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Human Rights Activists Trumpet  ICC Actions on Darfur


Human rights activists say Sudan's allies and trading partners, such as China, are obligated to re-evaluate and adjust their dealings with Khartoum, now that the International Criminal Court has given notice of possible genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. VOA's Michael Bowman has details from Washington.

Last month, the ICC took steps to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. The court's chief prosecutor accused Mr. Bashir of masterminding a campaign of rape and murder targeting people in Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region, and requested a warrant for the Sudanese leader's arrest.

Human rights activists say the ICC actions amount to a finding of likely genocide in Darfur, and that such a finding triggers clear obligations for the international community, particularly nations that deal closely with Sudan.

Betsy Apple specializes in crimes against humanity for the New York-based group Human Rights First.

"Every country in the world is on notice that there is a serious risk of genocide occurring in Darfur. Under the [United Nations] Genocide Treaty, states are obligated to take every conceivable action they can to prevent genocide," said Apple. "And the treaty does not require that states know for certain that genocide is happening. Rather, it is enough that states know that there is a serious risk of genocide occurring in order for this obligation to prevent genocide to kick in."

Apple was speaking in a conference call with the news media.

Also appearing on the conference call was international law expert Jerry Fowler, who heads the Save Darfur Coalition. Fowler says no nation has more extensive ties to Khartoum than China. Therefore, under the U.N. Genocide Treaty, Chinese officials bear the greatest responsibility to take immediate, decisive action to end bloodshed in Darfur.

"They have been a key protector of the government of Sudan in the United Nations Security Council. In effect, they have been the 'heat shield' of Khartoum in the Security Council. Secondly, they are a major arms supplier of the government of Sudan. A U.N. database indicates that 90 percent of arms transfers to Sudan come from China," said Fowler. "The third thing is their intimate and expanding economic relationship [with Sudan]."

Whether or not the international community takes note of ICC pronouncements, President Bashir has said his country will not cooperate with the court. At the same time, the African Union has expressed concern that ICC actions could complicate efforts to bring peace to Darfur. Sudan maintains that reports of 200,000 deaths in Darfur are exaggerated, and the genocide label is inaccurate.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Olympic speedskater and Darfur activist Joey Cheek says he is surprised that China revoked his visa for a visit that was to coincide with the summer games. Cheek, who heads a group of athlete-activists called Team Darfur, had planned to use his time in China to draw further attention to the situation in Darfur and advance his organization's call for China to use its influence in Sudan to end the bloodshed.

Cheek says China informed him of the visa revocation the day before he was to depart for Beijing but provided no reason for doing so.

The Bush administration has indicated it will protest the decision. President Bush is to arrive in China Thursday and will attend the opening ceremony for the Olympics Friday.

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