditional multilateral approach. Instead the crisis in Darfur demonstrates the need for an expanded view of modern international law in the face of intrastate conflict that includes systematic intervention procedures and preventative aid, as well as a comprehensive approach that recognizes and integrates non-governmental organizations and non-governmental organization alliances, (Welling, 2007,149).
Many states, organizations, and individuals deny responsibility in Darfur to avoid, prevent, or create harm. Two of these very important states are Russia and China, who have not supported international intervention in Darfur. Russia has blocked votes to take action against the Sudanese because of its arms dealing and China has because of its interest in oil. William J. Talbott reinforced the idea as to why states like Russia and China do not intervene.
He stated, “Where a culture’s practices are supported by socially enforced self-serving justifications, the result will typically be a wide spread moral blindness, a blindness that is unlikely to be detected by the members of the culture who benefits from the practices and, because of the social enforcement, unlikely to be voiced by those who are disadvantaged by the practices,” (Talbott, 2005, 73). China’s need for oil reserves is growing along with the population and the Sudanese are providing oil, (Human Rights Watch, 2003). “Oil was the driving force behind Sudan’s civil war. Oil is driving genocide in Darfur,” (Virginia Quarterly, 2007, 2).
Thomas Pogge stresses that citizens around the world need to take responsibility to protect each others’ human rights, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 488). His idealistic idea rejects the “concentric-circle theory of obligation” and “communitarian arguments” that people have a bigger responsibility to their families, communities, and nation than to “strangers with whom they have no, or very tenuous, connections,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 488).
Some may argue that this idealistic idea goes against human nature, and they may argue in favor of a more realistic notion.; however, the recognition of individual human rights requires a standpoint from which to criticize not only a culture’s external norms, but also its internal norms, (Talbott, 2005, 87). Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promotes the idea that every state, institution, and individuals have the responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights. This is a fine example of global ethics.
Article 28 states, “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized,” (UN, 1948). “Common-sense morality” helps people to make decisions about their own responsibilities. This often accepts the “concentric-circle theory of obligation”, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489). This also suggests that people have the greatest responsibility to improve those harms these individuals have caused. According to Henry Shue, the first duty is to avoid depriving people of their rights, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489).
States and social institutions have special responsibilities to ameliorate harm that they, or their formal and legal ancestors, have caused. These states and social institutions have a responsibility not only for “sins of commission”, but also for “sins of omission”, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489). Shue argues that we have the responsibility to protect others from harm and to aid the deprived. To avoid these duties is to commit a “sin of omission,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489).
Movements for basic human rights usually develop in reaction to oppressive social practices, (Talbott, 2005, 87). There have been many carefully assembled eyewitness accounts of mass executions of African civilians, clearly murdered because of their ethnicity, (Reeves, 2006, 6). The United States Government has “substantial intelligence on Khartoum’s movement of corpses from better known sites to remote desert dumping grounds”, (Reeves, 2006, 6).
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of the rights of the civilians have been obviously violated. Article 3 states, “everybody has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” There have been accounts listed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that some two-hundred thousand people have been killed during this conflict, (Fox News, 2007).
This clearly violated article 3. Ahmed Adam Ali, a civilian currently taking refuge in eastern Chad, described the violations by the Janjaweed. He said, “The Janjaweed kill us because they want our land.” He claimed the Janjaweed said, “we don’t like black people in Darfur. Sudan is for Arabs, not Africans,” (Snyder, 2007). Of his village’s two-thousand people, Ali says, the Janjaweed killed four-hundred, including his brother, and bombers pursuing them on their multiple-week trek to camp in eastern Chad where one-hundred more were killed, (Snyder, 2007).
There have been “hundreds of accounts, authoritatively assembled, of the ethnic targeting and comprehensive destruction of African villages” by Khartoum and the Janajaweed, (Reeves, 2006, 6). As seen in Ahmed Adam Ali’s account, it is clear that these assaults are charged with racial hatred.
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.” According to Amnesty International, a report found that rape and other forms of sexual violence in Darfur are being used as a weapon of war in order to humiliate, punish, control and inflict fear and displace women and their communities.
These rapes and other sexual violence constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report also examines the consequences of rape which have immediate and long-term effects on women beyond the actual physical violence, (Amnesty International, 2004). Human Rights Watch showed an example of Khartoums’s political and military command and control hierarchy. In a December 2005 report by Human Rights Watch there was a claim that stated:
“Whether [National Islamic Front] policy [in Darfur] amounted to genocide remains unclear. The [UN] International Commission of Inquiry into the crimes in Darfur concluded that there was no government policy of genocide, but that crimes may have been committed by individuals with genocidal intent and that this question should be resolved in a court of law. Determining whether there was genocidal intent requires access to government documents and to those in the leadership, who planned and coordinated the campaign in Darfur, (Reeves, 2006, 6).
