For Immediate Release: March 5, 2009
New York – Human Rights First decries the Government of Sudan’s decision yesterday to revoke the operating licenses for several humanitarian aid organizations in Sudan. The Sudanese government’s actions come on the heels of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, General Omar al-Bashir, who stands accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The expulsion of aid groups from Sudan threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of civilians in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. The Government of Sudan has a responsibility to protect civilians residing within its borders. Khartoum’s decision to expel aid organizations whose work sustains the lives of civilians in Sudan could not be more antithetical to this imperative.
“It is outrageous that the Government of Sudan has expelled aid agencies in apparent retaliation for the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for General al-Bashir. Such actions only strengthen the need for justice and accountability at the highest levels of the Sudanese government,” stated Julia Fromholz, Interim Director of the Crimes Against Humanity Program.
For months the Government of Sudan has mounted a robust campaign to pressure the Security Council to defer the proceedings before the ICC against General al-Bashir. The decision to expel aid groups appears to be Khartoum’s latest tactic to compel the Council to defer the proceedings against General al-Bashir now that a warrant for his arrest has been issued.
“What we are seeing in Sudan is a head of state – who is now an accused war criminal -taking dramatic measures to assert his authority and scare away efforts to hold him accountable for the gross crimes his government has committed in Darfur,” stated Fromholz. “He knows that all other heads of state indicted by international tribunals have lost legitimacy and ended up in a courtroom dock to answer for their crimes.”
The organization cautions that it would be a serious mistake for the Security Council to defer General al-Bashir’s case before the ICC in exchange for aid groups regaining entry into Sudan. Doing so would send the damaging signal that the international community is willing to bow to the demands of a wanted war criminal.
Human Rights First calls on the Security Council and the African Union to condemn in the strongest possible terms Khartoum’s decision to expel aid groups from Sudan and demand that the expulsion orders be rescinded without conditions. The organization further urges Sudan