Study funded by U.S. government confirms atrocities in Sudan region

Posted: August 26, 2004

WASHINGTON — An intensive U.S. government-funded study has confirmed widespread atrocities against Africans in the Darfur region of Sudan, including mass rape and summary executions of male villagers, the study's director and senior Bush administration officials said yesterday.

The report does not explicitly address the question of whether genocide is occurring, those familiar with it say. But it increases the pressure on Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as he weighs a determination of genocide.

The report, based on 1,200 interviews with refugees, also found evidence of close cooperation between the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed, the Arab militia that has been terrorizing black African villagers.

"Based on the information we gathered, the links seemed very strong between the Janjaweed and the government," said Stefanie Frease of the Coalition for International Justice, which oversaw the study with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Sudan's government, which faces growing international pressure over the humanitarian crisis, has denied having control over the militia.

Frease said the refugees, selected at random for interviews, offered firsthand accounts of racially motivated attacks.

In some instances, she said, the Janjaweed would take infants from their mothers' backs. If the child was a boy, it would be killed by crushing or knifing. Female infants would be tossed aside.

Frease, the project's coordinator, emphasized that its purpose was to document facts, not make a determination of genocide. But she said that in her personal view, "if you read the Genocide Convention, and you look at the definition . . . you can definitely see the indicators there. . . . It's not Rwanda and it's not the Holocaust. It's probably a different, slower sort of genocide."

Genocide is defined in the 1948 convention as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

More than 30,000 people have been killed and one million made homeless in the Darfur region of Sudan, a country riven by a split between its Arab population, which controls the government, and its blacks.

The crisis began 18 months ago with a rebellion by tribes seeking redress for inequalities. The government responded by recruiting the Janjaweed, Arab horsemen who have destroyed villages, murdered and raped, according to reports by diplomats, nongovernmental organizations, and the news media.

Sudan's government faces a Monday deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council to disarm the Janjaweed and bring human-rights violators to justice or face sanctions.

The U.S. government-funded study is being reviewed by officials at the State Department. The department must make a determination of genocide.

Powell, who visited Darfur and Khartoum in June, has said repeatedly that the Bush administration was doing everything it could to deal with the crisis, whether or not it is genocide.

Helping Sudan's people "is our first and foremost concern, regardless of . . . the label you put to the suffering that they are going through," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday. He termed the refugee interviews "a preliminary report."

A U.S. official with experience in Sudan said the department might be resisting a genocide determination because it could complicate diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and reduce Khartoum's cooperation on counterterrorism.

"I guess telling the bare-knuckled truth is not always the best policy on every issue," said the official, who requested anonymity.

But a senior administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the report tracked closely with other studies by human-rights groups that have documented a campaign of violence targeting black Africans.

The refugees, he said, reported rapes of women of all ages; the targeting of males over age 12 for execution; the burning of villages and killing of livestock; and deliberate destruction of wells and irrigation systems. "It was not random; it was systematic," he said.

More than 60 percent of those interviewed said government aircraft were used to bomb villages; some also mentioned the presence of tanks, he said.

The survey was conducted by teams that included State Department and USAID officials and individuals with experience in criminal investigation. They interviewed individuals in every 10th dwelling in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.

Contact reporter Warren P. Strobel at 202-383-6033 or wstrobel@krwashington.com.

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