Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bashir using tactics to avoid arrest: ICC prosecutor

By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor has accused Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of abusing African hospitality and threatening the West as he seeks to avoid arrest on genocide charges.

Kenya chose not to arrest Bashir on the ICC charges when he visited the country on Friday for a ceremony marking the East African nation's new constitution.

The ICC, to which Kenya is signed up, accuses Bashir of war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died in a humanitarian crisis resulting from a counter-insurgency campaign.

Bashir denies the charges, saying they are part of a Western conspiracy.

"President Bashir is fighting for his freedom using different tactcs," ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in an interview on Saturday during a visit to London. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, August 27, 2010

Who Speaks for the UN on Darfur?” The Role of Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari

Darfur has never been so vulnerable to a collapse of humanitarian operations, never so insecure, and never so unprotected by the peacekeeping force that the UN has deployed. As the recent events at Kalma camp in South Darfur demonstrate, now is perhaps the last moment for decisive leadership on the part of the peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID. Kalma camp—one of the largest and most politicized of Darfur’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps—has been the focus of a three-week standoff that has seen a complete shutdown of humanitarian access and a brutal dispersal of much of this population of some 100,000 civilians to other camps and nearby villages. Further, an acute challenge to UN authority has been posed by officials of the National Congress Party regime in Khartoum, which has demanded that UNAMID surrender six Kalma IDPs who sought sanctuary at a UNAMID police center a month ago following an outbreak of violence.

As I noted in my most recent post on this politically fraught situation, there is a standoff: so far the UN has refused to yield to Khartoum’s demand, insisting that the regime guarantee that it will “[bring the six IDPs] to trial in accordance with international standards of justice.” Since such “standards of justice” prevail nowhere in northern Sudan—and least of all in Darfur—the UN has effectively boxed itself in. For Khartoum is adamant about the turnover of these IDPs, and its actions over the past two weeks have been ever more ominous. More than half the camp, some 50,000 people, has now fled in fear, many encountering violence. For its part, the regime has announced plans to dismantle the camp and remove the remaining IDPs to new (and of course unconstructed) camps.

So who is the voice of the UN in this crisis? Who is in charge of UNAMID? Who will make the final decision about whether or not to hand over the six IDPs purported to be politically responsible for violence in Kalma? Who will presume to weigh the consequences of such a turnover to Khartoum’s security officials, whose treatment of these people, we may be sure, will be brutal and not at all concerned with “fairness and due process of law”? Negotiations over a stand-down continue, but without a demonstration of UN leadership that has been nowhere in evidence in Darfur over the past six years, capitulation seems inevitable. Certainly all actors are aware that in the event of UN acquiescence, whichever local officials are nominally in charge of receiving the six IDPs, these civilians will certainly be turned over immediately to Military Intelligence, the most powerful regime presence in Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Disappearing Genocide

Last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant with additional charges against Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir: three counts of genocide in Darfur. It was an important historical moment. Never before had the court leveled genocide charges at a current head of state. But, for policy and opinion-makers in Washington, the event was merely a footnote lost among a host of other competing priorities.

That's because, two years after candidate Barack Obama criticized then-President Bush for a policy of “reward[ing] a regime in Khartoum that has a record of failing to live up to its commitments,” he has appointed a special envoy who is the very embodiment of such accommodation. Indeed, former Air Force General Scott Gration publicly complained in mid-July that the genocide charges would “make my mission more difficult.” In part as a consequence of such attitudes, the United States and much of the international community have been visibly incapable of responding effectively to the interlocking crises in Sudan. Their attention has been sliding from emergency to emergency—from the expulsion of humanitarian aid from Darfur in March 2009, to the frantic damage-control efforts during President Al Bashir 's fraudulent reelection campaign in April 2010 , to the multiple agreements that must be finalized before the January 2011 referenda on South Sudanese self-determination—and they have been outmaneuvered by a Sudanese regime that has successfully played these crises off each other. There's a very real chance that this state of affairs could have catastrophic repercussions for the north and the south, including a resumption of the country's civil war. And, in addition, there is a hidden cost: This lack of focus is producing terrible, perhaps permanent consequences for the people of Darfur.

Here's the situation there right now: Humanitarian indicators, especially in North Darfur, are ominous, particularly malnutrition levels ; yet both U.N. agencies and International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) refuse to speak about conditions candidly. In the wake of the March 2009 expulsions, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs no longer produces its comprehensive, detailed accounts of humanitarian conditions throughout Darfur. The 13 expelled international humanitarian organizations, which together provided approximately half the aid capacity in Darfur, have been only partially replaced; and the overall quality and capacity of aid operations remains much reduced. Malnutrition studies have been held hostage by Khartoum with no effective protest, despite the importance of such data for work in the field. Regime officials have demanded, and been granted, a role in the collection, analysis, and promulgation of humanitarian data—and have made clear they are willing to use their veto power if studies are judged too damning. And, most importantly, access for aid workers is at an all-time low, and shrinking rapidly, chiefly for lack of security.

