Friday, April 01, 2005

UK: Aegis applauds historic Darfur referral to the ICC by UN - 'Protect Darfur' campaign launched in House of Commons

The UK Aegis Trust, which coordinated yesterday's launch of the 'Protect Darfur' campaign with genocide survivors and senior MPs in the House of Commons, applauds this morning's historic UN Security Council referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which passed with four abstentions.

The vote followed a compromise which will enable the United States, opposed to the ICC in principle, to bar the court from prosecuting US citizens in Sudan.

"As one of the first organisations to campaign for such a referral - starting in May 2004 - the Aegis Trust is absolutely delighted at this result," said Chief Executive Dr James Smith. "This is the most positive action on Darfur taken by the United Nations to date, and is a credit not least to the British Government, which was instrumental in creation of the ICC and has staunchly supported it throughout.

"It will send a strong signal to the perpetrators of mass murder in Darfur that they will be brought to account, and is a great leap forward for the strengthening of the rule of international law.

"Now we can only hope that Security Council members will be equally robust in helping to protect the people of Darfur. A new resolution, mandating peace enforcement operations in Darfur, to be led by AU forces with logistical and financial support from wealthy nations, must follow as a matter of urgency."

UK International Development Select Committee
Photo: UK's House of Commons International Development Select Committee

Captain Brian Steidle, former US Marine and former advisor to the AU Observer Mission in Darfur, in London for the launch of the 'Protect Darfur' campaign, commented: "That's awesome. Now we know where people are going to be tried, let's move on to stopping it so they can be tried."

The Rt. Hon. Clare Short MP, former International Development Secretary stated: "This is welcome news but it won't stop the killing, raping and displacement. The members of the Security Council must mandate and fund a peace enforcement force, otherwise they are continuing to collude in genocide."

Tom Brake MP, shadow International Development Spokesperson with the Liberal Democrats said: "This is welcome news on both Darfur and American opposition to the International Criminal Court. The key next step for the international community is that a large African Union force authorised with a peace enforcement UN mandate be dispatched to the region as soon as possible."

Click here to visit and see Protect darfur campaign.
Press Contact: David Brown, Aegis Trust Communications Office: 07812 640 873
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'Protect Darfur' campaign launched in House of Commons

UK 'Protect Darfur' campaign

Today, 31 March 2005, a cross-party group of senior MPs met with genocide survivors form the Holocaust, Rwanda and Bosnia and a former advisor to the AU Observer Mission in Darfur, Brian Steidle, to launch the Protect Darfur Campaign at the House of Commons.

Protect Darfur calls for protection of civilians at risk of genocide in Darfur, through a UN mandate for peace enforcement operations in the region, to be led by the African Union with financial and logistical support from wealthy nations. A parliamentary statement calling for such a mandate has now been signed by over 100 MPs and Peers. This follows the release of the International Development Select Committee Report into Darfur, which stated that 300,000 civilians have died in the crisis.

Dr Stephen Smith, Chairman of the Aegis Trust, which is coordinating the campaign stated: "For a long time now, non-governmental organisations have been writing their reports on the Darfur crisis. There is a wide consensus that protection of civilians is the priority, and has been ignored for too long. Today we have brought the voices of that consensus together, from across the political spectrum - and from the survivor communities of three previous genocides."


Capt. Brian Steidle, former US Marine and Technical Advisor to the AU Observer Mission, Darfur, said: "There are people being killed and burned right now. This is a deliberate effort to wipe out the Black African tribes of Darfur, and I have extensive evidence to that effect. We can stop it; more troops and a peace-enforcement mandate are needed, but we can't wait another six months."

The Rt Hon. Clare Short, former International Development Secretary "If Darfur goes on escalating, any kind of realistic north south peace just isn't going to happen. The UN needs to take strong action now, not just on justice but on stopping the violence. A Chapter VII resolution is needed immediately."

Mr. John Bercow MP (Con) member of the International Development Select Committee said: "Should the AU be left to deal with Darfur on its own? No! The UN is supposed to be the guardian of international security, and it should take a lead on this. We cannot go on equivocating as we are. If we do, there will scarcely be a Black African left in Darfur to protect. We need decisive action not next month, not in three months, but now."

Mr. Tom Brake MP, Lib Dem Spokesman on International Development: "This is an all-party event, it has all-party support, and it is beginning to snowball. Clearly what we need is decisive action - ten thousand more troops, and a strong, clear mandate. We have got to take the energy that we focused on responding to the Tsunami and apply that to Darfur. Prevarication is costing lives."

Mr. Adam Hussein, refugee from Darfur: "One day I was in town with my uncle and my sister. Suddenly we saw airplanes come through the town and start bombing. After a few minutes we saw Janjaweed. They killed my sister and uncle. I saw other Janjaweed catch a young girl, ten or thirteen years old; one was standing by his gun while the other raped that girl. She was a friend of my sister. After that, my father started fighting with the Janjaweed. He said to me, "Be strong, my own son. Be strong ... Today some things will be difficult."

Mr. Anwar Bakar, asylum seeker from Darfur: "The killers have bad things in their hearts Can you imagine someone kills your family, destroys your village; how could you in the future, even for generations, stay with them? And you can't make your life better because you have sadness in your heart. The situation when I left Darfur was absolutely dangerous, and I don't think any of my people are still alive. Why do people hate us like this? I came Britain just to save my life."

Mr. John Fransman, Chairman, Child Survivors Association, survivor of the Holocaust and Belsen Concentration Camp: "If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. I have a picture of my cousin Helena, taken in Belsen after liberation. Eleven days later, she was dead. You've only got to change the colour of her skin, and you see so many like her in Darfur today. It's time to make 'never again' mean something."

Mrs. Beatha Uwazaninka, survivor of the Rwandan genocide: "When the UN walked away from the situation we faced in Rwanda, a million people were murdered. Why do we have to be here today, talking about another crisis like this? Is anybody learning? It is like banging a drum in the marketplace. I am always willing to tell my story. But is anybody listening? We died in full view of the whole world, and the world turned away. Now Darfur is happening. Men are killed, women raped. It is shocking, it is sad beyond explanation. I am asking for the protection of Darfur today - if we have learned anything."

Mr. Kemal Pervanic, survivor of Omarska concentration camp, Bosnia: "Almost the same things that happened to us in Bosnia are happening in Darfur now. Whenever I hear the phrase 'never again' these days, I wish I was deaf. We should not pretend we care if we are willing to stand by and let mass murder such as that in Darfur take place unhindered. I speak not as a Bosnian, not as a Muslim, but as a human being. What troubles me today is that people are being killed. It must be stopped, and the only way it can be done is with a UN peace-keeping mandate."

Mr. David Brown, Communications Officer Aegis Trust: 07812 640 873
Mr. Hratche Koundarjian, Parliamentary Advisor Aegis Trust: 07905 911 039

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