Friday, November 03, 2006

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka to Preside over ICTS

11/1/ 2006

Nigerian Nobel laureate and human rights activist Wole Soyinka will be the presiding judge when Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir is tried for genocide and crimes against humanity at Judgment on Genocide: The International Citizens’ Tribunal for Sudan (JOG Tribunal). Soyinka is one of a number of internationally renowned human rights activists participating in the trial.

The trial will take place Monday, November 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UN Church Center, New York, NY. A press conference announcing the verdict is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. At this time, trial participants, including Soyinka, will be available to answer questions from the media. Due to limited audience seating, admission is by invitation only.

The JOG Tribunal is being convened by a coalition of grassroots groups and anti-genocide activists to hold Bashir and his regime accountable for crimes committed against the people of Darfur and Sudan since the Bashir regime came to power by coup in 1989.

“The Tribunal will reveal, for the first time anywhere, the full extent of the criminality of the military dictatorship of President Bashir – the longest ruling genocidal regime in modern history. This regime has intentionally launched, orchestrated, and knowingly enabled genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other gross human rights abuses against 10 different Sudanese peoples,” said Elvir Camdzic, trial director.

“Bashir and his co-perpetrators must face justice for the crimes they have committed against the people of Sudan. It is absurd and morally reprehensible to negotiate peace agreements with this regime or to seek their permission to protect the victims of their crimes,” Camdzic added.

An indictment, detailing the crimes of the Bashir regime, has been produced and will be delivered to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 9. The indictment charges Bashir and his co-perpetrators with crimes against humanity, genocide, and violations of the laws and customs of war.

"The world cannot live with genocide. A regime that is criminal to its core, led by men responsible for 400,000 deaths of innocent civilians and 3.5 million displaced persons, cannot be allowed to commit crimes against its own people with impunity,” said Tim Nonn, JOG Tribunal project director.

The JOG Tribunal will demonstrate the importance of the ongoing investigation on Darfur at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Though the citizens’ trial will not carry legal authority, it will provide a forum for those who have been victimized to speak out. These crimes, which are currently under an investigation by the ICC, are in contravention of international criminal law and international treaties to which Sudan is a state party.

“Compassion is completed by justice. Government by genocide cannot defeat the inevitable force of justice that is kept alive by the voices of the survivors and remembrance of the victims. There can be no peace in Sudan until Bashir and his co-perpetrators are arrested and tried for their crimes before the International Criminal Court,” added Nonn.

The tribunal will include all of the regular components of a trial – a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, a panel of distinguished judges and eyewitness and expert testimony. The evidence will be presented and the judges will deliberate before verdicts are delivered.

The JOG Tribunal has drawn upon the expertise of more than 20 scholars, law professors and lawyers, foreign policy specialists and non-governmental organizations to produce the indictment and construct the case and tribunal. Survivors of genocide, including refugees from Sudan, and expert witnesses will present evidence in support of the indictment.

Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He spent 22 months in prison, most of it in solitary confinement, after being arrested by the Nigerian government for trying to broker a peace agreement between warring parties in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. About the genocide in Sudan, he said: “A heinous crime is going on in the Sudan…It’s a blot on the conscience of the world and particularly on the African continent, especially so soon after the Rwanda.”

Other participants joining Soyinka include David Kilgour, formerly Canadian Secretary of State for Latin America & Africa and a member of the Canadian House of Commons; and Tomo Kriznar, the Slovenian President’s Former Special Envoy for Darfur who was recently held in a Sudanese prison on spying charges. Beth Van Schaack, assistant professor of law at Santa Clara University, who served on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, wrote the indictment and will serve as a prosecutor. Dr. Gregory Stanton, former U.S. State Department official and author of the United Nations resolutions creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, serves on the advisory board.

The current crisis in Darfur began in spring 2002. In the three-plus years, more than 400,000 Darfuris have been murdered by a Khartoum-supported militia called “janjaweed” or died as a result of violence, starvation or disease related to the genocide. More than 3.5 million are living in displaced person camps in Darfur or refugee camps in neighboring Chad. The U.S. Congress declared the situation genocide in July 2004, and President George W. Bush has called it genocide as recent as August 2006. Since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed on May 5, 2006, hostilities have increased and numerous humanitarian aid workers have been killed.

On Oct. 9, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a participant in the ICC case on Darfur in The Hague, issued a report documenting the complicity of the Sudanese government in coordinated militia attacks on 47 villages in south Darfur that left several hundred civilians dead and many more missing. The report offers detailed evidence that the attacks by janjaweed militia “appear to have been conducted with the knowledge and material support of government authorities.” The ICC has added the report to its case documentation.

The Judgment on Genocide Tribunal is sponsored by a broad range of organizations and grassroots groups working together to end the genocide in Darfur. Included are Darfur Alert Coalition, Genocide Watch, My Sister’s Keeper, Stop Genocide Now!, Camp Darfur, Dear Sudan, San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition, and the International Campaign to End Genocide.

For information on the JOG Tribunal, please visit the website at
Media Advisory
Contact: Suzan Berns
cell: 415-254-1147

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