The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European media

March 5, 2023

New York Times: Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Sudan's Leader. Judges at the International Criminal Court ordered the arrest Wednesday of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan for atrocities committed in Darfur, but Sudanese officials swiftly retaliated, ordering Western aid groups that provide for millions of people to shut down their operations and leave. After months of deliberation, the judges charged Mr. Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity for playing an "essential role" in the murder, rape, torture, pillage and displacement of large numbers of civilians in Darfur. But many human rights groups and Darfur exiles saluted the judges' decision. Niemat Ahmadi, of the Save Darfur Coalition, called the warrant a lifeline for those living in camps. "It will change the mood of frustration and helplessness for our people," Ms. Ahmadi said.

Washington Post: Sudan Ousts Aid Groups After Court Pursues President. Reacting swiftly to the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the government of Sudan on Wednesday expelled at least 10 foreign aid groups that provide food, water, medical care and other assistance to more than a million displaced people in the western Darfur region, according to U.N. officials and aid workers. The expulsions were part of the Sudanese government's dismissive response to charges that Bashir used the instruments of state to direct the mass murder of tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians in Darfur during the past six years. The Sudanese government never allowed the prosecutor inside Darfur to investigate. The court charged Bashir with crimes that included "murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring" large numbers of civilians and looting their property, Blairon said. The decision "is a game-changing moment," said Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition. "The international community must capitalize on the pressure this decision has brought to bear on Bashir and his regime -- and must ensure Khartoum can no longer continue with business as usual."

The following editorial appeared in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. 

A chance for Darfur

'They can eat it!" That's what Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said the International Criminal Court could do with the arrest warrant it has issued for his alleged crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.

Bashir can afford to be dismissive of the ICC indictment, at least for now. After all, the court has no deputies to carry out an arrest. So long as Bashir remains in charge in his own country or visits only other nations friendly to him, he will be free.

The court had plenty of evidence to make its decision Wednesday. It said Bashir retaliated against a 2003 rebel movement by encouraging Arab militias, supported by Sudanese troops, to rape, maim, murder, and evict blacks in Darfur.

The bloody campaign over a five-year period left more than 300,000 people dead and nearly three million forcibly removed from their homes. The three-person ICC tribunal rejected charging Bashir with genocide, but that's an accurate description of the brutality he evoked.

Jerry Fowler, president of the Washington-based Save Darfur organization, hailed the arrest warrant as a "window of opportunity." He urged President Obama to use the court's decision as the impetus to appoint a full-time U.S. envoy for peace in Sudan.

Obama's response could reverse the previous administration's general disdain for the ICC. The Clinton administration signed the 1998 treaty establishing the court, but former President George W. Bush withdrew the signature. The United States is the only Western power not among the ICC's 108 member nations.

As his presidency neared its end, even Bush's hard heart toward the ICC was softened by the plight of the suffering Darfuris. His administration supported proceeding with the Bashir case. It took seven months for the ICC to reach a decision.

No one really knows what comes next. This is the first time the ICC has indicted a sitting head of state. There is a United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan, but it has no authority to arrest Bashir - and he clearly won't surrender.

There are understandable fears that the arrest warrant might backfire and worsen matters. It could intensify Sudanese support for their leader, who would no longer feel motivated to negotiate a peace agreement with the Darfuris. Or it could make Bashir vulnerable and lead to his ouster by someone worse.

But it's hard to argue with the ICC's decision. It did what every criminal court must do: consider the facts and issue the appropriate judgment. The ICC has said there is strong evidence that Bashir's actions led to the rape and murder of thousands. If he wants to argue otherwise, the opportunity is available.

All the Sudanese president has to do is turn himself in for trial.

The following op-ed by Nicholas Kristof appeared in today's New York Times. 

A President, a Boy and Genocide

When the International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrant for Sudan's president on Wednesday, an 8-year-old boy named Bakit Musa would have clapped -- if only he still had hands.

I met Bakit a couple of weeks ago in eastern Chad, near the border of Darfur. He and two friends had found a grenade left behind in fighting after Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, armed and dispatched a proxy force to wreak havoc in Chad. The boys played with the grenade, and it exploded, taking both of Bakit's hands, one eye and the skin on half of his face.

So Bakit became, inadvertently, one more casualty of the havoc and brutality that President Bashir has unleashed in Sudan and surrounding countries. Other children laugh at him, so Bakit plays by himself in the dust on the outskirts of a huge camp for people displaced by Mr. Bashir.

One of Mr. Bashir's first actions after the arrest warrant was to undertake yet another crime against humanity: He expelled major international aid groups, including the International Rescue Committee and the Dutch section of Doctors Without Borders. In effect, he is now preparing to massacre the Darfuri people in still another way, for Darfuris are living in camps and depend on aid workers for food, water and health care -- even as deadly meningitis has broken out in one of the camps.

"The consequences are going to be dire," notes George Rupp, the president of the International Rescue Committee, on which 1.75 million Sudanese depend for water, sanitation, education and health care. "If Sudan persists in this decision, it's difficult to see how the outcome will be anything other than serious suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of people."

Mr. Bashir is now testing the international community, and President Obama and other world leaders must respond immediately and decisively, in conjunction with as many non-Western nations as possible.

The first step is to insist that aid groups be reinstated immediately to prevent this genocide in slow motion. A second step could be to destroy one of Mr. Bashir's military planes with a warning that if he takes his genocide to a new level by depriving Darfuris of food and medical care, he will lose the rest of his air force.

