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UNCHR Voices Concern Over Human Rights Violations In Sudan - 2004-04-23

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has adopted a resolution expressing "concern" over human rights violations in Sudan. The United States, which denounced the proposal for failing to address ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of Sudan, cast the sole dissenting vote.

The Sudan resolution was crafted jointly by the African Group and the European Union. And it was presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission by the Irish ambassador with little enthusiasm.

Mary Whelan, who spoke for the EU, said the draft declaration represented an honest compromise, but acknowledged that it did not describe the many alleged atrocities occurring in Darfur. She said it did allow the Commission to go beyond mere condemnation and promote practical measures to protect human rights in Sudan.

?We are prepared to accept the language in the text before us now. And, we do so on the basis that it is necessary for this Commission to take action and that this proposal of the African group, we believe, will achieve the necessary support and we hope consensus to enable us to take action,? she said.

The head of the United States delegation, Richard Williamson, strongly criticized the proposal. He warned it would fail to stop what he called ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

?An acceptable Commission product must condemn this ethnic cleansing, must hold accountable those who are engaged in these deplorable acts, must call on the Sudan government to stop. It must have an effective mechanism,? he said.

Mr. Williamson said the proposal made no mention of 30,000 people who have been killed and nearly one million uprooted from their homes. He said the reports of atrocities committed by government-backed Arab militias against black Africans in Darfur must not be ignored.

In the end, 50 States voted for the measure, two abstained and the United States voted no.

After the vote, Mr. Williamson told the delegates that the United States would continue working on behalf of the thousands of silent victims in Darfur.

?Let me say now, that the U.S. government fully intends and in fact shall call for a special session of the UNCHR (U.N. Human Rights Commission) when the mission sent by the High Commissioner returns,? Mr. Williamson said. ?Our work on the ethnic cleansing in Darfur is not over. It is just begun. We must find the courage to stand up and be strong to condemn unconscionable acts.?

A team of human rights experts left for Sudan earlier this week to investigate alleged atrocities in Darfur. They will publish a report upon their return.