Video: Clooney, Wiesel appeal to U.N.

updated 9/15/2006 8:45:29 AM ET 2006-09-15T12:45:29

Actor George Clooney on Thursday warned the U.N.’s most powerful body that if it did not send peacekeepers to Sudan’s Darfur region, millions would die in the first genocide of the 21st century.

Clooney and his journalist father Nick Clooney spent five days in Darfur in April, gathering personal stories of the death and suffering that have ravaged the African region. Both have worked since their return to publicize the plight of the people there.

The mandate of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur expires at the end of the month and the Sudanese government has rejected their replacement by a U.N. force. If U.N. forces are not sent to replace them, George Clooney warned the U.N. Security Council all aid workers would leave and the 2.5 million refugees who depend on them would die.

“After September 30, you won’t need the U.N. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and headstones,” the Oscar-winning actor said.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict and more than 2 million have fled their homes since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government.

“The United States has called it genocide,” Clooney told council members. “For you, it’s called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake — it is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked, it will not be the last.”

Clooney was addressing the Security Council at an informal briefing organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which recently set up a Darfur Commission of Nobel laureates.

Wiesel: ‘Remember Rwanda’
“You are the last political recourse of Darfur victims, and you can stop it,” Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in his own appeal to council members. He echoed Clooney’s plea for the council to send peacekeepers.

“Remember Rwanda,” Wiesel said. “I do. Six hundred thousand to 800,000 human beings were murdered. We know then as we know now they could have been saved and they were not.”

He said it was terrible the U.N. let the 1994 killings in Rwanda happen and urged the U.N. to “restore its honor” by taking action in Darfur.

“If the Security Council does not act, it will be blamed for history,” Wiesel told The Associated Press in an interview earlier on Thursday.

A May peace agreement signed by the government and one of the major rebel groups in Darfur was supposed to help end the conflict. Instead, it has sparked months of fighting between rival rebel factions that brought more death and displacement.

Sudan is resisting attempts by the U.N. to take over a 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force that has been unable to stop the violence in the western Darfur region.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has said the change in peacekeepers would violate the country’s sovereignty and has warned his army would fight any U.N. forces sent to Darfur.

Rally in New York
“The fact is, Bashir is a war criminal... I think he should be warned that if he does not stop, he will be accused of crimes against humanity,” Wiesel said.

The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 170 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations, has organized a rally in New York’s Central Park on Sunday. There will also be dozens of other events across the United States and around the world.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council will meet Monday in New York — just before this year’s U.N. General Assembly speeches — to discuss breaking the deadlock in Darfur.

Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

“Because we went through that period of suffering and humiliation, we must do something so that other people should not go through any suffering and humiliation,” he said.

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