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For Immediate Release

White House Should Prioritize Protection of Darfuris from Genocidal Regime

Cambridge, Mass - 10/19/2009

Physicians for Human Rights calls for immediate end to Sudan’s obstruction of humanitarian operations

(Cambridge, Mass.) — Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the renewed sense of urgency and purpose contained in President Obama's new policy on Sudan, but remains skeptical that the genocidal regime in Khartoum can fulfill the role of trusted partner envisioned in the policy.

"The new policy relies heavily on offering incentives to the Bashir regime to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, but the regime has shown no willingness to make positive change since the crisis began," said Frank Donaghue, PHR’s CEO.

"Effective incentives are fine but the Administration and international community should be maintaining strong multilateral pressure on the regime and giving a higher priority to the accountability for genocide and atrocities, which it acknowledges are necessary for reconciliation and lasting peace," said Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s Deputy Director, who has coordinated the organization’s work on Darfur.

PHR Calls for End to Impunity for Genocidal Campaign, Including Rape

As an independent medical organization which has documented, from 2004 to 2009, the Sudan government's mass killing and rape, pillage, forced displacement and destruction of all means of survival for hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians, PHR calls for an end to impunity for this genocidal campaign.

An immediate goal for US policy which is not explicitly addressed in the new comprehensive approach is an end to the gender-based violence occurring inside and outside camps in Chad and Darfur and an end to impunity for the crime of rape.

In line with US Strategic Objective #1, "A definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, and genocide in Darfur," UNAMID and all UN agencies must be tasked with specific reporting on the problem of gender-based violence and must be free to report without obstruction by local authorities. The current system, which discourages women from reporting rape and seeking justice, must be reformed and existing rape laws must be strengthened.

The US and UN must also immediately demand a commitment from the Government of Sudan to cease impeding support programs for victims of gender-based violence and remove any obstacles to gender-based violence programming in technical agreements between the government and humanitarian NGOs. It is essential that the US monitor the ongoing situation on the ground in Darfur and not allow Omar al-Bashir’s government the opportunity to further deceive the international community over human rights abuses. The Government of Sudan must accept an independent fact-finding mission to assess the human rights situation in Darfur, and the State Department should immediately encourage a high-level congressional delegation to perform this role, according to PHR.

As the US engages with the Government of Sudan and international partners to attempt to reinvigorate the peace process, US policy must remain committed to safely return refugees in Chad and displaced in Darfur to their homes and rebuilding of their villages and livelihoods. This goal should not be lost in efforts to achieve short-term forward progress in the peace process and immediate improvements in humanitarian assistance to the millions of displaced Darfuris.

The renewed commitment by the Obama Administration to end the conflict in Darfur and move forward with implementation of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement must not deter the US from supporting the UN Security Council and the ICC in pursuit of justice by enforcing the arrest warrant for President Bashir.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved in Darfur without a process that brings justice for war crimes and genocide," said Sirkin. "It will undermine long term prospects for peace if President Bashir and others alleged to be responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan are let off the hook so that they can participate in a process of negotiations with uncertain results."

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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