A determination of genocidal intent does not require documentary evidence. There is already overwhelming evidence of the intent to commit acts that destroy a national, ethical, racial or religious group, which is defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide, (Reeves, 2006, 7). Eric Reeves has pointed out several examples of how the Sudanese government has in fact committed genocide. He lists:
1.) The government, working along with the Janjaweed, has deliberately destroyed as many as eighty to ninety percent of the villages of African tribal groups.
2.) More than ninety percent of the total casualties are from African tribal populations.
3.) The people who are being displaced report that the massive destruction, killing, rape, abductions, and torture are from the African tribal populations in Darfur.
4.) The livelihoods of the displaced African tribal populations have been deliberately destroyed by the Sudanese government and Janjaweed.
5.) Damaging attacks on the African tribal populations are very often followed by the use of racial slurs from the Janjaweed aimed at this population.
6.) All evidence suggests that these actions are systematic, pre-planned, and coordinated, (Reeves, 2006, 6).
There has been enough information available that vast exercises in ethnically targeted human destruction have been taking place, (Reeve, 2006, 6). It was clear to Western policymakers in late 2004 that the treatment of the people of Darfur constituted as genocide, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 497). On September 9, 2004 Colin Powell, the secretary of State during the first Administration of President George W. Bush, used the word “genocide” to describe the situation in Darfur, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 498). On September 21, 2004, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush himself also used to term, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489).
African areas of Darfur have experienced killing, raping and expelling of its inhabitants. Arab militias burned villages, killed animals, and poisoned wells, thus inflicting “conditions of life calculated to bring about a group’s physical destruction,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 498). This is considered a form of genocide under Article II (c) of the 1948 Convention Against Genocide, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 498).
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair talked about the world’s moral obligation and his then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, asked the question, “if not now, when? If not us, who?” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 510). Brown went on to say that it does not matter who causes Africa’s problems; everyone is responsible for solving them. Around the same time, General Romeo Dallaire added to this notion. He wrote:
“Our governments are ourselves, at least in the West. Citizens are capable of actions in democracies, and of expressing their views to their elected representatives. Particular Western states may well have obligations to particular African countries for damaging them in the past or for not assisting them in the present. But this does not absolve other states of the responsibility to help Africans now,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 510).
The realization by powerful world leaders that there is a universal ethical responsibility to protect individuals from genocide has drawn debates around the globe. Russia and China have not supported international intervention in Darfur. By doing nothing when human rights are clearly being violated, gives the notion that these actions are “ok” by world standards. Abandoning the internal conflicts in Darfur weakens international efforts. This also creates a culture of impunity.
Allowing genocide to continue gives a signal to African governments, especially the Sudanese government, that the international community accepts governance through murder and ethnic hatred, (Welling, 2007, 154). The willingness of the international community to intervene in intrastate conflicts lowers the level of violence state actors will risk and contribute to more serious foreign policy issues, (Welling, 2007, 154). When action is taken, results are noticed. When no action is taken, obviously, there are no positive results.
The primary responsibility for the Darfur genocide falls on the Sudanese government and the Janajaweed, (Garcia, 2006, 51). No Western power had any reason to promote this genocide, nor did any do so. In fact, Western democratic powers strongly oppose such violations of human rights. Contributory factors might partially implicate the West, which has been hesitant to offend the central Sudanese government because it wanted to buy oil from the Sudanese, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 498).
The Sudanese government also placed itself as a western ally in the war on terrorism, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 489). Another factor was the peace agreement between the Northern and Southern Sudan after their long civil war. Despite the evidence of mass murder, rape and torture, only small actions have been made to help the victims in Darfur. According to the United Nations Security Council, some of these small actions include a United Nations arms ban on all belligerents, a travel ban and asset freeze on some Sudanese.
Also a decision has been made by the Council to refer suspected Sudanese war criminals to the International Criminal Court, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 499). These actions are not enough. People continue to die and only minimal actions, at best, are being made. Some African Union monitors have been in Darfur, logistically assisted by the West, watching what has been taking place. Unfortunately these monitors have been inadequately supplied. Nearly half of the expected personal from the African Union is currently in place, (Garcia, 2006, 53).
Fred Nyabera, executive director of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches, has welcomed a pledge of three-hundred million dollars in aid from the Sudanese government to help in the Darfur region. However, he claims that this is insufficient and should not divert attention from the underlying causes of the conflict. He said, “It is a positive step, but it is not enough,” (Christian Century Foundation, 2007, 15). He went on to say, “The real issues have never been sufficiently addressed. The focus has always been on the consequences,” (Christian Century Foundation, 2007, 15). Mark R. Amstutz would agree that foreign aid can undermine the goals being pursued, (Amsturtz, 2005, 30).
