A medical human rights group says genocide in Darfur is continuing, and people’s lives are being systematically destroyed. Physicians for Human Rights, or PHR, released a report Wednesday (1/11/06) showing in detail the destruction of lives in three villages.
John Heffernan is a senior investigator for the Massachusetts-based group and the author of “Darfur: Assault on Survival – a Call for Security, Justice and Restitution.”
Heffernan took three trips into Sudan and along the border with Chad in May of 2004, and again in January and July of last year. He visited three villages -- Furawiya, Bendisi, and Terbeba -- where he spoke to refugees who’d fled the atrocities.
“What we found coming out of that initial investigation was that there were a number of indicators of genocide – one being the systematic destruction of livelihoods and means of survival. We felt that this was something that was so clearly and blatantly obvious … that we wanted to go back, and through the lens of three particular villages look at the way livelihoods – a way of life - had been destroyed in Sudan and what it would take for these people to go back to Darfur,” he said.
Heffernan says the Janjaweed – Arab militias supported by the government -- have destroyed over three thousand “non-Arab” villages. He says forcing people into what he calls the desert “deathtrap” makes it impossible for them to survive without outside help. He says the attacks would typically start early in the morning, with the Janjaweed arriving on horseback or camel, and the Sudanese government in large trucks.
“The large trucks were used to transport all of the possessions to either markets or to be sold elsewhere – including livestock, a terribly important part of the culture and the economy of Darfur. So camels and cows and donkeys and goats and chickens were all taken away. Then their homes were destroyed, and then the people didn’t have anywhere to go, so they were forced to leave their homes to search for food, to search for water. And unless they came upon an area that was safe where they could seek refuge -- and typically in those instances where they didn’t find that -- you would have a number of people die,” he says.
Physicians for Human Rights is calling on the U-N Security Council to establish and implement an effective compensation commission. This was recommended by the U-N’s own Commission of Inquiry report, released a year ago. Heffernan also says the Khartoum government must take responsibility for crimes against its citizens.
“The Sudanese do need to be held accountable and the compensation commission should largely come from funding out of the coffers of Sudan,” he says.
For example, he says, the U-N Security Council should pass a resolution mandating that profits from Sudanese oil or other commodities be used to compensate, restore, and rehabilitate Darfur. The report also calls on the Sudanese government and rebel forces to immediately stop violent attacks on Darfur’s civilians and their property. Also, Heffernan says because the Sudanese government is the architect of the genocide, its bid for the A-U presidency adds insult to injury. He says it undermines the organization’s credibility and could jeopardize the ongoing peace talks in Abuja.
Another recommendation: for peace and security, the international community should press for a resolution authorizing a multi-national intervention force under the U-N Charter.
“When there is a peaceful and secure environment, people can go home right away. People have not been able to plant their crops; people need to rebuild their homes, and the longer they stay away … the more entrenched it becomes, and the more difficult it will be for them to restore their lives,” he says.
John Heffernan says the strength of this report is in showing that deliberate and organized planning is being used to destroy a way of life. For example, one refugee told P-H-R investigators that she overheard her attacker say, “Don’t bother, don’t waste the bullet, they’ve got nothing to eat and they will die from hunger.”