Thursday, September 09, 2004

From "Problem" to "Genocide"

On June 29, 2004, en route to Khartoum, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocide conclusion but we're not there yet." We're there now. Today, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Powell said, "We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility--and genocide may still be occurring."

Secretary Powell announced that the United States would introduce a new resolution regarding the situation in Sudan in the U.N. Security Council in accordance with Article VIII of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which states, "Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III." Article I obligates the parties to the agreement to "undertake to prevent and to punish" genocide.

What, exactly, is genocide? The United States Congress passed a resolution on July 22 acknowledging that genocide was occurring in the Sudan. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has not yet used the term to describe the situation in the Sudan.

Article II of the Genocide Convention states,

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

For a good, brief discussion of the debate over the meaning of genocide, see this article posted on the BBC News site.