Petition Calling on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience to Formally and Publicly Urge the International Community to Take Specific Action Vis-à-vis the Ongoing Crises in Sudan
July 20, 2013
Dear Mr. Abramowitz and Mr. Parsons:
July 23, 2013 (SSNA) — We, a select group of scholars of genocide from across the globe, call on the United States Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience (CoC) to formally and publicly call on the international community (both the United Nations, and individual nations) to immediately take three actions in response to the ongoing crises in the Sudan: (1) establish and conduct an investigation into the human rights violations that have been perpetrated in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile from June 2011 through today; (2) implement a humanitarian corridor in order to provide food and medical aid to the civilians of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile; and (3) issue a genocide alert vis-à-vis the crises in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. In doing so the CoC would be fulfilling its mandate “to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity” (emphasis added).
It is important to note that in a recent (July 13, 2013) communiqué issued by the leadership of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (the official name of the rebel group in South Kordofan), it declared, in part, its “renewed commitment to UNSC Resolution 2046”; “readiness for an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities with the Sudan government as well as resolving the political crisis in Sudan”; and, “reiterated its call and support for an independent international investigation committee to investigate the human rights violations in Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, Northern Kordofan and Darfur especially in the last months.” The communiqué was signed by Yasir Arman, Secretary General of the SPLM-N.
Few, if any organizations have the moral authority invested in the USHMM and CoC by both the U.S. Government and people of the United States, and thus we firmly believe that it only makes sense that the USHMM’S CoC is the entity that must call for and carry out, respectively, the aforementioned actions. Furthermore, the CoC is the only entity that has the legitimate power to declare a genocide emergency.
In a letter written by Mike Abramowitz (not dated, but sent sometime in May 2013) addressed to Samuel Totten, John Hubbell Weiss and Eric Cohen vis-à-vis their request that the CoC take action regarding the crises in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the following was stated:
“Over the last several months, you have communicated with me and Michael Chertoff [Chair of the Committee on Conscience] about your concerns over the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. You have requested minutes of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience meetings and asked the Committee to issue a “genocide alert” for the Nuba Mountains. Michael and I have discussed your various communications and requests and I’d like to take an opportunity to more formally respond on our behalf.
“As a point of clarification, the Museum has moved away from a formal “alert” system in recent years because it suggests a level of precision that we have found difficult to achieve and sustain over time on a particular situation. We have also found issuing lots of statements to be ineffective, but we do issue statements from time to time on issues of concern. Sudan and South Sudan are among those places we have been concerned about most in recent years, given past cases of genocide and mass atrocity and ongoing dangers for civilian populations. Our staff meets regularly with members of civil society, experts, and government officials to register our concerns about these issues, and we are part of a working group on Sudan organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace.”
We, the signatories to this letter, find it most regrettable that the USHMM “has moved away from a formal ‘alert system in recent years.” Not only does that, we believe, limit the power and thrust of the CoC’s influence in “alerting the national conscience” to major humanitarian crises but also in “ stimulating worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity.”
We also respectfully disagree with rationale given for the USHMM’S decision to move away from a formal “alert” system: “because it suggests a level of precision that we have found difficult to achieve and sustain over time on a particular situation.” While we readily agree that it is extremely difficult to accurately and definitively assess whether a fluid situation/crisis is genocide or not (unless, of course, it’s something as starkly obvious as the Holocaust (1941-1945) or Rwanda (April 1994-July 2004)), it is not difficult to “suggest with a level precision” that a situation constitutes crimes against humanity. And the latter of course is the time to declare a genocide emergency – during the early stages of what might prove to be genocide — for to wait until the situation is a full-blown genocide is to have failed miserably in issuing an alert. Why? Because by then it is likely that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of innocent people (women, infants, children and the elderly, among others) will have been slain. In light of that, we firmly believe that the USHMM and CoC must focus as much attention of “related crimes against humanity” as it does genocide, otherwise the CoC will end up straying mightily from its mandate.
Finally, as you well know, the USHMM currently sponsors the “Pledge to Prevent Genocide Now” campaign in which individuals are encouraged to sign their names in support of the following statement: “I pledge to learn more, educate others, and take action to help prevent genocide today.” It is time for the USHMM’s CoC to step up and honor the USHMM’s very own campaign.
In conclusion, we petition you in the hope that the USHMM and CoC will do the right thing in this instance, and honor our three requests.
We await your reply in which you state whether you will honor our requests and when and how; or, if you choose not to, why that is the case. Time is of essence as each and every day that passes innocent people are being killed, severely injured/maimed and/or perishing from a lack of adequate food.