September 15th, 2006 02:21 EST
Actor George Clooney, Nobel laureate Elie Weisel focus attention on crisis
United Nations -- Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and award-winning actor George Clooney pleaded with the Security Council September 14 to act decisively to end the suffering in Darfur.
Wiesel and Clooney were guests of the United States at a special Security Council meeting chaired by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. The envoy said he hoped the appearance of the two famous human rights advocates would increase attention on the growing problem in Darfur and help amplify the importance of taking definitive action at the United Nations.
"Every day that passes more innocent men, women and children suffer there. Every day women and young girls are raped as they venture from refugee camps to find firewood. This problem cannot be dismissed as too complex to address," Bolton said.
Clooney, who visited refugee camps in Darfur in April, said he was meeting council members to be "the voice of the people who cannot speak for themselves." (See related article.)
"My job is to come here today to beg you on behalf of the millions of people who will die -- and make no mistake they will die - - to take real and effective measures to put an end to this," Clooney said.
While acknowledging that the situation is politically complex, Clooney said, "when you see entire villages raped and killed, wells poisoned and then filled with the bodies of villagers, then all complexities disappear and it comes down to simply right and wrong."
The two activists focused on September 30 -- the date when 7,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers will have to leave Darfur unless the government of Sudan agrees to allow the United Nations to increase the mission to 17,000 and begin taking over the operation. If the AU troops leave, humanitarian groups, which increasingly have been the targets of attacks, will be forced to abandon their work. Their departure would leave more than 2.5 million people without food and basic care. The United Nations has estimated that as many as 100,000 could die each month if international aid stops.
If there are no peacekeepers in Darfur after September 30, Clooney said, "You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and headstones."
Both Wiesel and Clooney emphasized the Security Council's "responsibility to protect" those who cannot protect themselves. They reminded council members of the 1994 massacres in Rwanda where an estimated 800,000 were killed in sectarian violence while the United Nations stood by.
At the 2005 U.N. World Summit, nations agreed there is a collective international obligation to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The council, world leaders said, must take decisive action if there is no peaceful alternative and a government is failing to do so.
Actor George Clooney spoke at a United Nations Security Council session on Darfur, Sept. 14, 2006. (©AP Images)
“However you deal with it,” Clooney told the 15-nation Security Council, "it will be on your watch.
"Sudan cannot bring back the dead but it can restore a sense of honor to the United Nations," Wiesel said.
MOVED TO DESPAIR
The two men, who represented thousands of activists around the world, went to the Security Council, "because more than any other [organization], you hold their destiny in your hands .... You are the last political recourse of Darfur's victims and their friends," Wiesel said.
"We have come to you because I have been moved to despair. We tried everything we could. We knocked on doors, appealed to conscience, implored the wealthy and strong to help the weak and the poor. What else could we do that we haven't done yet," the Nobel laureate said.
Wiesel urged the council to be Darfur's "moral custodian" and stop the violence.
"You can. You can stop it. There are so many ways and you know them all. You have even accepted certain resolutions to that effect," Wiesel said, mentioning economic, political, and cultural sanctions and threatening those who order or carry out the murders with punishment.
Wiesel urged the United Nations to help the Africa Union continue its job. Send more troops "not to wage war but to give safe haven to those who need it," he said.
The United Nations "should not wait for Sudan's invitation" to send in peacekeepers, Wiesel said. "Go in anyway. The tormentors and assassins do not wait. The U.N. Charter asks you to intervene. In the name of all that is sacred be worthy of that mission."
Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the situation in Darfur desperate. "If the African Union forces were to leave, and we are not able to put in a U.N. follow-one force, we are heading for a disaster and I don't think we can allow that to happen," he said September 13.
Annan appealed to the U.N. member states to "put pressure" on Sudan to accept the U.N. peacekeepers.
For more information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)