03/04/2009 - 3:05pm
Bipartisan Support for Strong US Action on Darfur & ICC - But Where's Obama?
Posted by Don Kraus
Reaction is pouring in to the International Criminal Court arrest warrants issued on Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. Several members of Congress issued statements calling for stronger U.S. engagement with the ICC and Darfur. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) said:
"Today, the International Criminal Court took the first step towards bringing the perpetrators of the violence in Darfur to justice. For far too long, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has violated human rights and committed heinous acts of violence against civilians in Sudan. We cannot afford to delay or stall while innocent people continued to be slaughtered in Darfur. Today, the International Criminal Court has demonstrated its moral authority by holding accountable those who are responsible for war crimes and now the United States must demonstrate its leadership in global justice by renewing its commitment to the Court's mandate. Only then will the International Criminal Court have the tools at its disposal to prosecute and try those who commit mass murder and other crimes against humanity around the world'."
This echoed CGS's statement made earlier today.
On the House floor, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) called on President Obama to take rapid action:
Madam Speaker, today the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Bashir'charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is the first time the court has accused a sitting head of state of war crimes.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) released this statement in response to the arrest warrant:
"The decision by the court's judges will add international legal weight to a long obvious truth - primary responsibility for the atrocities in Darfur rests with the regime that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir heads.
"The international community, led by the United States and other members of the United Nations Security Council, must make absolutely clear that the Government of Sudan will be held responsible for any retaliatory action against civilians, humanitarian aid workers, or United Nations and Africa Union peacekeeping forces.
"Additionally, the Security Council must resolve that it will not allow Khartoum to hold hostage the CPA, Sudanese civilians or the international operation to alleviate suffering caused by the Sudanese government. The various Darfur rebel movements must also understand that any attempt to use the ICC decision as an excuse for offensive military action is unacceptable and will only result in greater suffering for the Darfuri people.
"Moving forward we must pursue a comprehensive, negotiated peace in Sudan that builds on the framework of the CPA and takes into account the needs and rights of all citizens. Ultimately, the problem of Darfur cannot be resolved unless the problem of Sudan is resolved.
"For its part, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) must take this opportunity to abandon its disastrous policies in Darfur and elsewhere and rehabilitate its relationships with the international community. For that to happen, it must end its attacks against civilians and its support for the janjaweed militias; cooperate fully with the UN-AU peacekeeping force (UNAMID); end impunity in Darfur; allow refugees and internally displaced persons to safely and voluntarily return home; negotiate in good faith with the rebel movements and Darfuri civil society to ensure equitable political rights and economic development and; fully implement the CPA.
"The people of Darfur are counting on us for help. My colleagues and I stand ready to work with the Obama Administration to address this issue and bring about swift resolution."
Unfortunately, the response from the Obama administration has been tepid at best. At a press briefing, a reporter asked, "Does the President support the arrest warrant issued today against President Bashir of Sudan? And how is the administration planning for the possibility of retaliation as a result of this against Darfurians, a possible collapse of the peace in the south, and international workers in Sudan?" White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodged the question saying:
"Let me -- without getting specifically into this, the White House believes that those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable; that as this process moves forward, that we would urge restraint on the part of all parties, including the government of Sudan; that further violence against civilian Sudanese or foreign interests is to be avoided and won't be tolerated. The President and this White House are determined to support the pursuit of an immediate cease-fire and long-term peace in the region. Obviously there are many efforts that are ongoing in the region to help those that have been displaced, and the President believes those efforts should and must continue."
President Obama - you need to do better than that.
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