The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on four Sudanese accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur. The sanctions are the first against individuals involved in Darfur's three-year civil war.
The Council voted 12 to 0, with three abstentions Tuesday to impose travel bans and financial restrictions against four men accused of helping to organize and carry out atrocities in Darfur.
Veto-wielding China and Russia had argued against the penalties, but in the end agreed not to block the action. The only Arab nation on the Council, Qatar, also abstained.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said that while China had agreed not to use its veto, Beijing remains opposed to sanctions in general.
"Of course, we want to bring those, whoever it is, violators to justice, but I believe sanctions is not a way of doing it," said Wang Guangya.
The United States and European members of the Council had pushed hard to overcome Chinese and Russian objections. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton hailed the sanctions measure as a first step, and suggested other names would be added to the list.
"Today's sanctions resolution shows that the Security Council is serious, that its resolutions have to be complied with, that it's prepared to take enforcement steps if they're not complied with," said John Bolton. "I think it should indicate to all the parties in the conflict in Darfur that we're determined to bring this to a peaceful resolution and restore peace and security for the people of Darfur who have been most adversely affected by the conflict.
The four individuals named include a Sudanese Air Force general who once commanded troops in Darfur, a leader of one of the pro-government militias known as Janjaweed that have been accused of ethnic cleansing in the region, and two leaders of anti-government factions.
The warring parties are currently involved in peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, with an April 30 deadline set by the African Union and the Security Council.
Opponents of sanctions had argued it might be better to await the outcome of the Abuja talks. But Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones-Parry, said, in the end, the Council majority rejected that argument.
"The prevailing view was different," said Emyr Jones-Parry. "It said they've had enough opportunity, the Council's reputation is at stake. We believe this will actually help the Abuja process to demonstrate that impunity should not be allowed to continue. Overall, that's the judgment, and it's a message we send to the parties whoever they are that if they do involve themselves in crimes against humanity, in the sort of atrocities that we've seen in Darfur, then we will come after them."
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when local rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in a dispute over land and water resources. Khartoum responded by backing Arab militias who waged a scorched earth campaign against the rebels and their civilians supporters.
The United States has described the campaign as genocide. More than 180,000 people have died as a result of the civil war, most from hunger and disease. Another two million people have been left homeless, many of them living in squalid camps across the border in neighborhing Chad.