World News

Sudan Arrest Warrant: Aid Organizations Kicked Out Of Country

UPDATE: 4 pm

Sudan revoked the licenses of 10 aid organizations working in the country after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir today, Oxfam International told the Huffington Post.

The humanitarian organizations include Oxfam Great Britain, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland, Norwegian Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Save the Children UK, CARE International, Action Against Hunger, Charity Housing Foundation and Solidarite, said Oxfam spokesperson Louis Belanger.

Oxfam is appealing the decision and "working very hard to convince the government of our impartiality and the good nature of our work," Belanger said. This only affects Oxfam's license in northern Sudan, he said.

There is confusion among the organizations about who needs to leave and when.

A press release from Penny Lawrence, Oxfam's International Director, said:

"If Oxfam GB's registration is revoked, it will affect more than 600,000
Sudanese people whom we provide with vital humanitarian and development aid, including clean water and sanitation on a daily basis. 400,000 of them are affected by the ongoing conflict in Darfur - where people continue to flee from violence and the humanitarian needs remain enormous. It will also affect another 200,000 poor people in the east of the country and Khartoum state,"

Oxfam GB has operated in northern Sudan since 1983 and currently has 450 staff, 90% of whom are Sudanese. Oxfam is an independent, impartial non-governmental organisation, with absolutely no links to the ICC. Oxfam does not have an opinion on the Court's activities, and our sole focus is meeting humanitarian and development needs in Sudan.

Reuters reports that this is the first sign of "repercussions" after the Bashir indictment.

The move -- which effectively freezes the agencies' work -- was the first concrete sign of repercussions against international groups after the global court indicted Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Sudanese government officials have in the past threatened to take action against Darfur-based aid groups they say are passing evidence on to the global court's prosecutor -- accusations the agencies deny.

From earlier:

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday, reports the AP.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He is the first sitting head of state the court has ordered arrested.

The three-judge panel said there was insufficient evidence to support charges of genocide in a war in which up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

"He is suspected of being criminally responsible ... for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property," court spokeswoman Laurence Blairon said.

Human Rights Watch released a statement saying this sends a clear warning to abusive leaders. Executive Director Kenneth Roth says an indictment is "delegitimizing." Watch here:

Sudan rejected the court's decision and called it part of a "neo-colonialist" plan, reports Al Jazeera English.

"They do not want Sudan ... to become stable," Mustafa Osman Ismail, an adviser to the Sudanese president, said.

"The court is only one mechanism of neo-colonialist policy used by the West against free and independent countries."

Thousands of Sudanese protested the court's decision on Wednesday, reports AFP. Embassies asked their citizens to stay inside, and some UN staff were told to leave work early, it reports.

Security was beefed up around foreign embassies amid fear of reprisals by Beshir supporters, while diplomats urged expatriates to avoid public places and stock up on essential supplies.

Ahead of the announcement by the ICC of the unprecedented warrant against a sitting head of state for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, the Sudanese army broadcast a stark warning on state radio against anyone trying to exploit the court's decision.

"The armed forces will firmly deal with whoever cooperates with the so-called International Criminal Court, and uses it as a platform for political blackmail and for destabilising the security and stability of the country," spokesman Osman al-Aghbash said.

Sudanese media predicted that Wednesday's demonstration in the capital would be followed by larger rallies in Beshir's northern power base later in the week.

Hamas also condemned the arrest warrant.

Spokesman Taher Nunu said that the decision was unjust. Speaking in Gaza, he called the court's move "political" and said the Islamic group voiced its "solidarity" with al-Bashir and the Sudanese people.

Al Jazeera English also reports that the ICC has no power to enforce the arrest warrant and must rely on Sudan to comply.

"The court doesn't have a police force and therefore relies on those countries who have signed up to the court ... to use their power and their police forces to make the arrest," Stuart Alford, of the war crimes committee at the International Bar Association, said.

"As long as he is president and retains power within his borders ... it will be practically difficult to enforce his arrest," he told Al Jazeera.

Moreno-Ocampo said Sudan was obliged under international law to carry out the arrest on its territory.

"If it does not, the UN Security Council will need to ensure compliance," he said.

Bashir reacted to the expected announcement yesterday by telling the court to "eat it," reports the Guardian.

Bashir, who will become the first head of state sought by the permanent court, made a defiant speech in front of thousands of people who burnt an effigy of the ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, yesterday.

"They will issue their decision tomorrow ... this coming decision, they can prepare right now: they can eat it [the warrant]," said Bashir at the opening of the Merowe hydroelectric dam in northern Sudan.

Check out the Guardian's profile of the Sudanese leader.

The son of a farmer, Omar al-Bashir was born in 1944 in Hoshe Bannaga, which then formed part of the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan. After completing secondary school, he studied at the national military academies in Cairo and then Khartoum, where he graduated in 1966.

Rising swiftly through the ranks, he became a paratrooper and fought in the Egyptian army in the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973. He served at least one tour in the south in the early years of the civil war against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The Save Darfur campaign is working to lobby the U.S. government and the United Nations Security Council to ensure that Sudanese are protected in the wake of the arrest warrant. The organization has released a video showing a Darfuri reaction to the arrest warrant.

UN Dispatch is collecting international responses to today's announcement.

Reuters has a timeline of the ICC's involvement in Darfur.

And the Council on Foreign Relations has a multi-media crisis guide on the conflict in Darfur.