Avoiding Genocide: The right to bear arms could have saved Sudan.

The National Review
Aug 18 2004

Avoiding Genocide
The right to bear arms could have saved Sudan.

By Dave Kopel, Paul Gallant, & Joanne Eisen

[T]he sovereign territorial state claims, as an integral part of its
sovereignty, the right to commit genocide, or engage in genocidal
massacres, against peoples under its rule, and…the United Nations,
for all practical purposes, defends this right. To be sure, no state
explicitly claims the right to commit genocide – this would not be
morally acceptable even in international circles – but the right is
exercised under other more acceptable rubrics…. – Leo Kuper,
Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century
On July 22, 2004, both houses of Congress upped the ante in Darfur,
Sudan, by calling the situation there genocide instead of “ethnic
cleansing.” That legal change in terminology was inspired by the 1948
U.N. Convention on Genocide, in which all the signatories promise to
prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

The definition of “genocide” was very tightly written. According to
Matthew Lippman (“A Road Map to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” Journal of Genocide
Research, 2002), “measures directed towards forcing members of a
group to abandon their homes in order to escape ill-treatment” – what
we now know as ethnic cleansing – is not considered genocide
according to the U.N. definition.

For months, the world has bickered over what to call the situation in
Darfur. According to Article 8 of the U.N. Convention: “Any
Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United
Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United nations
as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of
acts of genocide…” The U.S., which signed and ratified the Genocide
Convention, is a “Contracting Party,” and has forced the world to
accept the fact that another genocide is taking place.

If the U.N. follows its own laws, it must now intervene on the side
of the victims. But the world’s governments cannot agree on an
effective remedy. At the heart of the U.N.’s failure is a grave
misunderstanding of national sovereignty: the notion that
“sovereignty” belongs to the government, not the people. And this
mistaken notion of sovereignty precludes consideration of one of most
effective ways to prevent genocide: arming the victims.

As the U.N. Security Council tried to craft language every government
could support, the threat of sanctions against Sudan was dropped. The
final resolution that passed the Security Council on July 30, 2004,
included an arms embargo. Notwithstanding the practical difficulties
of imposing a successful embargo, such a policy is too late.

As many as 50,000 people have been killed, and more will probably
starve to death. Livestock and food have been destroyed; the dead
animals have been used to poison the wells, and trees have been
uprooted. Rape is used as an instrument of warfare, and, because of
the Islamic culture of Darfur, it has irrevocably destroyed many
families. Fifteen-year-old Aziza recalled: “Five of them raped me
twice…they were armed…I am still in pain.” The situation
continues to deteriorate.

Even if all hostilities ceased at this very moment, if all weapons
were destroyed, if all aid groups could bring all the necessary food,
water, and medical supplies into the refugee camps – even if it were
safe for the refugees to return home – during the months that the
world diddled, the culture of Darfur has been demolished. There is no
going back.

Despite all the platitudes about “never again,” the world did let it
happen – again.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, over four times the size of
Alaska. Its capital is Khartoum, and it shares its northern border
and the Nile River with Egypt. Sudan became independent from the U.K.
in 1956. Darfur, about the size of France, is situated in the western
part and shares a border with Chad. Islamist Arabs run Sudan;
Sudanese Arab nomads have been persecuting the black Muslims of
Darfur, who are mostly farmers.

Because of the scarcity of natural resources, and desertification in
the area caused by two decades of drought and poor land management,
the Arab tribesmen have, in the last few years, invaded the farming
communities. Two self-defense forces arose among the black
population: the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army) and the JEM (Justice and
Equality Movement). Although it is very difficult for ordinary
citizens to obtain firearms legally, the black self-defense groups
were able to procure black-market arms, and therefore were able to
protect the farming communities.

