For Immediate Release
Rights Group Urges International Community to Press for Reinstatement of Aid Groups in Sudan,
Reject Attempts to Suspend Court Case Against Sudanese President
NEW YORK - In anticipation of a reported upcoming meeting of a delegation from the African Union ("AU") and the League of Arab States ("Arab League") with the UN Security Council, a leading human rights group is urging the international community to reject Sudanese president General Omar al-Bashir's attempt to leverage the fate of more than a million Darfuris to force the suspension of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) case against him.
In separate letters to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the heads of both the Arab League and the African Union, Human Rights First called on the international community to press the Sudanese government to rescind the order to halt the operations of 13 international aid organizations and three national agencies. The order was issued by al-Bashir immediately following news that the ICC had issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human Rights First rejected attempts to link the expulsion of the aid groups to the ICC's work in Sudan, arguing that the issues must remain separate.
"Peace will not be possible while the Government of Sudan is engineering a humanitarian emergency that will result in widespread human rights abuses," said Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First's CEO and Executive Director, in the letter to Secretary Clinton. "Khartoum's decision to expel aid workers from Sudan—and therefore renege on its responsibility to protect its civilians—reinforces the need for justice and accountability for crimes committed in Darfur at the highest levels of the Sudanese government."
Halting the operations of the sixteen aid organizations in Sudan could represent the most serious government assault on civilians in Darfur in years. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the expulsion of the aid groups will mean that 1.5 million beneficiaries will no longer have access to health and nutritional services. Water supply, sanitation and hygiene services provided by the aid agencies to more than a million people will soon be interrupted. General food distribution will also end to 1.1 million people, and the treatment of at least 4,000 children for severe and moderate malnutrition over the next three months could be interrupted. Furthermore, nineteen camps located in Darfur will immediately stop receiving non-food relief items such as cooking equipment and emergency shelter.
"By continuing to press for a deferral of General al-Bashir's case before the ICC in these circumstances, the Arab League and AU are running the risk of tacitly approving his latest action to put over a million vulnerable Sudanese at serious risk," Tad Stahnke, Human Rights First's director of policy and programs, wrote in his letter to Amre Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.
In its appeal to Secretary Clinton to bring U.S. influence to bear in ensuring that al-Bashirs attempt to "blackmail" the international community fails, Human Rights First urged the Secretary of State to take a number on concrete actions, including:
- Make clear to the African Union and the Arab League that the U.S. government will continue to block any efforts by members of the Security Council to defer the ICC proceedings against General al-Bashir.
- Continue to pressure the Government of Sudan to rescind its decision to halt the work of the sixteen NGOs and urge the AU, the Arab League, and Sudan's traditional allies on the Security Council—especially China, Russia and Libya—to do the same.
- Counter both publicly and privately any suggestions made by General al-Bashir's allies that the ICC is to blame for the Government of Sudan's decision to disrupt the life-saving assistance that the expelled NGOs provided to civilians in Sudan.
Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.