WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) joined with the Save Darfur Coalition and a range of faith-based organizations yesterday in urging President Bush to sign the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act into law. The legislation, adopted unanimously by the House and Senate despite opposition from the Departments of State and Justice, would allow states and localities to divest from companies involved in certain Sudanese business sectors and allow mutual fund and private pension managers to cut ties with those same companies.
In a December 21st letter to President Bush, signed by over thirty groups including the American Jewish World Service, Genocide Intervention Network, Jewish World Watch, National Council of Churches, and the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC), organizations noted that “signing of the bill, supportive public statements issued along with the signing, the vigorous implementation of this bill, and additional pressure on Sudan to end the violence are all necessary ingredients of a comprehensive US policy — and will send a message to the Government of Sudan that there are serious consequences for its ruthless violations of international law.”
Last week, upon Senate adoption of the measure, bill author, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) noted that “this legislation empowers Americans to exercise their rights as investors, taxpayers, and pensioners to divest from businesses directly contributing to the violence and misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfuris.” House Darfur legislation champion Barbara Lee (D-CA), who had introduced earlier Sudan divestment legislation prominently included in this bill, explained “Let’s stop the rhetoric and do something, do something now that we have declared for 3 years genocide taking place. We need to put the United States on the right side of history. Divestment worked in South Africa when our former colleague and my mayor now, Ron Dellums, when he led the effort in the 1980s. It can work now in Sudan. So I urge the President to join us in saying to the Government of Khartoum not on our watch, not on our dime.”
The call coincided with the President’s signing of separate legislation allowing U.S. courts to prosecute non-U.S. nationals residing in the U.S. who have been complicit in perpetration of genocide. Bill author, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), explained the importance of the legislation.
“There is no safe haven for the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese who have faced genocide in Darfur and yet without this law, our country could become a safe haven for their killers. Today’s action by the President makes it crystal clear: the legal loophole in our law is closed and perpetrators of genocide who come to our country will now face significant consequences.”
The ANCA has, since its introduction, supported the adoption of this legislation and worked to support its passage by the House as part of a coalition that includes the Save Darfur Coalition, Genocide Intervention Network, American Jewish World Service, Armenian Assembly of America, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Alliance for Justice, and Refugees International. In a March letter to members of the Senate, the coalition stressed that, “The United States must not remain passive when those suspected of genocide enter or are found in its territory. By eliminating barriers to prosecution, the Genocide Accountability Act will ensure that perpetrators of genocide do not evade accountability when they are found in the United States. We welcome its introduction and strongly urge its enactment into law.”
Sen. Durbin’s legislation is the first bill from the newly established Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law to become law. Sen. Durbin and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) are lead sponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.106) which currently has over 30 cosponsors.