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Presbyterian Church of Sudan Appeals Genocide Case In US

By Stefan J. Bos

3/17/07 Sudan (BosNewsLife)– Backed by American advocacy groups and Christian leaders the Presbyterian Church of Sudan is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against Canada ‘s main energy company and the Sudanese government for allegedly aiding genocide in their pursuit for oil exploration and power, BosNewsLife established Saturday, March 17.

In September last year US District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan , New York , also denied the plaintiffs the opportunity to amend their lawsuit against Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc., Canada ‘s biggest independent oil and gas exploration and production company.

“The plaintiffs have failed to locate admissible evidence that Talisman has violated international law,” Cote wrote in her decision at the time. “The plaintiffs repeatedly describe ‘Talisman’ as having done this or that, when the examination of the sources to which they refer reveals that it is some other entity or an employee of some other company that acted.”

The lawsuit, which sought unspecified damages, was brought in 2001 by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan on behalf of current and former residents of southern Sudan who allegedly

suffered injuries during six years of a decades-long conflict in the region.


A civil trial had been scheduled to begin in January accusing Talisman of joining the Sudanese government in ethnic cleansing, killings, war crimes, confiscation of property, enslavement, kidnapping and rape.

In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, the Washington DC-based Institute on Religion and

Democracy (IRD) said it had joined nine other groups and Christian leaders to help the Presbyterian Church of Sudan “to appeal its case at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.”

Other signers of the brief include Christian Solidarity International-USA, the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, the Family Research Council, the Renew Network, Servant’s Heart , Sudan Advocacy Action Forum , Sudan Sunrise , the Sudan Ministry of the Trinity Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and retired Episcopal Bishop of Quincy, Keith L. Ackerman.

Yet, the lawsuit presents complex issues of international law and the reach of the Alien Tort Claims Act, Judge Cote said earlier in published remarks. The obscure 1789 law originally was enacted to prosecute pirates but has been used since 1980 by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured under despotic foreign regimes. More recently, it has been invoked against multinational corporations, including Chevron Corp. over alleged abuses in Nigeria , according to media reports.


However, “we take no position on the technical legal issues that may decide this case,” said Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director of the IRD’s Religious Liberty Program and its Church Alliance for a New Sudan. “But we do want to make the Khartoum government and Talisman which partnered with that government from 1998 to 2003, during the height of the genocide answer for their actions.”

McDonnell said it is important “to stand with the people of Southern Sudan and the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, and to document the atrocities, religious persecution, and Islamic jihad committed” by the Sudanese government.

Human rights groups say that the policy of forced Islamization launched by the government based in northern Sudan resulted in “virtual genocide” of non-Muslim Sudanese peoples including many Christians, in especially the southern part of the troubled nation.

“Our brother and sister Christians, practitioners of traditional Nilotic religion, and Muslims who opposed the imposition of Shari’a [or Islamic law] paid a terrible price. Over two million died, and five million were displaced, through Khartoum ‘s bombardment of civilian targets, scorched earth policies, government-orchestrated famine, revival of slavery, and other human rights violations,” McDonell added.


In at least one case during the alleged genocide campaign, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reported that the Sudanese government has used “bombers, helicopter gunships and artillery against unarmed civilians” to facilitate and protect oil production by Talisman and its partners.

Talisman, which has denied involvement in human rights abuses, had a 25 percent stake in the project along with state petroleum corporations of China and Malaysia , Canadian media reported.

In one incident villages on the eastern edge of Heglig – where Talisman has drilling rigs – were allegedly attacked and burned to the ground by the Sudanese army, causing the displacement of 1,000 to 2,000 civilians.

“We want to do what we can to afford Sudanese Christians the opportunity to testify to the egregious human rights violations and persecution which they endured,” McDonnell said. “In Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains , Khartoum perfected the genocide being prosecuted against the African Muslim people from the Darfur region of western Sudan today.”