A U.S. federal judge in the state of Virginia ruled Wednesday that Sudan should pay damages to the families of the 17 sailors killed in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole warship. The judge said that Sudan helped the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked the ship by giving them shelter in Sudan and providing diplomatic favors and funding. The judge also said compensation to the families of the victims would come from the 68 million dollars in Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. So what would be the implications of the court’s ruling on the efforts to bring peace to Darfur?
Father Keith Roderick is executive director of the Sudan Campaign, an advocacy wing of the Sudan Coalition in the United States. He said the court’s ruling is yet another black mark on Sudan as a pariah country.
“I think not only does the government of Sudan now bear the burden of the international community’s condemnation of its genocidal action in Darfur, but it is now been branded by a court in the United States as complicit in aiding terrorism. So it’s not good…It should send a very strong message not only from the United States, but also the international community that Sudan must take very progressive action to change its behavior,” he said.
Roderick said carrying out the court’s decision might not affect Sudan’s current intransigence over Darfur. At the same time he said freezing Sudan’s assets in the United States might send a strong message that the pressure on the government will continue.
“I think if assets are frozen here in the United States belonging to Sudan, yes I think the court can actually be able to at least request release those funds to be allocated in the judgment that is rendered. But in terms whether this judgment affects Sudan’s behavior in regards to what is going on in Darfur, probably not likely. But it is one more black mark against the Sudanese regime that has so many black marks already,” Roderick said.
He rejected the notion held by some that the court ruling might be counter-productive, especially at a time the international community is trying to induce Sudan to allow U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
“I don’t see how it can be counter-productive. I think the international community has been patient, and patient and patient with the Sudanese regime and the fact of the matter is each time they try to make progress in terms of including Sudan in the decision to resolve these outstanding issues in Darfur and other places in Sudan, it balks, and it tries to obstruct the international community’s efforts,” he said.
Roderick said the Sudanese government is digging a deeper hole for itself by further alienating its friends such as China and the Arab community. He said the court’s ruling sends another message to the international community that Sudan is not only responsible for genocide, but that it is also responsible for terrorism.