Accessibility links

Nobel Peace Laureate Joins Calls for Swift Action on Darfur - 2004-08-25

Romanian-born Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel Wednesday added his voice to calls for an end to the violence and killings in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

The United Nations Security Council has given Sudan until August 30 to stop the violence in Darfur or face further, unspecified actions. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed there and more than one million others made homeless in fighting between rebel groups and government-backed militias, known as the Janjaweed.

At a telephone news conference, organized by humanitarian and advocacy groups, Elie Wiesel emphasized that what is happening in Darfur is important to all human beings.

"What is at stake for us is our own humanity," he said. "And I say that as a teacher, as a writer, as a Jew."

Mr. Wiesel called for greater international pressure on Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur.

"It seems the international community has begun to show more willingness towards [getting the] perpetrators to stop and desist," he said. "But more is needed, maybe, more imagination or compassion. What has to be done must be done swiftly. Every day of inaction produces more victims and helps the killers, the torturers and the victimizer in the inhuman activity."

Author Samantha Power, who wrote a 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide and recently visited Darfur for an article in the New Yorker magazine, said she was struck by the lack of international agreement on the situation there.

"It is remarkably divided, when you consider, as Professor Wiesel was saying, when you consider the humanitarian stakes and the clarity, in a way, the awfulness of what's unfolding there," she said. "But you still have British or French diplomats in Khartoum who try to persuade visitors like myself that what's happening in Darfur does not even meet what they call the "test" for ethnic cleansing."

She added that she believes Sudan has been taking advantage of these international divisions.

"This divided front is something that has been exploited at every turn by Sudan, and something we absolutely have to overcome," Ms. Power said.

And despite the continuing atrocities in Darfur, many analysts, such as John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, say the global community continues to be too lenient toward the Sudanese government.

"Since December, in effect, we've made agreements with the government in Khartoum that said they would protect civilians, that said they would protect humanitarian assistance and a number of other concessions, if you could call it that," he said. "And they haven't done any of these things, with the exception of allowing more visas and travel permits."

Mr. Prendergast says he believes there will be no concrete punitive U.N. action against Sudan any time soon.

"I don't think the Security Council is anywhere near there, by the way," he said. "I think the U.S. is really the only country that is willing to start to consider to move in that direction, but even it is very tentative because it doesn't want to upset the apple cart with respect to its broader concerns in the Security Council over Iraq."

He says if the United Nations fails to take strong action, countries like the United States and Britain should impose their own sanctions against Sudan, such as imposing a general arms embargo or freezing the overseas assets of specific Sudanese leaders.