Four Individuals Face Sanctions for Darfur Roles

The U.N. Security Council votes to impose sanctions on four Sudanese accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict. The sanctions are the first to be adopted against individuals involved in the Darfur war. The four men include one Sudanese air force commander, one pro-government militia member and two rebel leaders.

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The United Nations Security Council is imposing sanctions on four individuals accused of abuses in Darfur, Sudan. This is the first time the council has acted to punish people involved in what the United States has called a case of genocide. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

More than a year after the Security Council voted to authorize targeted sanctions against individuals in Sudan, the council took some limited steps yesterday to bar travel and freeze assets of four people. U.S. ambassador John Bolton called it a down-payment.

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (United Nations Ambassador, United States): The Security Council is serious that its resolutions have to be complied with. It's prepared to take enforcement steps if they're not complied with. I think it should indicate to all the parties in the conflict in Darfur, we're determined to bring this to a peaceful resolution and restore peace and security for the people of Darfur, who have been most adversely affected by the conflict.

KELEMEN: But, even the short list of four met resistance from, among others, China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, who ended up abstaining.

Mr. WANG GUANGYA (United Nations Ambassador, China): We want bring those, whoever it is, as a violators, to justice. But I believe that the sanctions is not a way of doing it. Secondly, I think the timing is not good.

KELEMEN: China and Russia both argued that the sanctions could interfere with Darfur peace talks taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, but none of the four individuals on the sanctions list is involved in those talks. John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group described the sanctions vote as a step toward relevance for the U.N. Security Council, but he said the council started in the weakest possible way.

Mr. JOHN PRENDERGAST (Senior Adviser, International Crisis Group): The preponderance of crimes against humanity have been committed by the government of Sudan, and yet the response has been to say, well, everybody's guilty, so let's nail four different people from four different elements of the conflict.

KELEMEN: Two of the men on the list are rebels, accused of cease-fire violations: a commander from the Sudan Liberation Army and one from the National Movement for Reform and Development. The most senior Sudanese official on the list is a military commander in west Darfur, Mohamed Elhassan. The fourth person is Musa Hilal, a leader of government-backed Arab militias, which were widely blamed for the most deadly attacks on villages and for uprooting more than two million people. Leslie Lefkow, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, interviewed Musa Hilal.

Ms. LESLIE LEFKOW (Researcher, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch): He was responsible for recruiting many of the militia in Darfur and he is personally responsible, according to the reports that we have, for commanding troops who committed serious atrocities in Darfur. So, I think that is an important signal. But, again, it's a question of, you know, they really need to put the people who gave him his orders on that list.

KELEMEN: There were names of senior Sudanese government officials on a list that the U.N. sanctions committee considered. The U.S. whittled down the list in favor of this more balanced approach. Prendergast wants to see more action.

Mr. PRENDERGAST: The days of complete and total impunity are over. The trick is, now, that the U.S. is going to have to follow up this small act with some larger ones, and go after some of the bigger fish in Khartoum who are responsible for what the Bush administration calls genocide.

KELEMEN: Activists have been urging the Bush administration to do more on another front as well: to get the United Nations to take over from a beleaguered African Union force in Darfur. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. complained that Sudan didn't even let U.N. contingency planners in recently, and that is the first step.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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