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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of War Crimes Issues > Releases > Remarks, Briefings, Testimony > 2004

Confronting, Ending, and Preventing War Crimes in Africa

Pierre-Richard Prosper, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
Testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa
Washington, DC
June 24, 2004

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the critical issue of confronting war crimes in Africa. The United States is a leader in helping to end conflict and atrocities in Africa and in supporting efforts to end impunity by holding perpetrators of war crimes accountable. President Bush’s Administration is directly responsible for progress in ending the wars in Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Angola and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Bush Administration believes that we have a responsibility to help prevent and punish genocide, war crimes, and other serious abuses that occur in Africa and worldwide. I commend this committee for its work and focus on promoting accountability. Ten years ago, the world stood still as a genocide unfolded in Rwanda. The world failed Rwanda and humanity during those horrible months, ignoring the refrain from Nuremberg of "never again." With hotspots in Sudan and the Eastern Congo, and repression and killing in Zimbabwe, the collective engagement of the international community is needed more than ever - and it is needed now.

Mr. Chairman, when there are outbreaks of atrocities and other abuses, neighbors, regional and international institutions, and the international community must be prepared to take steps to prevent further atrocities and to stop genocide. All countries no matter how big or small have a role to play. They must determine what tools may be deployed: contributing soldiers, providing logistical support, or helping with political and financial assistance for the preventive effort. The burden to act should not fall on one country, and no country is immune from this responsibility. At the 10th anniversary commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide in Kigali, regional heads of state and the African Union (AU) called on African states to be prepared to act to stop war crimes and genocide when it is occurring on the continent. The United States supports this view and is prepared to help develop such capacity.

But while efforts may cure an immediate problem, we must focus on lasting initiatives, especially securing the rule of law. It is our view that we must encourage and support states in pursuing accountability and credible justice. We must not tolerate abdication of this responsibility by a particular government, society, or the international community, nor should that responsibility be taken away. It is important to achieve justice that touches the grass roots of a society and that has the acceptance of the community for it to change cultures of impunity. As a result, domestic ownership is vital. But for this to work, we must create, encourage, and strengthen political will in each country to combat and punish these abuses domestically.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is one such place where justice is being served. The United States is a leading supporter of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is achieving a strong impact. This hybrid court has current indictments against eleven of those most responsible for atrocities in Sierra Leone, nine of whom are in custody. And as we saw on June 3, trials have begun. We deem this Court to be succeeding. But justice there will not be complete until Charles Taylor finds his way to the Court. Mr. Chairman, it is U.S. policy that Taylor must be held accountable and must appear before the Court. I personally have shared this policy with President Obasanjo and Chairman Bryant and have asked them for action on this matter. While we understand the need to maintain stability in Liberia, the goal of the United States is to work with Nigeria and Liberia to pursue a strategy that will see Taylor face justice before the Court. We want to work towards this end, rather than sitting back and saying now is not the time. Our Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, is to again communicate this message today to the Nigerian president.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

While Sierra Leone is a symbol of justice moving forward, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not. The DRC has faced atrocities on a wide scale. Reliable estimates associate over three million deaths with the conflict since 1998, with possibly 350,000 of those directly due to violence. We continue to monitor the situation in eastern Congo and remain deeply concerned about the build-up of forces and reliable reports of atrocities there. The United States continues to support the transitional government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the goal of an integrated army supporting that government. We are calling on the transitional government, and local authorities to use their power to stop abuses, to investigate atrocities in Bukavu and elsewhere, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto has been deployed and just met with leaders in Kinshasa and Kigali. He has called upon all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any act that might exacerbate tension or heighten the risk of further conflict in the area. We are pleased to learn that Col. Mutebusi, a rebel officer who took over the city of Bukavu on May 26, has fled to Rwanda. It is our understanding that Rwanda disarmed Mutebusi and the roughly 300 men who accompanied him and has taken them into custody.

We are also deeply concerned by the role that the media, particularly radio, has played in inciting ethnic hatred and deepening ethnic divisions among the people of eastern Congo and in the region. And we have intervened on the matter. We believe that there are appropriate ways to interrupt and end such communications before they lead to widespread violence.

