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Amnesty International Condemns Loss of Life in Sudan's Darfur Region - 2004-10-07

Human rights group Amnesty International says atrocities in Sudan's troubled Darfur region can only be brought to end through sustained efforts, engagement by international community

The human rights group Amnesty International says atrocities in Sudan's troubled Darfur region can only be brought to an end through sustained efforts and engagement by the international community. Amnesty officials presented their group's findings after a recent mission to Sudan's westernmost region.

"There is no doubt that ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity have all occurred in Darfur," said William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, who was one of several high ranking officials from the group to travel to Darfur last month. "The delegation saw several sites where villages had been burned to the ground or abandoned. I, myself, talked with a woman who told me that so complete was the destruction of her village that she lacked even a tool with which to bury her husband."

Mr. Schulz said he has been heartened by U.S. efforts to draw attention to the Darfur crisis, including Secretary of State Colin Powell's declaration of the bloodshed as "genocide." But Mr. Schulz says much more needs to be done if fighting between rebels and Janjaweed militias allied with Sudan's government is to stop.

"The response of the international community has been brave in its rhetoric but reticent in its delivery," he said. "Nothing is more critical, than that the increased African Union presence called for in the latest U.N. Security [Council] resolution be implemented as soon as possible and that the mandate of those forces be expanded to include protection, and not just monitoring."

Thursday, dialogue resumed on another front: the conflict between the Sudanese government and rebels in the south of the country. The more than 20-year-long conflict, which has claimed an estimated two million lives and displaced many more, pits the Muslim government in Khartoum against rebels in the Christian and animist south. Peace talks, held in neighboring Kenya, aim to hammer out details of a basic peace accord between the two sides.

The secretary general of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, says a definitive resolution of Sudan's north-south conflict could hold the key to solving the Darfur crisis.

"The rebels and the the government have to come to a clear agreement, not only on a ceasefire but also on protection of civilians," he said. "The agreement in the south, which is an agreement that recognizes the diversity of Sudan, is important because through that agreement can also come a solution for Darfur. In a sense, the south and Darfur are linked."

Violence and unrest in Darfur is blamed for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of more than one million others. Thursday, the Bush administration extended the length of time Sudanese refugees can remain in the United States under so-called "Temporary Protected Status."