Statement By Baroness Cox And HART About Sudanese Officials Attending The US National Prayer Breakfast

5 February 2015

We are shocked to learn that Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti has been invited to attend this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast (5th February), which is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The event will bring together guests from 50 states and more than 100 countries, including President Obama and the Dalai Lama. Baroness Cox, member of the House of Lords and CEO of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), says “It is outrageous to invite representatives of a Government currently carrying out genocidal policies to an event where the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated.

Mr Karti was previously head of the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), the militia responsible for brutal attacks on civilians across Sudan. He represents a regime which continues to systematically and brutally attack civilians, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Senior members of the regime, including President al-Bashir, have been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. President al-Bashir has been indicted for genocide for his actions in Darfur. These atrocities continue, not only in Darfur – where approximately 500,000 people were newly displaced in 2014 – but across the country.

The Government is currently targeting civilians in Blue Nile and South Kordofan with aerial bombardment, missile attacks and ground assaults on villages, schools, churches, mosques, hospitals, marketplaces, crops and livestock. They are also denying humanitarian assistance to around a million people who are desperately in need of aid.

Baroness Cox and a delegation from HART have just returned from a visit to Blue Nile State. We heard many accounts of attacks on civilians, particularly by Antonov cargo planes:

“Antonovs come even at night while people are asleep. The planes use searchlights to see where the people are so they can see where to bomb us. Now we have to be careful about using any light, even fires for cooking.”

“The Antonov came and threw two bombs. One of them fell amongst us. It killed one girl. It destroyed her head. It also killed Hashim – we did not see him, we only found his leg, all of his body was scattered.”

“The plane came in the morning and found the market full of people. It targeted the school and the Primary Health Care Unit, and threw bombs at the market. Six bombs fell here in the middle of the market. Many people were killed and injured. This is the grave of 16 people who died. People scattered, and the plane returned, flying much lower and killing three people who were trying to hide in the bush.”

These attacks are escalating: in December 2014, more than 450 bombs, rockets and artillery shells were dropped on civilian targets in South Kordofan – the most in a single month since the war began in 2011. Last month, the Sudanese Air Force targeted the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in the Nuba Mountains. The hospital had previously been targeted in June 2014.

It is a bitter irony to invite a representative of a regime currently carrying out systematic and brutal attacks against civilians to an event at which the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated. We call on all participants at the National Prayer Breakfast to publically denounce the human rights violations being carried out by the Government of Sudan, including the deliberate targeting of civilians.

***UPDATE: Mr Karti has been “uninvited” from the pre-breakfast meet and greet with administration officials; however, he is still invited to the breakfast.***

A public petition has been launched by Operation Broken Silence. The petition is addressed to Senator Robert Casey, Senator Roger Wicker and Douglas Coe, calling on them to rescind Mr Karti’s invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast. You can sign the petition here

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