Sudan: Justice and Hunger
The expulsions of humanitarians are a catastrophe for the victims of the Darfur war, a fact upon which Luis Moreno Ocampo might well reflect given the requirement of the Rome Statute that prosecutions be in the interests of victims. If he wanted to indict President Bashir–a reversal, by the way, of his initial thinking–why did it have to be now? What was the hurry? UNAMID is not yet at full strength and its protection capacity is modest. The biggest NGOs in Darfur, whose mere presence has at times served the war-displaced well, are now gone–and with them the witness they were able to bear as well as the food and medicines and water they provided. What can be more unjust than further, unnecessary suffering for Darfurians? The Sudan government is constantly looking for pretexts to cripple humanitarian work, seeing all around it a conspiracy to aid and abet the ICC, and Moreno Ocampo’s retributive justice has played right into its hands. He calls Bashir a genocidal dictator (language that does not encourage cooperation or moderation in Khartoum). Did he really think he would submit tamely when threatened with life imprisonment in The Hague?
With at least 13 organisations expelled, 60% of all humanitarian assistance in Darfur will disappear in a matter of days. All international actors are gone from Kalma camp, with its population of 90,000, many of whom have been displaced multiple times. If the government makes another attempt to break the camp up, who will protect the IDPs from militias as they go, wherever they go?
Worse, with their assets seized and their infrastructure dismantled, the humanitarian organisations have no capacity to restart their work or even to hand it over.
All this in the name of what Prof. Antonio Cassese, who led the UN Commission of Inquiry into Darfur, calls “˜impossible justice’. Writing in La Repubblica newspaper on 5 March, Cassese said: “˜[The ICC’s] warrant can be carried out only if Bashir himself orders his guards to arrest him. Outside Sudan, the warrant has virtually no legal weight.’ Cassese argues that since Sudan has not signed the statue of the Court, Bashir can claim immunity. A controversial argument, no doubt, even among lawyers, but one that would add to the furor that would result in many parts of the world if Bashir was apprehended by force.
Cassese cannot be accused of being soft on the Sudan government. The UN Commission of Inquiry he led named 51 people it believes are responsible for crimes committed in Darfur. The list reportedly includes senior government figures whom Moreno Ocampo was initially reluctant to investigate. Cassese kept the 51 names secret, believing this was the best way eventually to detain anyone. Why Moreno Ocampo decided to name his suspects – and then to give away his game plan by announcing he might take them off planes – is best known to him. His decision to use public applications rather than sealed warrants was widely opposed with the Court itself. But listening to and calmly weighing criticism is not one of the Prosecutor’s strongest points.
It is noticeable that 11 of the 13 NGOs expelled come from P3 countries””the U.S., Britain and France. The Sudan government claims that all 13 NGOs all passed information to the ICC””and quite possibly believes it””but the expulsions are clearly a warning, too, to the three governments and their nationals serving in the UN. How they act and speak in the coming days will help determine Khartoum’s next step. It reportedly has a “˜B list’ of organisations it wants out.
Justice must be one of the components of a lasting peace in Darfur/Sudan. But the ICC is a blunt sword””there are other, less risky forms of justice, including reparations, truth and reconciliation processes etc.,””and the timing of the move against Bashir could hardly be worse. Asked in July why he felt the need to go after the president now, with the CPA so fragile and national elections promised, Moreno Ocampo replied that there was no time to lose, because of “˜ongoing genocide'””even while admitting it might take twenty years before he comes to court. The ICC judges have now rejected the argument even for genocide, ongoing or not, by a majority of two to one. We don’t know if they accepted Moreno Ocampo’s repeated public assertions that 5,000 people are dying a month. If his were true, there might be a case for dramatic and urgent action. But is it true? Can the prosecutor break down these figures, with precise and rigorous sourcing? UN statistics show 150 deaths, through violence, on average last year. The Genocide Intervention Network has a similar figure. That’s a total of between 1600 and 1900″”down from 4,470 in 2006 and 2,000 in 2007. The remaining 4,850 The Prosecutor claims in 2008 must therefore be indirect deaths, from disease and hunger etc. Let us see the evidence.
It is true that there is a meningitis epidemic in Darfur at the moment, the worst since 1998. But the epidemic is not war-related and there are no other medical emergencies, according to one of the medical NGOs that have been expelled. The nutritional situation in the displaced camps is said to be “˜pretty good’. A breakdown of patients attending MSF France’s medical clinic in Nyertiti last year shows that 30% of them were from outside Nyertiti. The year before it was only 5-7%. People were moving again. Security was improving. (The requisite proviso, for those who would take this as a denial of the awfulness of Darfur and the wickedness of the government: it’s still not good, and sometimes it’s very bad, and yes, the government is sometimes, but not always, responsible.)
The immediate future for Darfurians is a sharp decline in the remarkable humanitarian work that has reduced mortality rates to near-normal levels in the aftermath of the massacre years of 2003-04. Where’s the justice in that? I’ve spent thirty years of my life working in war zones. To those who say there is no peace without justice, I reply, as a Brit, with two words: Northern Ireland. Human life is more precious than mantras.