Yet it's also important to understand that Mr. Bashir engages in a consistent pattern of destruction and slaughter, not because he is a sadistic monster, but because he is a calculating pragmatist.

Mr. Bashir saw early in his career that atrocities can constitute an effective policy -- shooting villagers and gang-raping women is quite useful to depopulate rural areas, thereby denying support to rebel militias. Best of all from Mr. Bashir's perspective, there's no downside as long as the international community averts its eyes or backs down. His aim in expelling aid groups is apparently to divide the international community and to try to force the United Nations Security Council to delay International Criminal Court proceedings.

Mr. Bashir assumes, not unreasonably, that he can get away with it. That culture of impunity is what the I.C.C. arrest warrant may begin to change. It is one way of attaching costs to systematic brutality, and thus to change the calculations of pragmatists like Mr. Bashir in Sudan and elsewhere.

So now President Obama and other leaders -- hello, Gordon Brown, you there? -- need to back up the I.C.C. arrest warrant and push to reverse the expulsion of aid workers, while working with Arab countries like Qatar that want to help.

Intriguingly, Khartoum is full of rumors that the handful of leaders just below Mr. Bashir are thinking of throwing him overboard to save themselves. We can encourage that by making it clear that Sudan will pay a price if the killings continue.

We also must call on China to stop training the military pilots used by Mr. Bashir to strafe villages, and to stop supplying weapons and spare parts to Sudan as long as Mr. Bashir is in office. There are precedents: China was a strong supporter of the Khmer Rouge and of Slobodan Milosevic, but distanced itself from both when they came under the spotlight for genocide.

President Obama could also announce that from now on, when Sudan violates the U.N. ban on offensive military flights in Darfur by bombing villagers, we will afterward destroy a Sudanese military aircraft on the ground in Darfur (we can do this from our base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa).

I won't pretend that we can end all genocides. But we can attach enough costs so that it is no longer in a leader's interests to dispatch militias to throw babies into bonfires. The I.C.C. arrest warrant marks a wobbly step toward accountability and deterrence.

So let's applaud the I.C.C.'s arrest warrant, on behalf of children like Bakit who can't.

The following op-ed by Merrill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener appeared in today's Washington Post.  

Grounding Sudan's Killers

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was predictably defiant yesterday in response to the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an order for his arrest because of his war in Sudan's western Darfur region. More than four years ago, the United States correctly called Khartoum's action in Darfur "genocide." But the Bush administration did nothing to stop the killings. Now this ongoing nightmare competes with the ailing economy for U.S. attention. But prioritizing Darfur would make clear that the Obama administration can rally international cooperation to resolve thorny security problems.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice have all advocated a more engaged and effective policy to end the suffering in Darfur. They have also agreed that creating a no-fly zone over the region would change the dynamic on the ground.

Yet this proposal made little progress after humanitarian organizations protested. The groups feared that they would lose access to refugees or that aid workers and the civilians they were trying to help would be subject to reprisals. Many hoped that diplomatic negotiations would draw in the Sudanese government and lead to a political solution. Sadly, instead of taking decisive action, the international community has given Darfur refugees the palliatives of a sputtering aid effort and a U.N.-African Union "hybrid force" -- itself a sop to Bashir, who refused to countenance a proper force as mandated by the U.N. Security Council.

Not surprisingly, the humanitarian situation has worsened. The issue of what to do is reminiscent of the misguided effort to hold off forceful intervention in Bosnia in the early 1990s. After 3 1/2 bloody years in which 100,000 people were killed and millions displaced, we ultimately saw that more vigorous action was needed to end that conflict. The same conclusion holds now for Darfur, where the death toll is at least double that of Bosnia (and may be much greater). The arrest warrant the ICC issued yesterday makes clear Bashir's responsibility as leader of the country and director of the mayhem in the Darfur region. His expulsion of 10 aid organizations in response to the warrant makes his lack of concern for his citizens' welfare abundantly clear.

Air power plays a central role in Bashir's military strategy, so establishing a no-fly zone remains the most promising initiative to halt the atrocities in Darfur. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Hillary Clinton acknowledged that such a proposal was under consideration. As a practical matter, imposing control over Sudanese airspace must involve NATO and European Union allies, in particular France, which has a suitable airfield at Abeche, in eastern Chad. Allied air forces could and should provide much of the force structure, principally fighter aircraft, but a U.S. contribution -- especially of aerial refuelers and command-and-control aircraft -- would be essential. About a squadron of each type of aircraft would be more than enough to end the impunity Sudanese military aviation now enjoys.

By taking away the Sudanese government's freedom to use air power to terrorize its population, the West would finally get enough leverage with Khartoum to negotiate the entry of a stronger U.N. ground force. Effective military action in the form of a no-fly zone would not preclude a political resolution, as some suggest, but in fact would make diplomacy more effective by reducing Bashir's options.

Bashir has strung the international community along in a way that the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic would have envied. A no-fly zone is the best way to turn the conflict to his disadvantage. President Obama has vowed to act multilaterally, where possible, to build real, consensus solutions to international security problems. Decisive international action in Darfur may present the best opportunity to demonstrate this resolve.

Gen. Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak served as Air Force chief of staff from 1990 to 1994 and co-chaired Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Kurt Bassuener is a senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council.

The Darfur Daily News is a service of the Save Darfur Coalition. To subscribe to the Daily News, please email [email protected]. For media inquiries, please contact Ashley Roberts at (202) 478-6181, or [email protected].



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