Armenians Must Raise Their Voices For Truth and Justice in Sudan


Armeni ans Must Raise Their Voices For Truth and Justice in Sudan
Armenian Weekly (Watertown, Mass.), Commentary,
Jason Sohigian, Aug 15, 2004

Although the U.S. State Department and even the United Nations have
hesitated to call the continuing atrocities in the Darfur region of western
Sudan a genocide, the US Congress unanimously passed a resolution last month
declaring that the events unfolding there are genocide, and urged the Bush
administration to do the same.

The wavering of the UN may be because the Genocide Convention of 1948
obligates the international community to take the complicated step of
“preventing and punishing” acts that it has declared as genocide; also, the
body recognizes the dangers of trivializing the act by applying the term to
situations that may not fully meet the criteria.

Yet, already at least 30,000 civilians have been killed and up to one
million displaced since groups from the Darfur region took up arms over what
they regard as unjust treatment by the government in their struggle with
Arab countrymen over land and resources. The government- armed militia,
called Janjaweed, began attacking Darfur villages in retaliation.

However, regardless of the terminology, with killings of this magnitude it
is imperative that the UN and the US work with the international community
to stop it immediately by using economic and arms embargoes against those
that supply the Janjaweed, deploying troops from other African states, and
applying sanctions and other means to pressure those responsible.

The Armenian community has a special responsibility to speak out on this
issue. Past instances of genocide, including the brutal murders of 1.5
million Armenians, were not prevented–even when the massacres taking place
were well known to the outside world–because the international community
failed to act.

As Gary Bass, author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War
Crimes Tribunals, noted in an interview with the Armenian Weekly, “There is
more of a sense for communities in the US who are sensitive to the issue of
genocide–such as Rwandans, Jews, or Armenians living here–about the
reality of genocide and of what it means to be abandoned when you are dying
in the hundreds of thousands and no one cares.”

Similarly, in The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide, Yair
Auron has written about the importance of the Israeli viewpoint concerning
acts of genocide, because of the Jewish experience in the Holocaust.

As a result of the work of the International Association of Genocide
Scholars and others, the term genocide and the weight of its meaning have
become known to a wide segment of the public, and important issues
concerning genocide are now being discussed in the media and by the
international community.

The U.N. is to be commended for its appointment last month of Juan Mendez to
the new position of Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide. Mendez is
an Argentine human rights lawyer and one-time political prisoner under the
military regime that ruled his country in the 1970s.

Whether or not Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Bush administration
have the inclination or ability to follow the lead of the US Congress on
Sudan, Secretary-General Kofi Annan must work with Mendez and others without
delay to prevent genocide–before it is too late once again.

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