Thursday, 18 June 2009

Is 'Genocide' Over in Darfur?

Yesterday, I may have shocked some students who are taking our summer course on minority rights when I told them that I was perplexed at the lack of evidence of ‘genocide’ in Darfur, at least in the previous year or so. I was lecturing on genocide and, inevitably, the issue of the alleged 'genocide' in Darfur arose. Of course I agree with the Cassese report and the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court that genocide is not the proper legal qualifications of the atrocities that took place in Sudan earlier in the decade.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court continues to argue that ‘genocide by attrition’ is taking place in Darfur. But the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber, in the arrest warrant decision, found that the facts he presented were not entirely credible, and relied instead on reports from the High Commissioner for Human Rights that presented a more subdued image. As recently as two months ago, I heard the former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler calling for US military intervention in Sudan in order to stop the ‘ongoing genocide’.
Well, look what came in on the wire this morning, from the Washington Post:
UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- President Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air
Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, said Wednesday that the Sudanese government is
no longer engaging in a "coordinated" campaign of mass murder in Darfur, marking
a shift in the U.S. characterization of the violence there as an "ongoing
"What we see is the remnants of genocide," Gration told reporters
at a briefing in Washington. "The level of violence that we're seeing right now
is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese government and . . . some
violence between Chad and Sudan."
Gration's remarks come as the Obama
administration is finishing a review of its Sudan policy. The comments appeared
to expose an emerging rift between Gration and Susan E. Rice, the U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, who accused the Sudanese leadership of
genocide as recently as two days ago.
For the whole story, see:
My own inquiries into this, especially with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, indicate that probably fewer than 1,000 civilians or non-combatants have been killed as a result of State or State-sponsored violence in the past year. In other words, quite possibly more civilians were killed in Gaza in one month by the Israeli Defence Forces than in a year by the Sudanese army. More Sri Lankan civilians were killed by government forces in a week than in a year by the Sudanese army. Why aren’t the humanitarian hawks calling for US military intervention in Israel?


Mikel said...

Since when did inquiries into Genocide become strictly quantitative in nature? Have 1000 government sanctioned deaths - with the proper intent - suddenly become insufficient to sustain an inference of genocide? I know that your main gripe is with intent (or a lack thereof) but I don't think drawing attention to other situations of mass atrocity serves any real purpose - beyond highlighting the obvious role of politics in international policy making. Genocide is indeed the "crime of crimes" - but it need not serve as a crown for the most abusive regime of the day.

Africa Transitional Justice said...

An article I found interesting regarding the question of genocide in Darfur is Jennifer Trahan's "Why The Killing in Darfur is Genocide" from the 2008 Fordham Law Review. It can be accessed at