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UN Report Says Genocide Was Not Committed in Darfur

Sudan says a UN report has absolved it of charges of genocide in Darfur made by the United States and aid agencies. The Sudanese ambassador to Britain, Hassan Abdin, told British radio his government is grateful to the special panel set up to investigate claims of genocide, adding that no such acts have been committed in Sudan.

The UN report stopped short of calling the violence in Darfur genocide. But it also said the Sudanese government and its Arab militias had committed crimes against humanity by killing, torturing and raping civilians and destroying villages. The report was written by a special commission appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It said it found credible evidence that local rebels groups, including the Sudanese Liberation Army, were also responsible for serious violations of international law, which may amount to war crimes.

The report recommends that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. However, the Bush administration says it does not recognize the court because it could be used to unfairly prosecute American troops. On the other hand, a US diplomat says Washington backs a UN call to press war crimes charges against those suspected of atrocities in Darfur. The acting US representative at the United Nations, Anne Patterson, says officials are studying various options to achieve justice in the nearly two-year conflict. Some US diplomats have suggested sending Darfur cases to a court in Tanzania set up to try suspects in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In September, former UN Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a State Department study had indeed found the Sudanese government responsible for genocide. He said the conclusion was based on a study that included more than 18 hundred refugees along the Sudan-Chad border. According to the study, more than three quarters of those interviewed said the Sudanese military, working with the mostly Arab Janjaweed militias, had been involved in violence against blacks in Darfur.

Dave Mozersky – a Sudan analyst with the International Crisis Group – says he is not concerned with the findings of the UN commission – because both war crimes and genocide would lead to prosecution of those guilty. He says setting up an ad hoc court for war crimes in Sudan would cost time and money – therefore the ICG would prefer to have the suspects tried in the International Criminal Court. He also says the ICG supports the call by UN Secretary General for sanctions against the Sudanese government, though he says they would be part of a larger package. Mr. Mozersky told VOA reporter William Eagle efforts should also include the freezing of regime assets overseas, a travel ban on Sudanese officials suspected of involvement in war crimes, an extension of an arms embargo that would include both rebels and the government, and the strengthening of the size and mandate of Africa Union force in Darfur.