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US Lawmakers Sharply Criticize Sudan for Human Rights Violations in Darfur - 2004-05-06

The government of Sudan has come under sharp criticism in the U.S. Congress for human rights violations and what lawmakers call "scorched earth" policies in its western Darfur region. Sudan was the subject of a House International Relations Committee hearing on Thursday.

Lawmakers took the Sudanese government to task for what Republican Congressman Ed Royce calls a campaign of displacement and killing that "has the look of genocide."

Mr. Royce had this to say as the International Relations committee approved a resolution condemning the Sudanese government.

"The resolution states what we have heard - that the Sudanese government is using rape as a weapon of war, destroying food and water sources and systematically manipulating and denying humanitarian aid to the people of Darfur," he said. "More than one million Sudanese have been displaced. The Sudanese government has once again used allied militia to carry out a scorched-earth-policy as it did in southern Sudan.

Charles Snyder, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, says the United States is pressing Khartoum to allow unrestricted access for aid workers in Darfur.

He had this to say concerning reports of "ethnic cleansing".

"We will not only call this ethnic cleansing, we will insist that it be reversed," said Charles Snyder. "These people need to be put back on their land, and in this day and age ethnic cleansing cannot be allowed to stand in Africa or anywhere else, and that is our objective."

A picture of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur came from Roger Winter, of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Saying Khartoum continues to make it difficult for humanitarian workers to obtain travel permits, Mr. Winter warns the death toll in Darfur could be in the hundreds of thousands.

"We think more than 100,000 people will die no matter what, at this point," he said. "But what this chart produced by our experts actually shows is under the crude mortality rate, a figure which is closer to 350,000."

In testimony, John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group says the most urgent need now is to prevent famine.

"Rather than just waiting to see if access is granted and all these permits are going to be approved, we need to do much more assertive planning now, in cooperation with the [U.N.] Secretary General, given that he has stated that military intervention is on the table [being considered]," said John Prendergast. "We need to look at alternative access modalities. We need to be talking to Libya, we need to talk to Chad and of course Paris behind them, and look at cross-border operations even through southern Sudan, to get food and other assistance into these populations. And we need to put on the table military intervention options. Business as usual just isn't going to get the job done."

A similar resolution condemning the Khartoum government was introduced in the Senate.

Comparing the situation in Darfur to genocide in Rwanda, Republican Senator John McCain said military intervention should not be ruled out.

"We must examine whether and what size international contingent it would take to stop this disaster," he said. "If troops are required, we should figure out how to get troops, possibly African troops, on the ground. If we need financial and logistical support, the United States and others should provide it."

The Senate's top Republican, Bill Frist added.

"The atrocities that are going on in Sudan now must be condemned and the Senate is speaking loudly," said Bill Frist.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said international pressure, rather than military intervention, is required to persuade the Sudanese government to stop attacks in Darfur by the Janjaweeds, an Arab militia backed by Khartoum.

The United States has told Khartoum that without a resolution of the situation in Darfur, normalization of relations with Washington, in the context of a final agreement to end the long-running civil war in southern Sudan with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), will not occur.