African leaders have been invited to a special meeting at next month?s summit of the world?s leading industrial countries in Hokkaido, Japan. With this in mind, an international coalition of more than 40 non-governmental organizations from the G-8 countries is calling on their leaders to act forcefully to end the crisis in Sudan?s Darfur. Betsy Apple directs the Crimes Against Humanity Program of the New York and Washington-based advocacy group Human Rights First, which is leading the Darfur appeal. She says that G-8 leaders, who represent Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the United States, must take very specific measures to end the arms flow and promote peace and accountability for the atrocities that are being committed in Sudan?s troubled western region.

?I think it?s really important for the G-8 summit to culminate in a very strong public statement, in an outcome statement, about Darfur that has very specific measures that the G-8 countries call for, indicating that these G-8 countries are really interested in taking specific and concrete action on questions relating to ceasefires, arms transfers, deployment of the peacekeeping force, a reinvigorated peace process, and justice and accountability for atrocities committed,? she said.

Reports last week from eastern Chad accused Sudanese military forces of aiding Chadian rebels in attacks on eastern towns in a bid to overthrow Chadian President Idriss Deby. With indications that Khartoum may be extending its reach even beyond the crisis in Darfur, Human Rights First advocacy spokesperson Apple explains that only by holding President Omar Hasan al-Bashir?s government responsible for meeting its legal commitments can the world community make Sudan accountable for its actions.

?The international community, including G-8 countries, some of whom are important members of the UN Security Council, really need to hold Khartoum accountable for its legal obligations. Khartoum has made promises. Khartoum has legal obligations to stop using violence, to stop exporting violence, to comply with certain ceasefire and peace agreements, and the problem is when Khartoum thumbs its nose at the G-8 and the rest of the world by ignoring these obligations, there are no consequences,? she notes.

Although China is not the only country to cite for the continuing flow of arms into Sudan to aid the government?s campaign of violence against Darfur citizenry, Betsy Apple says Beijing is the major supplier of light weapons that inflict much of the pain and suffering on Darfur victims.

?We know that China is the largest provider of small arms to the government of Sudan, to the tune of 55 million dollars, in arms for the years during which the Darfur violence was escalating. And there are other countries that are providers of other kinds of weapons, but China is by far the largest provider of small arms. And we think that it?s imperative for China to stop transferring arms to the government of Sudan while the violence in Darfur is occurring. And we think that it?s imperative for G-8 countries and countries with strong relationships with China to press China to do so because we believe that China is violating, if not in fact, then certainly in spirit, the UN arms embargo, which says that countries should not be supplying arms to Darfur,? she points out.

Short of endorsing an olympic boycott of this year?s Beijing games, Human Rights First is advocating that participating countries use the olympic setting to make it clear that Beijing?s breaking of the arms embargo is intolerable. Other concerns on the minds of the human rights, anti-genocide NGO agenda for G-8 attention include getting a recommitment to enforce Sudan?s 2005 North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), winning the immediate deployment of an international peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in Darfur, and holding Khartoum accountable for turning over Sudanese government officials who have been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with committing atrocities and crimes against humanity in Darfur.