The humanitarian community lives in fear following the expulsions, and rightly so. Two senior expatriate workers for the vital International Organization for Migration were recently expelled, apparently in retaliation for the ICC’s action last month, further reducing humanitarian capacity. The killing and abduction of humanitarians has continued to increase from already intolerable levels. And the U.N. peacekeeping mission that is supposed to be protecting them, UNAMID, is itself hamstrung by inadequate resources, a lack of trained personnel, poor morale, and brazen obstruction of its investigations by Khartoum's security forces. It has become the target of militia elements clearly aligned with the regime, and, at this point, 27 UNAMID peacekeeping personnel have been killed. Many others have been wounded and abducted. And there are questions as to whether UNAMID's mission can be sustained in light of harassment from Khartoum—even though withdrawal would lead to uncontrollable violence. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aid groups again denied access to Darfur camp

UNITED NATIONS — Sudanese authorities on Tuesday again prevented aid workers from entering a camp for 80,000 displaced people in South Darfur, a day after allowing a small group in for the first time in two weeks to deliver medicine and fuel to operate water pumps.

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said representatives of U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations wanted to return to Kalma Camp to further assess conditions and additional humanitarian needs but were denied access.

Tensions have been high at Kalma since late July, when demonstrations by opponents of peace talks with the government turned violent, leaving at least five people dead. The camp has a strong base of supporters of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, which is not taking part in talks in Doha, Qatar, aimed at ending the seven-year war in Darfur.

International aid workers travel to the camp every day, and when they arrived on Aug. 2 Sudanese authorities refused to let them enter and the ban was extended to local aid groups as well.

On Monday, several U.N. agencies and local aid groups working in Kalma were allowed in for the first time since then for a quick assessment.

The team visited different areas of the camp, finding parts empty after people fled following the recent tensions, said Samuel Hendricks, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan. They also delivered fuel for water pumps, which ran out of fuel last week, and medicine to one clinic.

Although aid workers have been barred from Kalma, the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force has stepped up patrols in the camp. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

More gunfire at Darfur camp, aid workers barred: UN

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - There was an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in Sudan's western Darfur region that has been the focus of a tense standoff between international peacekeepers and Khartoum, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

Sudan has demanded that U.N.-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur (UNAMID) hand over six Darfuris accused by Khartoum of instigating clashes in South Darfur's Kalma Camp in late July that killed at least five people. UNAMID has refused to do so.

"The situation in Kalma remains tense and insecure," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. "There were reports of gunfire overnight."

It was not clear who fired the shots, though there has been sporadic fighting between supporters of Darfur peace talks in Doha and those who oppose the talks.

The six had sought refuge with UNAMID, which says it will not hand them over to Sudan without proof of their crime or guarantees of a fair trial. U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said last week that UNAMID had asked Khartoum to drop the request for the six.Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On July 12 a three-judge panel of the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s brutal strongman, President Omar al-Bashir. The new charges are for three counts of genocide in Darfur, adding to the many counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for which al-Bashir was charged by the ICC in March 2009. These recent charges are without precedent in the pursuit of international justice. As the Washington Post noted, this was “the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.”

So what was the response of President Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, former Air Force General Scott Gration? “The decision by the ICC to accuse Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir of genocide will make my mission more difficult…” This seems an extraordinarily cynical response to a critical moment in the effort to end impunity for atrocity crimes, precisely the impunity that sustains human suffering and destruction in Darfur. So, we may wonder, just what is General Gration’s job that it is made “more difficult” by such action? How can these historic first steps, pursuing international justice in the wake of massive ethnically-targeted human destruction, make his task harder? And even if harder, what does Gration have to say to the millions of Darfuris who enthusiastically support the ICC and its actions against al-Bashir? Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Bashir threatens to expel UN

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has warned the United Nations mission in Darfur and foreign aid organisations to "support government authorities" or face expulsion.

"Any aid group or UN or African Union agency, even Unamid, their mandate is to support government authorities," Bashir told a gathering of Darfuri leaders in Khartoum on Saturday.

Unamid, the joint African Union and United Nations mission in Darfur, has more than 15,000 peacekeepers deployed in the region.

"I tell my brothers, the governors of Darfur, that anyone who exceeds these boundaries or their mandate can be expelled the same day," Bashir said.

Bashir's remarks come amid an ongoing dispute between the Sudanese government and Unamid over six people wanted by Khartoum. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sudan denies aid agencies access to Darfur camp

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudanese authorities have denied the U.N.'s humanitarian arm access to a Darfur refugee camp after an outbreak of violence, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Kalma camp is home to around 100,000 of the more than 2.5 million people displaced by fighting in the large region of western Sudan since 2003.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Samuel Hendricks said at least five people have died and thousands have fled the camp since demonstrations protesting peace talks turned deadly a week ago.

He said 5,000 people from the camp gathered for protection at a nearby community policing station, and many hundreds remain displaced inside the facility.

Talks were under way to persuade authorities to allow the agencies to go in and distribute aid, he said.

"All we can do is keep talking to authorities," Hendricks told the Associated Press.

He said that other humanitarian agencies have tried to get into the Kalma camp but failed. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Oumou SANGARE - Ko Sira