Reform Jewish Leader Urges President Bush to End the Genocidal Activity in Darfur, Sudan
In a letter sent today to President Bush, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, urged the President not to veto a Security Council referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court and asked the President to increase efforts to end the genocidal activity in Sudan
Saperstein: We believe that those who have committed crimes against humanity must be held accountable.
Contact: Alexis Rice or Avital Weinberg
WASHINGTON, February 7, 2005 – In a letter sent today to President Bush, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, urged the President not to veto a Security Council referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court and asked the President to increase efforts to end the genocidal activity in Sudan. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear President Bush,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform Rabbis, I am writing to remind you of your stated commitment to ending the genocide in Darfur, Sudan and to encourage the United States to step up its efforts to end the genocidal activity and engage the international community. You are surely aware of the familiar and powerful teachings from Leviticus that “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16). Yet blood continues to be shed on Sudanese soil. As a people intimately acquainted with the horrors of genocide, we feel obligated to speak out and take action when others are similarly threatened, as is the case today.
On February 1st, 2005, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry authorized by Security Council Resolution 1564 released its final report to the public. As you know, this report stated that while the Commission does not find the crimes committed to be “Genocide,” it does find “genocidal intent.” The report goes on to state that “the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide,” and “that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacement have continued even while it [the commission] was conducting its inquiry.”
While the world may disagree on the language uses to describe the violence in Darfur, there is no question that serious atrocities are being committed by the Sudanese Government and the Janjaweed militia:
- There have been 350,000 civilian deaths so far;
- 1.8 million citizens have been internally displaced;
- 200,000 civilians have fled as refugees into neighboring Chad;
- It is estimated that 35,000 people will continue to die each month;
- Only a week before the report was issued, the UN and African Union (AU) monitors confirmed new attacks against civilians by the Sudanese Air Force which killed at least 105 people, most of these women and children.
The United States played a key role in bringing the Government of Sudan and the Southern People’s Liberation Movement to the table and negotiating the peace agreement that was signed on January 9th. We commend the administration for the role it played to promote human rights and end the bloody North-South civil war.
The U.S again has the opportunity, and, we believe, the responsibility, to demonstrate moral leadership by promoting freedom and human rights around the globe. In your inauguration speech, you stated that “America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies,” and that “survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”
The UN report has recommended a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court. The ICC may be used to determine whether or not genocide is occurring and will be used to hold individuals accountable for the horrendous crimes committed. We believe that those who have committed crimes against humanity must be held accountable. Today the ICC has emerged as the only way to seek accountability effectively and without great cost. We ask that as the Security Council takes action, the U.S. not block a referral to the ICC; to do so would be a denial of justice for the Darfurian victims.
However, a referral to the ICC should not overshadow the international community’s efforts to end the continuing violence. Accountability is important, but it is not a substitute for acting to stop the bloodshed. We ask that the United States take the following actions in cooperation with the international community:
- The U.S. should push for continued funding to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs in Darfur and the refugee camps of Chad as well as engagement with other nations to contribute funding;
- The U.S. should help establish and maintain conditions of security and stability so that humanitarian relief reaches those in need and so that the displaced can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity;
- The U.S. should keep pressure on the United Nations Security Council to authorize a much larger African Union protection force with a mandate to protect civilians under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and continue to provide them with logistical and financial support;
- The U.S. should assist the international community in the monitoring of a no-fly zone over Darfur;
- The U.S. and UN should levy an arms embargo on the government of Sudan, and impose targeted sanctions against the Sudanese government and on the ruling party's business interests;
- The U.S. should support the recommendations of the international commission of inquiry whose report was released on February first, authorized in Security Council Resolution 1564, to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide;
As Jews, we are intimately acquainted with what happens when otherwise good people are silent in the face of political oppression and violence. After years of violence, the people of Darfur can wait no longer for the world to take promised action.
Rabbi David Saperstein
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.