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The False Darfur ‘Genocide’ Numbers

Posted by musliminsuffer on April 3, 2009

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

The False Darfur ‘Genocide’ Numbers

Moon of Alabama

April 2, 2009

Headlined In Defense of Genocide the neoconned WaPo editors condemn the Arab league for hosting Sudan’s President Bashir while at the same time accusing Israel of war-crimes. The polemic includes this sentence:

T]he United Nations has reported more than 300,000 civilian deaths in Darfur as a result of the genocidal campaign sponsored by Mr. Bashir.

There are three false claims in this one sentence. As these false claims are often repeated from the far right to the interventionist left, let me try to dispel them once and for all.

  1. The number of 300,000 is false.
  2. The UN did not ‘report’ that number.
  3. There was no genocide in Darfur.

The 300,000 number is simply taken from hot air. It is based on a exaggerated statement by the UN’s humanitarian chief John Holmes:

Up to to 300,000 people may have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said Tuesday although he conceded this was just an “extrapolation.”

“A study in 2006 suggested that 200,000 had lost their lives from the combined effects of the conflict,” John Holmes told the UN Security Council. “That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again.”

Queried about how he arrived at the new figure, Holmes later told reporters: “I am not saying I am sure. I said it’s a reasonable hypothesis, a reasonable extrapolation from the previous figures from studies done elsewhere.”

“I am not trying to suggest this is a very scientifically-based figure. It is not a very scientifically-based figure, except on the basis of extrapolation,’ he added.

Holmes recalled that the figure of 200,000 dead had been used by the United Nations in 2006 based on extrapolation contained in a study by the World Health Organization.

That vague statement by Holmes is what the Washington Post characterizes as the ‘UN reported’.

Holmes extrapolated to 300,000 from a 2006 UN figure of 200,000 which itself was a not justifiable extrapolation from studies that found less excess death.

The Belgium Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) did a comparison study of the various studies done by the World Health Organization and others and concluded:

In summary, the CRED method estimated approximately 134,000 total deaths in Darfur and Eastern Chad over the 17 months from September 2003 to January 2005. Of these deaths, 120,000 were excess deaths directly attributable to the conflict, 35,000 of which were violent deaths. The US State Department method estimated a possible range of 98,000 – 181,000 total deaths over 23 months – from March 2003 to January 2005. Estimates of excess deaths due to the conflict ranged from 63,000 – 146,000 over the same period.

For a November 2006 report to Congress the Government Accountability Office asked twelve experts in epidemiology about such studies and concluded:

The experts we consulted did not consistently rate any of the death estimates as having a high level of accuracy and noted that all of the studies had methodological strengths and shortcomings. Most of the experts had the highest overall confidence in the estimates by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), which relied primarily on a statistical analysis of about 30 mortality surveys, and they rated the CRED estimates’ accuracy and methodological strengths highest among the six. The experts had a slightly lower level of confidence in the State estimate and gave it slightly lower ratings for accuracy and methodological strengths.

So the most acclaimed study on Darfur came away with “120,000 were excess deaths directly attributable to the conflict, 35,000 of which were violent deaths”.

From there all higher numbers are simply taken from the air by ‘extrapolating’ on the fly. Such extrapolations are not justified. Since mid 2004 the various UN agencies are fully engaged in Darfur and,  while there is still strife, no major slaughter has taken place since then.

According to the Darfur timeline the major violence there took place in 2003 and early 2004. There is thereby no ground to extrapolate the excess death numbers from that time of hard violence into the time of relative calm. Would it be justified to estimated World War II casualties in 1946/47 from casualty numbers in 1944/45? Certainly not, but that is similar to what John Holmes and others are doing.

Now onto the genocide claim.

In early 2005 the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General (pdf) found:

The Commission concluded that the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide. Arguably, two elements of genocide might be deduced from the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by Government forces and the militias under their control. These two elements are, first, the actus reus consisting of killing, or causing serious bodily or mental harm, or deliberately inflicting conditions of life likely to bring about physical destruction; and, second, on the basis of a subjective standard, the existence of a protected group being targeted by the authors of criminal conduct. However, the crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central Government authorities are concerned. Generally speaking the policy of attacking, killing and forcibly displacing members of some tribes does not evince a specific intent to annihilate, in whole or in part, a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds. Rather, it would seem that those who planned and organized attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare.

