On the Global Day for Darfur, PHR participated in a panel on the crisis there.
Physicians for Human Rights represents the voices of health professionals across the United States, but also those Sudanese doctors, nurses, and social workers on the front lines of the crisis in Darfur itself.
We have heard a lot today about the tremendous suffering of the people of Darfur, but we have not heard about these Sudanese health professionals and human rights advocates who are on the ground working to deal with the effects of the crisis.
Every day, our colleagues in Darfur risk their positions, their safety and even their lives to care for the sick, the injured, the tortured and those raped every day in Darfur as the genocide continues into its 4th year. These brave men and women are routinely threatened, harassed and intimidated by the Sudanese officials who fear that they will bear witness to the horrible crimes perpetrated by their security apparatus and the rebels they have armed.
We should remember them today along with the victims of the genocide and take some hope from their steadfastness and courage.
We take hope from knowing that Darfur is not just a land of victims, but of strong advocates working for their own people.
I want to speak briefly about an issue that has not been raised here today:
Compensation for the survivors.
Genocide is not just shooting people. There is another way to commit genocide: Destroying people's livelihoods and their way of life.
What the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed have done is to drive people out of their villages in the desert. They know they will not be able to survive there, many will die. Refugees told us the attackers said things like: "let's drive them into the desert to starve" and "don't waste the bullet, they've got nothing to eat and they'll die from hunger."
When villagers are forced into the desert they:
- risk exposure to searing heat and driving winds
- have no source of water- wells have been poisoned
- have no shelter –
- have no animals for food, milk and transport
- find few roads and little vegetation
Those that have survived the attacks and the destruction of their villages desperately want to return home. They want to be safe, they want to cultivate their land and rebuild their houses, schools, markets and mosques.
President Bashir, you and your cronies have gotten rich from Sudan's oil perversely, you have used the money from that oil to fund a genocide against your own people.
You must compensate the people of Darfur for their losses that you have inflicted upon them – losses of their loved ones, of their land, their homes, their livestock.
You must help them resettle in their ancestral homes, and provide the necessary services to help them to rebuild their shattered lives and traumatized psyches and repair the torn fabric of their once-vibrant societies. International law demands no less.
Compensation for these losses is a key demand of the parties who did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement. We need to address this issue now, as a vital part of the peace process, not put it off until some indefinite future when the crisis is over.
People will not return to villages without security, but neither will they return without compensation for their losses and other assurances. Darfurians have said to our staff, "For us to return, we need to be assured our village will not be attacked again, but we also need something to return to."
None of this can happen without a dramatic improvement in security. This is the number one priority.
The people of Darfur are looking to us, concerned citizens across the globe, to speak for their rights — their right to life, to security, to health, their right not to be tortured and raped, their right to their culture and language, their right to property and livelihoods, their right to simply survive!
Today we stand with our brave colleagues in Sudan. We join with them in their call for a robust force to protect them from continued atrocities.
Physicians for Human Rights also stands in solidarity with the groups represented here today and endorse their calls for the US and the international community to act now to implement and enforce tough sanctions that compel the Government of Sudan to allow the deployment of international peacekeepers.
And we call on President Bush to take the lead in pushing forward diplomatically with a peace process that is the only way to finally bring an end to the horrors of Darfur.