In mid-2003, the Sudanese government began to arm the Arab Janjaweed
militias. Although the government claims to deplore the Arabs’ war on
the blacks, the government has assisted the Arabs by bombing black
villages and by allowing the Janjaweed to attack the blacks at will.
Approximately 100,000 refugees have been forced into Chad, and it is
estimated that about one million people have been displaced

The destruction of black society in Darfur has made it difficult for
the populace to protect and provision the self-defense groups. So the
refugee camps are vulnerable and unarmed, and cannot fill basic human
needs, including food and water. And the camps are guarded by the
Arab Janjaweed, the very people who caused the refugee crisis in the
first place.

The pattern of arming Khartoum’s allies began decades ago when,
during the civil war against blacks in southern Sudan, the Khartoum
government gave arms to the Arab militias and attempted to disarm the
Christians and Animists. According to Douglas H. Johnson, the central
government waged war through surrogates, so as to maintain plausible
deniability. The policy continues today in Darfur.

The rainy season now makes roads nearly impassable, so supplies must
be airlifted in. A lack of sufficient sanitation is expected to make
the refugee camps breeding grounds for cholera, malaria, and
dysentery. With the refugees already weakened from their ordeals,
their resistance to potentially fatal diseases will be low. And while
genocide includes outright murder by machete, gas, or bullet, it also
includes techniques such as those used by the Turks against the
Armenians, and those Pol Pot used against the Cambodians: forced
migration without supplies. Genocide can be accomplished by ensuring
debilitation, starvation, and disease – as it is now in Sudan. And as
it denies complicity in this genocide-in-progress, the government in
Khartoum continues its delaying tactics and has threatened the
nations attempting to save lives.

For example, the BBC News reported that Sudan’s military called the
U.N. resolution “a declaration of war.” The BBC also observed a
placard at a public demonstration that stated, “Darfur will be a
foreign graveyard.”

According to the July 9, 2004, New York Times, Sudan’s Foreign
Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail warned: “The American and British
voices that call for the imposition of sanctions on Sudan are those
that dragged the world into the Iraq problem…. I hope that they
will not drag the world into a new problem from which it will be
difficult to extricate itself and that is the problem of Darfur.”

Recently, the Arab League passed a resolution declaring its support
for Khartoum, apparently under the principle that the mass murder of
Muslims is not a problem when an Arab tyranny is doing the killing.
Sudan’s junior foreign minister, Najuid al-Khair Abdul Wahab,
explained: “We regard this…[as] a violation of our country’s
national sovereignty.”

For years, the U.N. has been attempting to promote the notion of a
rapid-reaction constabulary force responsible only to itself – which
would be triggered by warnings from genocide scholars, who are
presently studying the early warning signs of impending genocide.

But genocide scholar Donald Krumm described “the paralysis induced by
sovereignty…. This is the fundamental difficulty to be overcome.
Actions based on early warning generally would require interventions
inside another nation-state, which the United Nations and its member
states are loath to do.” As late as June 30, 2004, the BBC News
reported that “U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan refused to use the
term genocide, which would carry a legal obligation to act.”

Krumm’s prediction was correct. The international threats, warnings,
and admonitions have accomplished almost nothing. Furthermore, Sudan
has rejected proposals for 2,000 soldiers to be supplied by the
African Union. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has talked tough,
but there is no force to back up his words. According to the BBC
News, “Analysts say that 15-20,000 troops would be needed to secure
Darfur and no one is talking about sending anything like that

The U.N. remains impotent against genocide.

If genocide is to be averted, it is essential to understand that once
a victim population has been disarmed, those victims require
protectors. If the protectors are absent or refuse to act, then the
killing continues – as when the French garrison abandoned 20,000
Armenians in February 1920, and when U.N. forces stood idle in
Srebrenica and Rwanda.

In Rwanda, U.N. personnel knew that the victim group had been
previously disarmed by laws enacted in 1964 and 1979. Early in the
genocide, thousands of Rwandan civilians gathered in places where
U.N. troops were stationed. The Rwandans believed the U.N.’s promise
that its troops would protect them. If Rwandans had known that the
U.N. troops would withdraw, the Rwandans would have fled, and some
might have survived. According to the Report of the Independent
Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations During the 1994
Genocide in Rwanda: “The manner in which troops left, including
attempts to pretend to the refugees that they were not, in fact,
leaving, was disgraceful.” The victims were slaughtered.

