Spielberg, luminaries press Olympic China over Darfur

Society Materials 13 February 2008 03:41 (UTC +04:00)
Spielberg, luminaries press Olympic China over  Darfur

( AFP ) - US film maker Steven Spielberg Tuesday abandoned his role in the Beijing Olympics, as a host of prominent figures accused China of not doing enough to press its ally Sudan to end devastating violence in Darfur.

" Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering," Spielberg said in a statement.

"I have decided to formally announce the end of my involvement as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games."

In a separate move, Nobel Prize winners and Olympic athletes urged China's President Hu Jintao Tuesday to pressure Sudan to end atrocities in Darfur, as attention turns to this summer's games.

"As the primary economic, military and political partner of the government of Sudan, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a just peace in Darfur," the luminaries -- including Hollywood actresses Mia Farrow and Emma Thompson, African music legend Hugh Masekela -- wrote in a joint letter to Hu.

"Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people," the letter read.

The 25 signatories also included South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi -- both Nobel Peace Prize winners -- along with Olympic athletes, writers, actors and political figures from around the world.

The United Nations estimates some 200,000 people have died in the western Sudanese region from the combined effects of war, famine and disease since 2003, when a civil conflict erupted pitting government-backed Arab militias against non-Arab ethnic groups.

Pro-government Janjaweed militia began fierce retaliation after rebels took up arms to fight for a bigger share of the country's resources.

China is a major economic partner of Sudan, and its ties with Khartoum have been regarded as a sticking point in international efforts to pressure the Sudanese government to ease the crisis.

"Rape and sexual violence have been and continue to be used as weapons of war against untold numbers of girls and women," said the letter to Hu, released by the Save Darfur Coalition campaign group.

"The government of Sudan has also been involved in the forced relocation of people from refugee and internally displaced peoples camps. Without homes to return to those displaced are left vulnerable to further attack."

It urged China to support the deployment of an approved joint UN-African Union force to secure the region, which Khartoum is accused of blocking.

Spielberg said: "I have made repeated efforts to encourage the Chinese government to use its unique influence to bring safety and stability to the Darfur region of Sudan," in his statement.

"My conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he said.

"At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."