A long-awaited report by the U.N.-appointed Commission of Inquiry has determined that the killing of African farmers by Arab militias in Sudan’s western region of Darfur constitutes “crimes against humanity.” The report recommends that the Security Council refer the case to the International Criminal Court to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Meanwhile, the United States, which asked for the report, has reaffirmed its position that in fact genocide is taking place, but is pushing for an ad hoc tribunal to try the case. The editorial pages of newspapers around the world have been flooded with commentary in response to these events.

South Africa

“George W. Bush is due to deliver his annual State of the Union address in Washington today…. Don’t hold out much hope, though, for a meaningful message on the African continent, beyond the White House’s existing, self-interest-dominated African policy. While a new international focus on Africa is expected, the sad reality is that 2005 risks being another year of ‘compassionate showmanship rather than a year of sea change’, according to global think-tank Africa Action. Despite its promises to support Africa’s priorities, the failure of the Bush administration to join Africans to stop another unfolding genocide in Darfur may yet be the darkest stain on its record in 2005.”
-The Daily Dispatch of East London, February 2, 2005

United Arab Emirates

“The point is that Darfur should move beyond definitions and terminologies. The immediate emphasis should be on restoration of peace. Both the rebels and the government should show their keenness for a settlement. That’s how the western region can wake up from the rut that it is in, and Sudan as a whole could look forward to better times in terms of development. The government, on its part, must address the issue of neglect of the region, the root cause of all the troubles.”
-Mohammed A. R. Galadari, Khaleej Times, February 2, 2005

United Kingdom

“The Bush plan is unrealistic and inconsistent. African and European governments are parties to the ICC and will find any new Arusha court with dubious powers of investigation and enforcement a costly and far more inefficient means of handling justice in Darfur. It could take years to set up the hybrid court, and the US would doubtless have to finance its budget of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
David Scheffer, Financial Times, February 2, 2005

“Politically motivated labeling is unhelpful: the U.S. has found it convenient to accuse Sudan’s Islamist regime of genocide against black Africans. What matters are the murderous actions of the Janjaweed militia and the Khartoum government. The facts about Darfur—ethnic cleansing, 70,000 dead and over a million people displaced—speak for themselves.”
-The Guardian, February 2, 2005


“There is little hope that the Sudanese government will put the killers, the rapists and the torturers on trial. But there is another way. The International Criminal Court is ready and waiting to investigate the offenses and to put those responsible for the most serious crimes in the dock.… It is time for the U.S. to get over its paranoia about the court.… The victims in Darfur need help—and deserve justice. The world should no longer stand by.”
-South China Morning Post, February 2, 2005


“Sudan could become a problem for Washington, because the government has prematurely claimed that genocide is going on there. To check this view, the United Nations set up a commission, which started its work with the backing of the U.S. president. The commission now said there probably is no genocide but atrocities against humanity and war crimes. To clarify this, the commission suggested that the International Criminal Court should deal with the case…. This is a difficult decision for Washington, because the American government really wants to gear up the policy against Sudan, but it does not want to legitimize the ICC…. It is not yet clear how the Security Council will deal with this. The Europeans, who believe in the ICC, do not want to risk another dispute with Washington. And America wants the world to take action against Sudan.”
-Friederike Bauer, Frankfurter Allgemeine, February 2, 2005

“[U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan] said the international community is obliged to prevent genocide wherever it happens—Rwanda, the Balkans or in Darfur. There, the janjaweed are torturing, kidnapping and killing black Africans. Recently, the army even bombed villages of black African farmers in western Sudan. The UN now tells us that this is no genocide—the government committed crimes, but they have to be seen as ‘arbitrary attacks.’ Because Khartoum does not systematically kill all black Africans, the report says, one could not talk about genocide. The farmers can now relax—if they are still alive.”
-­Jacques Schuster, Die Welt, February 2, 2005


“At the same time, the Americans are balking at bringing in the international court because they object to it on principle. In that case, they can all bear the infamy for shielding war criminals, if that is the result of their stonewalling.”
-The Toronto Star, February 2, 2005

Saudi Arabia

“The government in Khartoum appears however to be still unwilling to face up to the tragedy which, with the clear connivance of some local officials and military, has affected over a million people. If Khartoum has decided on a policy of masterful inactivity to deal with the Darfur atrocities, it is miscalculating. Even the Chinese government…would appear to be losing patience…. Khartoum has not taken advantage of the breathing space that Beijing’s opposition to direct international intervention has given it. The Chinese may be about to review their crucial position. Sudan’s friends will also have been discouraged that the government’s initial official reaction to the UN report was to point almost triumphantly to the fact that it had not been found guilty of genocide, as if the crimes against humanity of which it does stand accused are somehow insignificant.”
-Arab News¸ February 2, 2005


“The UN commission to determine the nature of the crimes is useful, but those being killed, raped and ethnically cleansed care little for the legal classification of individual atrocities. Prevarication by members of the UN Security Council in the face of such a crisis is not an acceptable option.”
­-The Irish Times, February 2, 2005

The United States

“Mr. Bush’s worry is that if the International Criminal Court is legitimized, American officials could someday be dragged before it. The court’s supporters counter that safeguards make that impossible. Reasonable people can differ about the court, but for Mr. Bush to put his ideological opposition to it over the welfare of the 10,000 people still dying every month in Darfur—that’s just madness.”
-Nicolas Kristof, The New York Times, February 2, 2005

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