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Jewish groups speak out

by: Lisa Schlein - Last updated: 2005-03-22

United Nations

United Nations

Jewish human rights organisations including B'Nai B'Rith International and other activists are calling on the United Nations Human Rights Commission to use its moral voice to prevent further loss of life in Sudan's western province of Darfur. The Jewish activists say the United Nations must speak out against, what they call, the acts of genocide being committed in Darfur.

The Jewish activists note most of the world turned a blind eye when six million Jews were exterminated in Nazi death camps during World War II. As the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust, they say another genocide is occurring in Sudan's Darfur region. Given their own experience, they say the Jewish people have a special responsibility to speak out against this crime.

The president of B'Nai B'Rith International, Joel Kaplan, says people continue to debate whether genocide, ethnic cleansing or murder is being committed in Darfur. He says tens of thousands of people are being killed, made homeless, and victimized by rape and other human rights abuse while this debate continues. He calls this semantic nitpicking unimportant.

"What is important now is that it is a senseless, a cruel, a vicious and a venal taking of human life. And, what is important now is the dignity and the value of those lives," he said. "And, what is important now is whether or not together we have the will and all of those in this building have the will to put together the effort to save those lives."

The Genocide Convention became international law in 1951. The activists point out that since then, genocide has happened in Cambodia, in Bosnia, in Rwanda and now is happening in Darfur.

Jerry Fowler is staff director of the Committee on Conscience at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He says the museum is holding a special exhibition on Darfur. He says the aim is to show visitors that genocide is not a matter of history. It is happening in Darfur today.

Mr Fowler says during visits to Chad he has spoken with many refugees from Darfur. He says all of the refugees are desperate to get their stories out, to let people know what has happened to them. He says he has had similar conversations with holocaust survivors, all of whom felt abandoned at that time. "Sixty years later, they still carry with them inside the bitterness and the loneliness of feeling abandoned as their world was being destroyed. These people who I met and who had fled from Darfur and I am sure it is true of the people who are stuck inside Darfur still desperately want to not feel abandoned and to feel that there will be help that will come and resolve the situation," he said.

B'Nai B'Rith is calling on the UN Human Rights Commission and all UN bodies to document the situation in Darfur, to create a plan of action that will protect the basic human rights of the people of Darfur and provide them with humanitarian assistance.

It also wants more African Union troops sent to Darfur to protect civilians and says a no-fly zone should be imposed.

Activists want the commission to condemn Sudan for the atrocities being committed in Darfur and are also seeking a strong resolution on Darfur from the African States.

Story supplied by: VOAnews