Letter to Senate RE: Continuing Crisis in Darfur Sudan

March 7, 2005

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Episcopal Church, USA, we write to you with continuing concern for the grave crisis in Darfur, Sudan and the stalemate that exists regarding the appropriate body for prosecution of those accused of war crimes.

As you are no doubt aware, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, which reported its findings late last month, found “no doubt” that “large-scale war crimes” have taken place in Darfur. The Commission concluded that the government of Sudan had orchestrated “indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement." The panel recommended international prosecution for the perpetrators of these crimes and identified more than 60 individuals who should be held accountable.

In spite of this recommendation, the response from the international community has been stalled by significant disagreement over the venue in which the perpetrators of violence in Darfur should be tried. While the Commission recommended proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, others, including the Bush Administration, have expressed a preference for prosecution in a specially appointed tribunal.

It is imperative that the world’s response not become stalled by this question. A system of accountability for the perpetrators of these atrocities is essential to ending the violence and bringing peace, at long last, to the people of Darfur. To that end, we recommend that Congress exercise leadership by holding immediate hearings on the merits of various systems of prosecution and accountability for the crimes of Darfur.

Such hearings would stimulate discussion among our nation’s policy makers and the international community about how to proceed, and will make clear to the government of Sudan that the world intends to hold it accountable. While the Episcopal Church agrees with most international observers that the ICC likely presents the most effective and efficient opportunity to try the perpetrators of Darfur’s crimes, we understand the merits and drawbacks of each of the various options. Ultimately, what is essential is that the U.S. exercise leadership in the international community to break this logjam and prevent the world’s response to Darfur from becoming paralyzed.

Over the past year, the U.S. Congress has exerted great leadership on Darfur. As former Secretary of State Powell pointed out in September of last year, Congress’ unrelenting vigilance on Darfur has prompted the U.S. government to emerge as Khartoum’s fiercest critic in the international community. In view of the grave suffering that continues, however, Congress’ voice is needed again. Our nation and our world can no longer tolerate delay in bringing hope and reconciliation to the people of Darfur.

Sincerely,

Maureen Shea
Director of Government Relations

Alex Baumgarten
International Policy Analyst