Washington, DC — Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today delivered the following statement at a press conference on human rights violations in Sudan hosted by the U.S.
Commission on International and Religious Freedom: We are surrounded today by photos which convey a dark but familiar story - Sudanese people, brutalized, marginalized and terrorized by their own government.
And yet, it seems this same regime has been afforded the privilege of legal representation in Washington by the Obama Administration.
Earlier this week, I was outraged to learn that the genocidal government of Sudan led by Omar Hassan Bashir, an internationally indicted war criminal, now has a lawyer, Mr. Bart Fisher, on retainer in Washington.
According to a news report in Africa Intelligence, Mr. Fisher was hired by Sudan with the express purpose of trying "to lift American sanctions against it." In documentation posted on the Department of Justice Web site, it appears that Mr. Fisher was granted a license by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at Treasury to provide this representation and that he plans to engage in political activities, among them, "Representations (including petitions) to U.S. government agencies regarding sanctions " If true, I am appalled that this has been permitted and I cannot help but wonder if Mr. Fisher's political contributions were a factor. The administration should reverse this approval. Martin Luther King famously said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." I can't help but wonder what the people of Sudan are thinking at this particular juncture when the administration struggles to find its voice on their behalf, while at the same time seemingly empowering the voice of their oppressors. Would we even dream of allowing Milosevic, Karadzic or Gaddafi to have representation in the nation's capital?
Bashir's crimes are well known and well documented. This is the same man that is accused by the International Criminal Court of five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, extermination, and two counts of war crimes. I have been to Sudan five times, including in July 2004 when Senator Sam Brownback and I were the first congressional delegation to go to Darfur. We spoke with women who had been raped just days earlier. The Arab janjaweed militias, armed by Khartoum, told these women that they wanted to make "lighter skinned babies." In addition to horrific human rights abuses and crimes committed by Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP), Sudan remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is well known that the same people currently in control in Khartoum gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990's. Moreover, Khartoum was a revolving door for Hamas and other designated terrorist groups.
But Bashir's crimes are not merely a thing of the past, as we will hear in greater detail today. At a recent Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on the crisis in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan, former Member of Congress and President of United to End Genocide, Tom Andrews, spoke about his experiences while visiting the region. He said that there were reports of, "Sudanese armed forces and their allied militias going door to door targeting people based upon their religion, and based upon the color of their skin." Let me repeat that: "People were being targeted for killing based upon their religion and the color of their skin." According to the USCIRF delegation that recently visited Sudan and met with refugees in Yida camp, all of the pastors with whom they spoke said they fled Southern Kordofan after learning that the Sudanese military was undertaking house searches for Christians and SPLM-N supporters. If this were happening in southern France, the world would be outraged. The world would take action. And yet, this story rarely appears above the fold of any newsper. We stand just blocks from a museum that cries out "Never Again." Meanwhile, it appears that this administration is complicit in allowing the genocidaire Bashir an advocate in Washington. Which begs the question, who lobbies for the people whose faces are represented in this room? Yesterday I wrote the president along with the departments of State, Treasury and Justice requesting immediate clarification about this matter and will continue to press them, just as I have done during previous administrations. I am submitting this correspondence and relevant information into the Congressional Record for all to see. We must not be silent in the face of this injustice.
If President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner stand by and allow this to happen, history will be their judge.