February 28th, 2007

Women I Love, Pt. 1

Justice for Darfur

By Angelina Jolie
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; Page A19

BAHAI, Chad -- Here, at this refugee camp on the border of Sudan, nothing separates us from Darfur but a small stretch of desert and a line on a map. All the same, it's a line I can't cross. As a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I have traveled into Darfur before, and I had hoped to return. But the UNHCR has told me that this camp, Oure Cassoni, is as close as I can get.

Sticking to this side of the Sudanese border is supposed to keep me safe. By every measure -- killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages -- the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni.

Attacks on aid workers are rising, another reason I was told to stay out of Darfur. By drawing attention to their heroic work -- their efforts to keep refugees alive, to keep camps like this one from being consumed by chaos and fear -- I would put them at greater risk.

I've seen how aid workers and nongovernmental organizations make a difference to people struggling for survival. I can see on workers' faces the toll their efforts have taken. Sitting among them, I'm amazed by their bravery and resilience. But humanitarian relief alone will never be enough.

Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice.

Accountability is a powerful force. It has the potential to change behavior -- to check aggression by those who are used to acting with impunity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said that genocide is not a crime of passion; it is a calculated offense. He's right. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killers' calculus will change.

On Monday I asked a group of refugees about their needs. Better tents, said one; better access to medical facilities, said another. Then a teenage boy raised his hand and said, with powerful simplicity, "Nous voulons une épreuve." We want a trial. He is why I am encouraged by the ICC's announcement yesterday that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader on charges of crimes against humanity.
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