Iraq and Sudan
by: Maria Sliwa
March 30, 2003
With the Bush administration's promise to free the Iraqi people from the
evils of Saddam Hussein, and the U.N. Security Council's recent agreement
to restart massive humanitarian aid in Iraq, human rights violations in
Sudan are being overlooked, experts charge.
"The war in Iraq has sidetracked everyone away from Sudan, the place
of the worst human rights nightmare on the planet. Taking advantage
of this situation, the Khartoum regime has stepped up its genocidal
warfare against its own people," Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of the
American Anti-Slavery Group said.
"Saddam has been responsible for the deaths of a great many of his
own countrymen, especially non-Arabic Kurds," Sudan expert, Dr. Eric
Reeves of Smith College said. "But whatever the numbers may be, it is
dwarfed by the numbers in Sudan: over 2 million have been killed in the
war, overwhelmingly non-Arabic civilians in the south." Reeves says
that while many people have been displaced at various times in Iraq, Sudan
has the world's greatest population of Internally Displaced Persons
estimated at over 4 million.
But NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi believes the war in Iraq will
actually help human rights efforts in other countries. "Getting rid
of Saddam Hussein will help bring human rights to Iraq. The more
countries in which human rights are established, the stronger the fight
for human rights everywhere else," Hevesi said. Reeves
believes that one of the reasons why the responses to the regimes in
Baghdad and Khartoum have been different is because of the "travesty
in Geneva:" Libya chairing this session of the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights, and notes that Libya has been helped by the European
Union (EU), and France in particular, a country with oil concerns in
Nina Shea of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom met
with the French Embassy in DC this week, along with a delegation of human
rights groups. "We delivered a message that Americans
care deeply about Sudan and that France should know it would further
damage Franco-American relations if it upgraded Sudan's human rights
status at the U.N.," Shea said. "Conversely, it could help
bridge damaged Franco-American relations by standing shoulder to shoulder
with Colin Powell at that Commission."
The U.N. Human Rights Commission is considering whether or not to renew a
mandate of the Special Rapporteur, who annually reports on the status of
human rights in Sudan. "We asserted that if France's
position on Iraq was a principled one against the war, it should work all
the harder to use the peaceful mechanism of the U.N. Special Rapporteur to
advance human rights," Shea said.
During a recent meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, France joined
in a vote with the U.S. to defeat Syria's effort to turn the Commission
into a session on alleged U.S. war crimes in Iraq.
Maria Sliwa is a graduate student
of journalism at New York University.