Sometimes genocide against disarmed victims ends when another nation
invades, for the invader’s own interests, as when the Allies invaded
Germany, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, or when Tanzania – defending
itself against incursions by Uganda’s military – invaded Uganda and
overthrew Idi Amin.

Unlike Hitler, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, however, the genocidal regime
in Sudan has been careful not to violate any other nation’s
sovereignty. Accordingly, the international community is, in
practice, respecting the “sovereign” power of Sudan’s dictatorship to
perpetrate domestic genocide.

According to provision (1) of Article 25 of the U.N. Declaration of
Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948: “Everyone has the right
to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of
himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and
medical care.” But in Darfur, the government has been complicit in
depriving its citizens of these basic necessities.

The Darfur genocide is more proof that the human rights ostensibly
guaranteed by U.N. documents often disappear when the people are
disarmed, and are thereby unable to prevent a tyranny from usurping
their sovereignty. As the American Founders recognized, political
power often does grow out of the barrel of a gun. If you are
disarmed, you are at the mercy of an armed government.

In Sudan, it is virtually impossible for an average citizen to
lawfully acquire and possess the means for self-defense. According to
gun-control statutes, a gun licensee must be over 30 years of age,
must have a specified social and economic status, and must be
examined physically by a doctor. Females have even more difficulty
meeting these requirements because of social and occupational

When these restrictions are finally overcome, there are additional
restrictions on the amount of ammunition one may possess, making it
nearly impossible for a law-abiding gun owner to achieve proficiency
with firearms. A handgun owner, for example, can only purchase 15
rounds of ammunition a year. The penalties for violation of Sudan’s
firearms laws are severe, and can include capital punishment.

International gun-control groups complain that Sudan’s gun laws are
not strict enough – but the real problem with the laws is that they
can be enforced arbitrarily. The government can refuse gun permits to
the victims in Darfur and execute anyone who obtains a self-defense
gun. Meanwhile, the Arab militias can obtain guns with government
approval, or the government can simply ignore illegal gun possession
by Arabs.

The blacks in Sudan therefore face a situation somewhat like that of
blacks in the 19th-century American south. There, ostensibly neutral
gun-control laws were enforced vigorously against blacks, amounting
to de facto prohibition. Meanwhile, the governments of the
post-bellum south allowed the terrorist KKK to arm with impunity, and
the Sudanese government does the same for Arab terrorist militias.
The result: second-class citizenship for American blacks, and
genocide for Sudanese blacks.

The solution to the worldwide violation of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights is the worldwide recognition of one more human right.
As the great English jurist William Blackstone explained, core human
rights would be “the dead letter of the laws” if not guarded by
“auxiliary rights.” So the law “has therefore established certain
other auxiliary subordinate rights of the subject, which serve
principally as barriers to protect and maintain inviolate the three
great and primary rights, of personal security, personal liberty, and
private property.”

Thus, “The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject…is that of
having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and
degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the
same statute …and is indeed a public allowance, under due
restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and
self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found
insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

The Darfur genocide – like the genocides in Rwanda, Srebrenica,
Cambodia, and so many other nations in the last century – was made
possible only by the prior destruction of that fifth auxiliary right.

It is long past time for the United Nations and the rest of the
international community to do more than bemoan genocide after the
fact. It is time for formal international law to recognize the
natural right of self-defense, and to acknowledge the universal human
right of “having arms for their defense” so that, as a last resort,
victims can “restrain the violence of oppression.” As history has
shown, as long as dictatorships exist, the only way to ensure the
primary right to life is to guarantee the auxiliary right to arms.

– Dave Kopel is research director, and Paul Gallant and Joanne Eisen
are senior fellows, at the Independence Institute. Their most recent
academic publication is “Firearms Possession by Non-State Actors: The
Question of Sovereignty.”