As the Bush Administration continues to work to end conflict in the DRC, we also are promoting accountability. The transitional national government (TNG) will have a nationwide, albeit very weak, judiciary which could participate in investigating war crimes. The TNG constitution also calls for a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). But these efforts are not enough. We will look to create increased international support for domestic-based mechanisms that specifically address war crimes accountability. I have discussed this with President Kabila, MONUC’s Amb. Swing, and the EU Great Lakes Envoy Amb. Ajello.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Mr. Chairman, we have seen the benefit of accountability in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Following the Rwanda genocide, the United States led the efforts to establish the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This was the right thing to do. The United States supports the work of the ICTR and hopes that it will successfully conclude its mandate within the coming years. While the ICTR suffered in the past from inefficiency and mismanagement, today with its new leadership it is now having the desired impact. To date, eighteen of the leaders most responsible for the Rwandan genocide have been convicted and three individuals have been acquitted. Twenty-three others are currently on trial with another twenty-six indictees in the pre-trial phase. Under this Administration, we launched a Rewards for Justice program that has resulted in many of these top genocidaires having been brought to justice before the ICTR. The end result has been that negative forces who fueled ongoing conflict in the region have been taken off the streets and are being held accountable.

Sudan

Mr. Chairman, allow me to spend some time and talk about an issue of great importance: Sudan. We are deeply troubled by the events in Darfur and the role of the government and militias. It is a catastrophic situation that will only worsen if efforts to remedy the conditions continue to be obstructed.

Today we know that an estimated one million people are internally displaced in Darfur, and there are approximately 200,000 Sudanese refugees in neighboring Chad. There are reports of widespread sexual violence, killings, torture, rape, theft and detention of persons in addition to destruction of homes and villages as a means of warfare. These attacks are ethnically based.

The militias who are reported to be responsible are known as Jingaweit. Despite an April 8 ceasefire agreement, attacks by the Jingaweit on the innocent civilian population have continued, and we also continue to hear reports of aerial bombings by the Government of Sudan (GOS).

Credible organizations report that the following individuals are leaders of the Jingaweit and bear responsibility for actions of the Jingaweit. While we know there are more, the United States is working to determine the culpability of these individuals and the culpability of others who support them.

Jingaweit Commanders and Coordinators:

1. Musa Hilal, Jingaweit Coordinator

2. Hamid Dawai, leader in Terbeba-Arara-Bayda triangle

3. Abdullah abu Shineibat, leader in Murnei

4. Omar Babbush, leader in Habila and Forbranga

5. Omada Saef, leader in Misterei

6. Ahmad Dekheir, leader in Murnei

7. Ahmed Abu Kamasha, Kailek region

There is the question of whether this is genocide. We see indicators of genocide, and there is evidence that points in that direction. However, we are not in a position to confirm. To do so, we need Darfur to be opened up.

I have requested a visa to travel to Darfur and personally examine the situation. Despite this request having been submitted weeks ago, it is still pending. In the meantime, we have told the Sudanese that we are appalled by what is happening in Darfur and have indicated that there is evidence of continued Sudanese Government support of militias and knowledge of the abuses.

Regarding humanitarian assistance, the GOS continues to create artificial obstacles that prevent assistance from reaching the population at need in Darfur, such as customs delays on vehicles, food, medicines and radios necessary for relief workers to travel to and communicate in remote areas.

In response, the United States is actively engaged at the highest levels. Recent actions include:

* The President, Secretary of State, National Security Adviser and USAID Administrator have raised Darfur with President Bashir, Vice President Taha and Foreign Minister Ismael;

* Secretary Powell has been in regular contact with UN Secretary General Annan, the Security Council passed a resolution on June 11 that referenced Darfur, and the United States took the lead in drafting a strong Presidential Statement that the Security Council adopted on May 25;

* At our initiative, the UN chaired a June 4 Geneva meeting on Darfur with donors to meet the urgent humanitarian needs; and

* We have pledged an additional $188.5 million bringing our total planned contribution to nearly $300 million.

We have pressed the Government of Sudan to:

* Take immediate action to stop the Jingaweit and end the violence and atrocities;

* Open up Darfur to monitors and human rights organizations so that the magnitude of the abuses can be understood and addressed;

* End artificial obstacles to getting assistance to the population at need in Darfur; and

* Cooperate fully with the AU monitoring mission.

In addition, we have warned that we are considering imposing targeted sanctions against individuals and a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an end to violence and unfettered access to Darfur.

We noted President Bashir’s decision to mobilize the Sudanese armed forces to disarm the Jingaweit. However, based on Sudan’s track record, assurances are not enough. We will need verification. Full access to the situation on the ground in Darfur is needed. Establishing monitors will be an important step. The Government of Sudan has stated it will set up its own investigative body to address allegations of war crimes. We will insist that Sudan credibly and fully investigate the atrocities that have occurred. In the meantime, we will discuss options the international community can consider to address the crimes that are being committed.

The key to ending impunity in Africa is to work towards having each and every state fully exercise its responsibility to ensure the rule of law is upheld. In our efforts to end cycles of violence by ensuring accountability for past crimes, we should work as closely with the affected populations and governments as possible. Only then will the foundation of democracy begin to take shape. With our collective effort we can change the environment. It will not be easy, however. But for the sake of Africa and all of humanity, it must be done.

 



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