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International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
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Irwin Cotler
National Post (Canada)
16 October 2007

Last week, the second anniversary of global leaders' collective endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine was marked by a student-led rally on Parliament Hill urging the government "not to divert its eyes from the genocide in Darfur." Sudan's heroic human rights figure, Salih Mahmoud Osman, has just made an impassioned appeal at the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide at McGill University for "Canada to act now -- tomorrow will be too late."

Yet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Sept. 25 address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City failed even to mention the African continent, let alone the genocide in Darfur, even as the killing fields intensify.

Sudanese forces recently razed the village of Haskanita, displacing 15,000 civilians and killing 100. A subsequent attack on the town of Muhajeria killed at least 45 people, displacing countless others. Andrew Natsios, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, described to me a "poisonous atmosphere" on the eve of peace negotiations this month in Libya.

() The Conservative government's failure to make Darfur a priority is especially disturbing given Canada's role as R2P's principal architect. The doctrine authorizes international collective action to "protect [a state's] population from genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity," if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, or worse, as in the case of Sudan, if that state is the author of such criminality.

The inaction of the international community in Darfur is a betrayal of the Sudanese people and a repudiation of R2P. We must ensure that Responsibility to Protect is not empty rhetoric, but rather an effective commitment to protect people and promote peace. Canada should lead by example in Darfur through the following [ ] steps:

-Training mission personnel to handle issues of sexual-and gender-based violence. Sexual violence--an endemic feature of the crisis in Darfur -- remains largely ignored and sometimes aggravated by AU troops and Sudanese police.

-Enhancing Canada's humanitarian contribution, particularly given the federal government's recently announced $14-billion surplus. Darfur's humanitarian assistance system is itself on life support as financial contributions from donor countries lag behind UN targets, exacerbating severely under-funded humanitarian aid organizations.

-Hold Sudanese genocidaires accountable for their crimes. Sudan's designation of Ahmed Haroun-- charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity and genocide--as Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, and the person responsible for hearing human rights complaints, is scandalous. The culture of impunity must end.

-Promoting a greater role for the UN Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide--mandated to monitor Sudan and to prevent other Darfurs, yet hampered by a limited staff and severe underfunding.

-Collaborating with UN Human Rights Council members to ensure the council's efficacy and fair-mindedness. The council has yet to adopt one resolution condemning the crimes against humanity in Darfur, continuing to afford the world's major human rights violators exculpatory immunity.

() Realizing that the 1994 Rwandan massacre was a preventable genocide led Canada to promote R2P to underpin the moral injunction of "never again." Should the international community --including Canada--fail to act now, "never again" will become "yet again."

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International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
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