Celebrating Moral Victory in Sudan

How can anyone be unhappy about the International Criminal Court’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashirs of Sudan?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has finally earned his day of infamy: On March 4, he became the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the fledgling International Criminal Court . He joins Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, Charles Taylor of Liberia, and Jean Kambanda of Rwanda as heads of state subject to international justice for their international crimes. The fact that al-Bashir – sitting at the apex of a corrupt and brutally repressive state – is being prosecuted internationally is more important than the outcome of any particular charge in the indictment.   [more]

Well, some in the human rights community are not so happy and for good reason:

… at least five of the NGOs asked to leave Sudan have been UNHCR implementing partners carrying out important humanitarian programmes in Darfur but also Blue Nile State and Khartoum State. So it is noteworthy that this could have an impact not only on Darfur, but on vulnerable people elsewhere in the country.

We also have to be concerned at the possible implications this could have more broadly in the region. Our experience shows that when vulnerable populations are unable to get the help they need, they go elsewhere in search of protection and assistance. If food can’t get through to people, for example, then those people will soon suffer and have to look elsewhere.

 With some 4.7 million Sudanese – including 2.7 million internally displaced – already receiving assistance in Darfur, we are very concerned over the prospect of new population movements in the region should the fragile aid lifeline inside Sudan be disrupted. There are also 40,000 Chadian refugees in West Darfur.

Our work for internally displaced people as part of the UN team in Darfur has helped IDPs stay as close to home as possible while also relieving pressure on neighbouring Chad, where UNHCR and its partners are already caring for nearly 250,000 refugees from Darfur in a string of 12 remote camps spread over 600 kms near the Sudan border. These isolated camps and the remote communities surrounding them are already struggling to provide the basics needed to sustain 250,000 refugees. In addition, there are some 180,000 internally displaced persons in eastern Chad.

 Any influx to Chad would be an additional challenge for UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies because of ongoing insecurity and instability in the country, as well as limited resources such as water.

Moral victories can’t be celebrated by people who are starving to death and dying of thirst.

Others think Western support is simply hypocritical:

Criminals, including international ones, must be put behind bars, but the world is known to have put off justice “in the name of peace.” Unfortunately, this tolerance allows many people, in particular in conflict-ridden Africa and Asia, to think they should wait, close their eyes to crimes, unless they want to face difficult “consequences.”

This faulty reasoning is based on confrontation between the ethics of principles and the ethics of consequences. But it cannot be abandoned outright because it developed long ago and has become a fixture in international relations. All major players in the West use it selectively, when and if it suits them, which is unfair.

UPDATE:  Hmmmmmm.  From Rob Crilly at the Al Salaam Camp, North Darfur –

Aid officials warn that a humanitarian emergency is in danger of becoming a disaster. The move has put the supply of food to 1.1 million people in doubt, as the UN’s World Food Programme scrambles to find lorries to deliver sacks of grain. It had been using four of the expelled charities to get food to people in need. Outside the hospital – run by the International Rescue Committee until it was ordered out – a mother brushed flies from the face of her daughter. “My baby is sick,” Fatima Abdulrahmen said. “She has a fever and I brought her here and now I don’t know what to do. Who will help me now?”

The people who should be helping – the staff of 13 international charities including Oxfam, Médicins sans Frontières and Care – were boarding flights to the capital, Khartoum.

[..]

In El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, government officials began the process of seizing millions of pounds in assets belonging to the charities. Men with dark glasses and clipboards arrived at the Oxfam office to begin itemising equipment. They left with laptops, desktop computers and satellite phones, choking off communication. There was a similar scene at the French agency Action Contre La Faim. “We are due to start distributing food to the camps in a fortnight,” one worker said. “Who else is going to do this and stop people starving? Words cannot describe what is happening.”

Charities reported that their bank accounts were being frozen. Doctors with Médicins sans Frontières were trying to contain two deadly outbreaks of meningitis before being expelled. Their clinics have closed.

It’s all here

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