George Clooney, along with writer/activist John Prendergast and political analyst Akshaya Kumar, has written a New York Times op-ed about the human rights violations (which include, among other horrible things, rape torture) that continue to occur in Darfur in Sudan.
"The 'torture rapes' in Tabit are a reminder to the world that the same conditions that led to the United States' declaration of genocide in Darfur are still firmly in place, with devastating human consequences," they write. "We must not forget the survivors, and we must impose deterrent costs on the orchestrators and their enablers."
During the early 2000s, the plight of people in Darfur was a popular cause, but thanks to tactical concealment by the Sudanese government and short attention spans, the world's interest has waned.
As the op-ed states:
Because Sudan's government routinely blocks journalists from going into the Darfur region and severely restricts access for humanitarian workers, any window into life there is limited. The government has hammered the joint peacekeeping mission of the United Nations and African Union into silence about human rights concerns by shutting down the United Nations human rights office in the capital, Khartoum, hampering investigators of alleged human rights abuses and pressuring the peacekeeping force to withdraw.
What we do see of life in Darfur is grim and violent:
After collecting more than 130 witness and survivor testimonies over the phone, its researchers concluded that at least 221 women had been raped by soldiers of the Sudanese Army over a 36-hour period last October. The peacekeepers' attempts to investigate this incident were obstructed by the government, which allowed them into the town briefly for interviews that were conducted in a climate of intimidation. A leaked memo from the peacekeeping mission shows that Sudanese troops listened in on and even recorded many of the interviews. Since then, the people of Tabit have had their freedom of movement severely curtailed.
The writers add:
During our own visits to Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and refugee camps in neighboring countries, we have heard story after story like those from Tabit. These "torture rapes" are just one tool in Sudan's criminal arsenal, which also includes aerial bombing of hospitals and agricultural fields, burning of villages and the denial of food aid.
Previously, the crimes in Darfur have been largely ignored by countries that could potentially intervene because the region seemed to lack natural resources. However, gold reserves were recently found in Northern Darfur, giving outside entities and Sudan's government reason to be interested again. For the government, that means attempting to control the region by any means necessary, including ethnic cleansing. For the outside world, it means leverage.
The op-ed suggests that "international banks, gold refiners and associations like the Dubai Multi Commodities Center and the London Bullion Market Association [raise] alerts for Sudanese gold and initiate audits to trace it all to its mine of origin to ensure that purchases are not fueling war crimes in Darfur."
They also push for the international community to strengthen its hitherto uneven sanctions on Sudan:
The United States and other countries should expand sanctions and step up enforcement to pressure Sudan to observe human rights and to negotiate for peace. Most important, the next wave of American sanctions should target the facilitators, including Sudanese and international banks, that do business with the regime either directly or through partners.
It's unfortunate that money seems to be the only true motivator for intervention in situations like these and that it takes the voice of a successful movie actor to get any of us to pay attention to such a disturbing violation of human rights (that's not a knock on Clooney, mind you), but if that's what it takes then fine. Here's your gold and here's your George Clooney.
Image via Getty.