New York, NY- Over one hundred human rights activists gathered at the UN Church Center on November 13 on what came to be a very powerful moment for those taking action on the situation in Darfur in the Sudan. The organization Judgment on Genocide organized a mock trial that involved various scholars, advocates for Darfur, writers, lawyers, survivors and eyewitnesses of the ongoing genocide in Darfur reports the Armenian National Committee, Eastern Region.
The group organizing the event, Judgment on Genocide, was created to focus on accountability in relation to genocide. Creating a presentation that has been constructed to show the need for UN peacekeepers in Darfur, the program is working to help educate the public on these crimes committed by the Sudanese government, and the failure for the international community to intervene and stop the genocide. Dr. Tim Nonn, the Project Director of Judgment on Genocide, and Abby Fleishman, Director of Community Relations and Education, were present at the event. Fleishman commenting “the Darfur genocide is not a natural disaster, it is a genocide, which is the Sudanese government’s policy and that fact cannot continue to be ignored by the international community, a community who is still waiting for Sudanese permission to go in and stop it. The Judgment on Genocide Tribunal was conceived of as a way to refocus Darfur activists on the issue of accountability.”
The trial provided an example of the cases being investigated by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and exemplifies the importance of the need for immediate response to the genocide in Darfur and the intervention and deployment of peacekeeping troops to the region.
The event opened with a powerful statement from a resident of Djawara, a village in the far east of Chad, as well as a brief video on the genocides the world has faced, with testimonies of genocide survivors, leading right into the opening statement of both the prosecution and the defense.
For over five hours, participants present at the event heard the prosecutors question their witnesses and asked them to reveal their experiences and accounts of what was happening in the region. Nine witnesses, including refugees and survivors of the genocide, journalists, activists, and even human rights organizational leaders through questioning all arrived to the same conclusion with that a systematic extermination headed by the Sudanese Government was occurring throughout the region. Familiar terms, such as the Janjaweed, air strikes, refugee camps, rape, Musa Hilal, and Al-Bashir were circulated throughout the trial. Each questioning of the witnesses offered compelling evidence that a genocide is taking place right before our eyes and that action needs to be taken to incarcerate the perpetrators.
The judges present at the event included 1986 Nobel Prize winner for literature Wole Soyinka, serving as the Chief Judge, Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, national chairperson of the Million Voices for Darfur Campaign, Eithar Abutaha, a Sudanese lawyer, Obang Metho, Director of International Advocacy for the Anuak Justice Council, and Professor Michael A. Newton, Esq., Senior Advisor to the, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. Also serving as a judge and advisor was Dr. Gregory Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch and the International Campaign to end genocide. The body of six each heard the testimony given by the witnesses and following the questioning was to determine the final verdict on Omar al-Bashir, the current President of Sudan.
The audience could not help but get emotional during the stories and events told by the witnesses, and even two of the survivors remained under the name “John Doe” to protect themselves from threats. In the end, the closing statements from both the defense and prosecutor, as well as the judges was most compelling. The consensus of the judges was to condvict Al Bashir. Wole Soyinka opened the reading of verdicts with a power statement: ”Sudan has been subjected to serial genocide, serial crimes against humanity, and serial war crimes…the wondrous mosaic of cultures that patent the world civilization with some shining brightly, and others as in Sudan dangerously defeated by tyranny will remain broken forever if the crimes of Omar Al- Bashir and his regime go unpunished.”
Bearing witness to this powerful event was ANC Eastern Region executive director Karine Birazian, who had spoken to the group during their final month of planning and offered the ANC’s support. “Never again means nothing if no one is taking action. What I saw in this room today were very powerful testimonies and undeniable evidence that genocide is occurring. We cannot be part of a society that allows genocide to be committed; otherwise we are all guilty of this crime. I applaud the great effort taken by Judgment on Genocide and will work to see the justice served for the victims of the past and present.”
The ANC plans to work with the organization to help explore options to incorporate the trial as a lesson plan or curriculum unit in the classrooms. Copies of the trial are also expected to be made available, and one can view the trial, explore the website, and learn more details about the judges, prosecutors and those serving on the advisory committee by gong to www.judgmentongenocide.org.
Darfur has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad; and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter.
The ANC has been working with human rights organizations to stop the genocide in Darfur. Please go to www.savedarfur.org to see how you can get involved today.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.