WASHINGTON – People implicated in war crimes in Sudan could be denied entry into the United States and have their assets frozen under legislation heading toward a vote Wednesday in the House.
The legislation would bar U.S. aid to nations violating U.N. Security Council resolutions that impose an embargo on arms transfers to the African nation.
The civil strife in the Sudanese area of Darfur has displaced some 2 million and led to up to 200,000 deaths from violence and famine, according to the United Nations. The Arab-dominated government in Khartoum has been accused of supporting Arab militias that have launched scorched-earth attacks on ethnic African villagers.
"The crisis in Darfur continues with catastrophic consequences," said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., a senior member of the House International Relations Committee. "The people of Darfur cannot afford to wait while we debate on how best to confront Khartoum."
The legislation, which requires Senate action, is the latest of several acts of Congress to condemn Sudan over war in Darfur and impose penalties on its government. In 2004 Congress enacted a measure to stop trade and separately approved a resolution declaring that the atrocities in western Sudan were acts of genocide.
"This legislation contains critical initiatives to help make matters better: stop the violence, bring the parties to the table and get the humanitarian assistance to the people," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In February, she joined a congressional delegation to Darfur.
The bill would not authorize the use of U.S. forces in Darfur, but it would confer on the president authority to assist an expanded African Union mission.
It would expand the 2004 law to impose an asset freeze and travel ban against those accused of perpetrating genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in Darfur. The president can waive the ban if it is in the national interest.
U.S. penalties against Sudan go back to 1997, when the Clinton administration by executive order imposed comprehensive financial and commercial punishments on the country.
In a largely symbolic measure, the bill would encourage the president to deny entry at U.S. ports to Sudanese cargo ships or oil tankers.
It also moves to lift export and import restrictions to southern Sudan and other marginalized areas.
The bill also asserts that restrictions against Sudan should not be lifted until the president certifies that Sudan is taking such steps as acting peacefully to resolve the crisis, disarm the Janjaweed militia that is accused of attacking black Africans and putting in place the terms of a peace agreement reached last year.
At a House International Relations subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., urged the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton to travel to the area. "We need to do something dramatic," Wolf said. "I think you will be able to speak with such clarity."
Bolton did not respond. He did appear interested in a suggestion from Wolf that all nations on the Security Council join in sending a delegation to Darfur.