- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hollywood actor George Clooney on Wednesday accused the Sudanese government of committing war crimes in a mountainous border region, which he and U.S. officials said was teetering dangerously on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Clooney, who returned this week from a trip to Sudan, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he witnessed aerial bombardments by Sudanese forces that sent civilians scurrying to take shelter in caves in the Nuba Mountains.

He described seeing children’s bodies filled with shrapnel and meeting a 9-year-old boy who had had both his hands blown off when 15 bombs were dropped on a village.

“It is a campaign of murder and fear and displacement and starvation,” said Mr. Clooney, who has been campaigning for the past decade to highlight the human tragedy in Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein and former Interior Minister Ahmed Mohammed Haroun have been indicted by the International Criminal Court over war crimes in Sudan’s western state of Darfur.

Actor George Clooney (right) responds March 14, 2012, to questions at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Sudan and South Sudan. To his right are John Prendergast (center), co-founder of Satellite Sentinel Project and Enough Project, and Jonathan Temin, director of the United States Institute of Peace's Sudan program. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
Actor George Clooney (right) responds March 14, 2012, to questions at the ... more >

“And now they are proving themselves to be the greatest war criminals of this century, by far,” Mr. Clooney said.

The United Nations estimates that more than half a million people have been forced to flee or have been severely affected by the fighting between the Sudanese military and southern rebels in the states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.

Both states abut the border with South Sudan, which became independent in July. Southern rebels who remained in the north after July have been involved in a war with Sudanese forces.

Princeton N. Lyman, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, called on the Sudanese government to end the bombardments immediately and allow unrestricted humanitarian access to civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Testifying before the Senate committee, he said the government of South Sudan also must halt all military, economic and logistical support for armed groups that seek to overthrow Lt. Gen. Bashir’s government.

Gen. Bashir is expected travel to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, for a meeting with President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The proposed meeting, expected to take place within the next two weeks, is an attempt to defuse tensions that have erupted between the neighbors.

Mr. Lyman welcomed Gen. Bashir’s decision to visit Juba but was cautiously optimistic about the prospects of a breakthrough.

“The two countries decided to step back from the brink. They looked at each other and said, ‘We are going in the wrong direction,<k20>’<k$>” Mr. Lyman said.

“We have seen these recommitments before. So while we take a great deal of hope from them, a lot will depend on what happens over the next several weeks,” he added.

The meeting in Juba likely will focus on two issues: the protection of southerners living in the north and northerners in the south, and the demarcation of borders between the two countries.

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