Peacemakers needed in Sudan

If we continue failing to prevent genocide, the words “never again” amount to nothing more than deluded hyperbole.

By recent counts, 50,000 people have died in the fighting in Sudan, and 1.2 million have been displaced from their homes. The Janjaweed, an Arab militia, is attempting to eliminate all black Sudanese. The Sudanese government is not only failing to protect its citizens, but many feel the government supports the Janjaweed.

The United States is currently circulating a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council that invokes Article VIII of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article VIII, previously ignored by the international community, is significant because it allows the United States to call upon the United Nations and its bodies to act.

The Genocide Convention, signed in 1946 and entered into force in 1951, is the official articulation of the promise that “never again” will the world permit actions such as Nazi Germany’s attempt to eradicate Jews. To Rwandans, among other peoples, the international community did not keep that promise by a long shot. The best it has done is to create tribunals to punish genocide and war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

These courts attempt to offer closure and retribution to victims, and possibly deter future would-be despots. It remains to be seen if they can succeed in these endeavors. Even if they can, they cannot bring back the dead or fully heal the wrongs. The international community has a spotty record of punishing genocide and a pitiful lack of record of preventing it.

The United Nations and specifically the Security Council must now follow, or lead if the United States falters. Unfortunately, the U.S. draft resolution, while invoking the U.N. Charter’s Chapter VII, fell short of authorizing force, instead sticking to other, nonmilitary solutions such as sanctions.

Sanctions are unacceptable. The Sudanese government was told in July to halt the Janjaweed’s actions and bring the group to justice. They have failed. To merely further embarrass the government or hinder Sudan’s economic prospects is insufficient to prevent further atrocities. The United Nations must organize a peacekeeping, or peacemaking in this context, force.

If the international community continues failing to prevent genocide, the words “never again” amount to nothing more than deluded hyperbole.