Many world powers have failed to do anything in Darfur, and in some disrespect encouraged the hellacious violation of human rights. This needs to change immediately. The Chinese own forty per cent of a large oil project in Sudan and have also built a one-thousand six-hundred kilometer pipeline there, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 499). In exchange for access to the Sudanese oil, China gave the Sudanese government three arms factories.
China is not a democracy and its citizens are probably unaware that the Chinese government is supporting a regime that condones genocide. Unfortunately, even if the Chinese population knew of what was happening in Darfur, they would not be able to criticize the Chinese government or take humanitarian action. China’s interests are a main reason why the Security Council has not taken stronger measures against the Sudanese government. Russia also invests in Sudanese oil and sells arms to the government, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 499).
China and Russia prevent the United Nations Security Council from acting quickly or by applying sanctions. China and Russia have repeatedly threatened to use their individual vetoes to block all United Nations Security Council efforts to place sanctions on the Sudanese government, in order to protect their individual economic interests, (Welling, 2007, 160). Because of this, the international community allowed the killing to persist.
Russia has blocked votes because of its arms dealing and China has because of its interest in Sudanese oil. It may also come as no surprise that the two most destructive regimes have been the Soviet Union (Russia) and communist China, which together are responsible for murdering ninety-seven million people, or more than half of all the twentieth century’s democide, (Amstutz, 2005, 95).
Whatever actions the West and the international community take to improve the conditions in Darfur, they may not be enough. Humanitarian relief has been the primary aid given to the suffering individuals. The United Nations has not given as much support as it possibly could. Also, Western democratic states could provide more aid to individuals suffering in Darfur. Genocide is a political and military matter which at times is out of the hands of humanitarians willing to help. Genocide requires solutions made by political and military powers.
Anything less than these actions suggests that “the world is indicating an acceptance of the genocidal status quo,” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 499). While states have many incentives for intervening in situations like Darfur, history has shown that, whether acting unilaterally or through the United Nations, states unusually intervene late or not at all. In Rwanda, the death toll reached eight-hundred thousand before effective actions were taken by the United Nations, (Welling, 2007, 157). The willingness of the international community to intervene influences the level of violence state actors will risk and contributes to more serious foreign policy issues, (Welling, 2007, 155).
The world community, especially developed nations, pays for humanitarian crises that result from intrastate conflict. Many of the costs associated with intervention do not include the social and ethical costs of the nearly four-hundred thousand lives that have been lost. Even with regional organizations such as the European Union, the African Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization involved in Sudan, they have not resolved the Darfur conflict in a speedy fashion, (Welling, 2007, 159).
Some governments, such as the American, seem desperate not to be forced to do anything requiring serious diplomatic or political capital, even as it continually talks about the word “genocide” whenever the subject of Darfur arises, (Reeves, 2006, 7). The European Union has given millions of Euros to Darfur and the African Union has provided troops. However, the number of African Union troops in Sudan is restricted to a very small amount, while the region of Darfur they need to monitor is nearly the size of Texas, (Welling, 2007, 159).
Obviously more ground and air support is needed. As of right now, the Security Council members desired to limit the troops’ mandate and refrain from giving the troops permission to protect innocent civilians. The African Union does not even have the most basic supplies. It cannot afford items such as tents, transportation or even food and medicine. Other states are still unwilling to help.
For example, Germany gave the African Union computers for technical support, however, the instructions were in German, (Welling, 2007, 159). Diplomats from the region asked for support from the African Union to meet its challenges; however, only United Nations Member States outside of the African Union can provide the type of support needed.
Darfur needs a peace agreement and an extensive multinational force to carry it out, (New York Times, 2007). Humanitarian intervention needs to continue in Darfur in hopes to “remedy mass and flagrant violations of basic human rights of foreign nationals by their government,” (Amstutz, 2005, 143). The United Nations, along with other world actors, need to take more serious action in preventing the genocide that is taking place.
Global ethics requires global responsibility. All who are responsible for genocide must take responsibility. The “when” is now, and the “who” is everyone, (Howard-Hassmann, 2005, 510). The global responsibility includes all world actors, and it allows no government, no institution, and no individual to deny responsibility.
The West may have a special responsibility to cure past harms and prevent present ones, but it is not the only region of the world to be responsible. International responsibility includes the need to understand that the Sudanese government is causing great atrocities in Darfur right now and all world actors need to hold them accountable for what has, and continues to, happen. The genocide must stop now!
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Amstutz, Mark R. 2005. International Ethics: Concepts, Theories, and Cases in Global Politics. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Christian Century Foundation. 2007. “Aid pledge to Darfur ‘not enough’, says African church leader.” Vol. 124 Issue 22: 15.
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