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US CA Assembly vote urges govt to condemn Sudan for war crimes

4/5/2005 6:34pm

SACRAMENTO, California, Apr 3, 2005 (AP) -- Without opposition, the state Assembly Thursday urged the government of Sudan to condemn war crimes being sponsored by its state-run militia.

Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, said the resolution, which passed 72-0, would "send a message to the Sudanese government to stop the killings in Darfur."

The resolution, authored by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, also requests that Congress and President Bush take "all prudent and necessary steps" to ensure that the "crimes against humanity" are addressed at the highest level of the U.S. government.

The United Nations has described the civil war in Sudan's vast western region as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and both Congress and the Bush administration have called it genocide. Sudan's Arab-dominated government has attacked rebel groups in the Darfur region, displacing an estimated 1.8 million people, mostly Sudanese of African descent.

The resolution is one of two being considered by the Legislature regarding Sudan.

A vote is still pending on a resolution by Dymally urging California's $300 billion retirement funds for public employees to avoid investing in global companies that do business in Sudan.

If passed, it will make California's Assembly the second nationally to pressure giant state retirement funds to avoid investments that could aid the Sudanese government. The New Jersey Assembly passed such a resolution earlier this year, while backers say similar legislation is pending before the Arizona, Texas and Illinois legislatures.

The resolution is part of a national strategy by the Washington, D.C.-based Sudan Campaign, which aims to imitate the successful 1980s divestment campaign in which pension funds withdrew billions of dollars in investments from South Africa, which was then run by a whites-only government.

The $182.9 billion California Public Employees Retirement Fund, with 1.4 million members, says it has invested in 11 firms that did business in Sudan, but most appear to be very limited. The $125 billion California State Teachers Retirement Fund, with 750,000 members, said it has no direct investments in Sudan, but owns companies through passively managed index funds that do, including Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola Co. and Nestle.

Koretz's resolution now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

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