Millions face starvation and disease as aid agencies are expelled from Darfur
More than two million people in Darfur face the risk of starvation and disease following yesterday's decision by the Sudanese government to expel more than 10 aid agencies, including Oxfam, Care, Save the Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres. The expulsions came soon after a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Several other aid agencies had their assets seized. “Millions of lives are at stake and this is no time to play political games,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme. “These aid agencies provide the bulk of the humanitarian aid required by more than two million vulnerable people.” Under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, which Sudan has ratified, the Sudanese government is obliged to refrain from actions that violate the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens and seek international assistance if they are unable to carry out their obligations. “By expelling humanitarian agencies, the Sudanese government is effectively holding the entire civilian population of Darfur hostage – an aggressive act that must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the African Union, the League of Arab States and the international community as a whole,” said Tawanda Hondora “The population of Darfur, which has suffered the brunt of this conflict for the past six years, is now being punished by its own government in response to the arrest warrant.” The military strategy employed by all sides to the six-year conflict in Darfur has left more than 300,000 people dead and more than 2.2 million displaced. “The Sudanese authorities must immediately reverse their decision to expel and suspend the operations of key humanitarian aid agencies immediately and allow them to carry on with their life-saving work. The alternative is simply unthinkable,” said Tawanda Hondora. The African Union (AU) held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the arrest warrant. The League of Arab States convened yesterday and expressed its solidarity with President al Bashir. Amnesty International urged the Peace and Security Council of the AU to hold a special hearing to look at the question of access, with a view to ensuring the return of humanitarian agencies to Darfur. “Like any country, Sudan has responsibilities under international humanitarian law to ensure access to international assistance by people who need it. The existence of an arrest warrant for the country’s president is entirely irrelevant to the issue,” said Tawanda Hondora.