Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sudan: Salih Mahmoud Osman

Salih Mahmoud Osman, the Sudanese human rights lawyer who spoke in Pasadena was imprisoned for more than seven months in 2004. The campaign for his release included our Summer Postcard Action. As always, it was a thrill to see the subject of one of our actions free and able to continue with his invaluable work. He was profiled in Saturday's Los Angeles Times.

State Department officials in Washington met Osman this week with sympathy, but little else — no promises for action or additional support for AU troops. In fact, Congress last week cut $50 million in support for Darfur peacekeeping troops.

In the absence of hope in Darfur, Osman has tried to provide at least a record of alleged war crimes perpetrated against the region's tribes. At most, he offers a chance for justice.,,

And so, his Sudan Organization Against Torture provides legal help, medical aid and psychological counseling to those who were targeted by the militias.

The organization's small legal team is working to have rape prosecuted as a war crime. Under Sudanese law, prosecution of rape requires proof or witnesses — forcing victims to often settle for lesser charges if the case is heard at all.

"The Sudanese justice system does not work very well," he said in an interview this week at the United Nations. "It is incompetent and unwilling to provide justice. There is impunity for these crimes, and victims have no confidence in the courts ..."

"We are putting crimes on the record," he said. "We're exposing the war criminals who continue to lie about what they're doing. And we're giving some comfort to the victims, who must know that they are not forgotten, that their suffering has been documented."

While Mr. Osman was noting how difficult it was to keep Sudan from fading from the headlines and imploring us to renew our efforts to bring attention to the genocide taking place in his country, the church was actually swarming with reporters due to All Saints' little tiff with the IRS. What a shame they were not there to cover the real story!

The Human Rights Watch video, Darfur Destroyed, shown at the event is available for online viewing at the Witness website.
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