Still the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, tried to get President Bashir charged for genocide. Given the above report he could not claim that genocide happened in 2003 and 2004. He therefore argued that some hindrances of access to refugee camps and problems with food distribution in 2005 and 2006 were willful acts by the Sudanese government with the intent of genocide.

The pre-trial chamber of the ICC rejected (pdf, para 110ff) that view as implausible:

[T]he Prosecution acknowledges that (i) it does not have any direct evidence in relation to Omar Al Bashir’s alleged responsibility for the crime of genocide, and that therefore (ii) its allegations concerning genocide are solely based on certain inferences that, according from the Prosecution, can be drawn from the facts of the case.

The pre-trial ICC chamber rules that there is not enough ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ – the pre-trial standard – that a genocide happened. A conviction in a full fledged trial in court would require the much higher standard of proof ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

The prosecutor now tries to have the pre-trial ruling overruled by an appeal chamber. Alex De Waal, an expert on the Darfur conflict, asked three legal experts who all conclude that the chances of that appeal are very low. There is simply no proof for any intent that is require to designate some slaughter as genocide. Still we should note that others do not agree with the pre-trial chambers arguments and decision. See for example legal scholar Kevin Jon Heller’s various posts on the ICC trial at Opinio Juris.

Bashir was charged by the ICC with several war-crimes. One day a court may decide about those charges and may find Bashir guilty. Until it does Bashir has the right to be seen as innocent. The prosecutor is only wasting time over an issue that is, in the bigger picture, irrelevant.

But back to where we started.

Likely much less than 300,000 people died in Darfur. It is possible that some 35,000 died there due do violence in 2003 and 2004 from the several sides of the conflict and more due to hunger and other circumstances. Currently there is no major fighting but a long term refugee problem that somehow will have to be solved.

The UN never ‘reported’ 300,000 death. One UN person unjustifiable ‘extrapolated’ numbers from a time of violence to a time of relative calm.

The case for ‘genocide’ was never convincing and a major UN commission as well as the International Criminal Court have found it without merit.

So why are the neocon WaPo editors still offering this claptrap?

Two theories:

1. There is a lot of oil under the sands of Darfur and Sudan is friendly with China – a combination that is automatically seen as hostile by an empire that strives to control all world energy resources.

2.  Another possible motivation behind the hostile position towards Sudan are Israeli considerations like the “Yeor plan” which envisions water supply for Israel through pipelines from the Nile:

Ethiopia and the Sudan have already reacted with alarm to published reports that there are plans to divert Nile water to Israel. Ethiopia provides Egypt with 86% of its Nile water and is desperately in need of water development projects on its own territory in order to feed its growing population of more than 62 million. (In 1960 Egypt’s population was under 30 million.)

From the point of view of the Nile’s main riparians, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, the great danger of sharing Nile water with Israel is that, however small the initial amount may be, and even if nominally the water were for Palestinian use, once Israel begins to take water from the Nile it may then contend, under international law, for larger shares in future.

Supporting the suspicion that water for Israel is a motive for the false claims against Sudan is the fact that the “Save Darfur” movement is driven by Jewish interest groups. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

Little known, however, is that the [“Save Darfur”] coalition, which has presented itself as “an alliance of over 130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian, and human rights organization” was actually begun exclusively as an initiative of the American Jewish community.

And even now, days before the rally, that coalition is heavily weighted with a politically and religiously diverse collection of local and national Jewish groups.

In reality I suspect a mixture of motives that drive the general hostile U.S. position towards Sudan, the false accusations of genocide and the overstatements of casualty numbers in the Darfur conflict. The simple fact that Sudan does not do what the U.S. says it should do is probably enough for the Washington Post editors to condemn it.

They are free to do so. But besides false numbers and wrong claims they have little to make their case.

:: Article nr. 53099 sent on 03-apr-2009 02:51 ECT



-muslim voice-

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