THE LANGUAGE of human rights flows smoothly from the lips of the leaders of France and Germany. But continuing Franco-German hegemony in Europe is bad news for human rights, especially for victims whose oppressors are European Union partners. Take, for example, the victims of the Sudanese government's genocidal jihad. In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, there is ''no greater tragedy on the face of the earth than the tragedy that is unfolding in the Sudan.''
For the past 20 years, the regime in Khartoum has bombed, starved, and enslaved black Southern Sudanese with impunity in an effort to subject them to Islamic rule. As a result, over two million black non-Muslims have perished. A further five million have been driven off their land.
Sudanese slaves -- mainly women and children -- are routinely beaten, raped, genitally mutilated, forced to convert to Islam and racially abused. The scale of this ''crime against humanity'' -- as slavery is identified in international law -- is enormous. Credible estimates of the number of Sudan's slaves range from tens of thousands to over 200,000.
For years, these atrocities were largely ignored by the international community. Only in the mid-1990s did the Clinton administration finally wake up to mounting evidence of Khartoum's sponsorship of international and domestic terrorism. The response was robust. The U.S. government declared Sudan to be a terrorist state. It sponsored strong resolutions at the UN Commission for Human Rights condemning Khartoum for slavery and a host of other crimes. Strict U.S. economic sanctions were imposed.
What did the Franco-German duo do? It led the EU in the opposite direction. France provided Khartoum with military intelligence for the prosecution of the jihad, while French and German helicopters have been used for ethnic cleansing in southern Sudan's oil fields. Driving black, non-Muslims out of their homes creates greater security for the investments of oil firms like Total Fina (France/Belgium) and the German engineering giant Mannesmann.
The Sudanese government's role in the revival of the country's once-dormant slave trade formed the greatest single political obstacle to legitimizing the EU's appeasement policy. France and Germany therefore spearheaded a UN whitewash of this crime against humanity. With the rest of the EU and their new East European satellite states in tow, they overcame American objections and easily persuaded the UN Commission on Human Rights to censor any use of the word ''slavery'' from official documents on Sudan and replace it with the euphemism ''abduction'' -- a lesser offense.
Why work against American policy? By the mid-1990s, Paris and Berlin had already laid the foundations for the cultural and economic integration of the EU with the Islamic states of North Africa and the Middle East.
The expansion of Franco-German hegemony over an area that approximates the bounds of the Roman Empire would fulfill the ambition to counter America, the only remaining superpower.
What little hope there is for Sudan's slaves comes mainly from New World democracy, not from the failed powers of the Old Europe. A broad left-right, black-white coalition, including such polar opposites as the conservative former Senator Jesse Helms and liberal US Representative Donald Payne -- a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has pushed the Bush administration to invest significant financial and political capital in the first credible Sudan peace initiative.
The Bush peace plan is underpinned by the tough language of the Sudan Peace Act, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress. It identifies slavery as one of the government of Sudan's many acts of ''genocide.'' This powerful legislation also combines the threat of prosecutions for slavery and other crimes against humanity with the possibility of massive US financial support for the armed opposition to Sudan's Islamist regime.
But there is another ray of hope. It comes from Central and Eastern Europe, whose populations recall the reality of tyranny. At the end of January, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic -- no longer fearful candidates in danger of having the Old Europe veto their entry into the EU -- threatened an end to Franco-German hegemony by siding with the United States and five other European countries to apply maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein's dangerous dictatorship and his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
This expression of independence in the east of Europe raises the specter of isolation for the dangerously illusionary policies of France and Germany. A strong human rights alliance between the United States and the freedom-loving countries of Europe will improve the chances of liberty for Sudan's slaves, for the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq, and for other victims of crimes against humanity, whatever their race, creed, or gender.