“Put simply, please, give us Sudanese a break so we can find our own solutions to our own problems and grow the institutions to regulate them!!”
Isn’t that what we are actually doing when we stand idly by and deliver humanitarian aid?
The problem I see is that the Sudanese solve their own problems with mass murder? How exactly do you intend to regulate that?
Dear Julie Flint,
Thank you very much for your analysis. However, I believe we should not allow ourselves to be dragged into a game staged by the government of Sudan and which the regime knows exactly how to play. El-Bashir is playing on the reactionary â€œprideâ€ of the international community and of those affected humanitarian agencies, to buy a compromise. Albeit the fact that those INGOs represent the â€œbig playersâ€, let us not to exaggerate facts regarding their contribution, in favor of the government game, by claiming that 60% of all humanitarian aid in Darfur will disappear in a matter of days if these INGO leave Sudan. Let us just not forget that there are still more than 100 INGO operating in Darfur, all of them are American and European. As long as the cry is for the victims in Darfur, who are in need for help, I donâ€™t see why donors can not re-allocate funds to those operational NGOs or to national partner NGOs? I think the only obstacle that I can see is the â€œhurt prideâ€™ of the kicked out INGOs as well as of the International donor community, and I believe this should be considered as small price for what the government is quoting as Moreno statements that he gathered his information mainly from INGOs. Technically, I am sure someone will respond with comments about the capacity of the other INGOs and the National NGOs to handle the humanitarian operations in Sudan. Again, I think the International donor community should prove their rhetoric about partnership and should invest in building the capacity of the national NGOs as part and parcel of the calls for empowering the civil society and bringing peace and democracy. As an eye witness and as humanitarian worker with recent experience in Darfur, I don’t buy any argument that the level of the humanitarian emergency can not allow for a lengthy process of capacity building, there are enough INGO and local NGOs with adequate capacity to fill the gap caused by the expelling of the 13 INGOs and at the same time undergo a systematic process of capacity building. This could be quite an option to deprive the regime in Sudan from what it plan to use as a leverage to gain a compromise.
To a some extend also, I think we should start looking at things differently, that we are now dealing with two different but not separate issues; the arrest of Bashir, and the Darfur or Sudan Peace. I like Alexâ€™s statement that â€œThe ICC pretends to be outside politics, representing principles on which no compromise is possible. The key word is â€˜pretenseâ€™, to paraphrase David Kennedy: it is a nice fiction for the human rights community to believe that it is â€™speaking truth to powerâ€™ and not actually exercising power. The ICC arrest warrant is a real decision with real consequences in terms of lives saved and lost and the political life of a nationâ€. Again, even under this pretence, I donâ€™t see how the ICC can step back from this situation.
Bashir arrest process and trial should go on without being questioned or doubted. The international community, on the other hand, should start working on issue number two, which is the primary issue, of peace in Sudan, and which I strongly believe that it could be more possible and more attainable without Bashir in the picture. The International community on the other hand, should not be deceived with the staged demonstrations in support of Bashir, or with the silence of the rest of the political forces in Sudan. The regime is keeping events for the time being by the sheer use of force and resources, however, once the International community decides on the right mode of actions, it will be surprising the support that would come from all the political forces in Sudan, now intimated and subdued by the ruling party.
Dear Julie Flint, I believe the government of Sudan should be considered responsible for its own actions. It is not the ICC prosecutor who decided to expell international organisations and dismantle national ones. I will not repeat the ICC rethoric, but the situation in Darfur was reffered to the ICC by the UN security council and whatever Pr Cassesse says, members of the UN should enforce the decisions of the court that was called in by the organization. In the book you cosigned with Alex de Waal, you mention that the sheer number of the crimes and their atrocities go beyond the traditional justice mechanisms such as reparations. The judges in the ICC are acting according to their role, reviewing evidence on the case that was referred them by diplomats in the UN. The ICC prosecutor is -clearly- not a diplomat and should not be expected to act as such. Let’s call on the diplomats to take their responsibilities, in the P5, in each country, as well as in the larger regional and international assemblies.
Ocampu’s excuse was that it couldn’t get any worse for the Darfurians; And now we know it really could and it is already in process. Now the UN and AU are on the ground in Darfur; what can they do?
To Bob Williamson: And America takes it on itself to ‘solve’ other countries’ problems it disagrees with by tearing-up, and using shock-and-awe bombing tactics (with huge civilian casualties and other likely war-crimes) by murdering other people living in said-country, and regulates it (the assault) with a sophisticated media and other communications tools apparatus. Touche…..Or it lets other allies do it and provides them with diplomatic cover.
Put simply, there’s no moral high ground for the US to occupy here: don’t search for it.
Agree with Ahmed Hassan’s incisive reality of the humanitarian situation, staffing and capacity on the ground; also agree with Julie’s sharp analysis completely and Alex’s posting on the day of the ICC announcement: “Yes, Alex, you’re right, it was a sad day for Sudan….”
El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan
What a terrible disaster. It really seemed that the difference between the hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur and the millions killed in South Sudan was due, not just to the difference of duration in years of the conflicts, but due to the lack of access of humanitarian groups in South Sudan since so many died not from the killing itself but from hunger, thirst and lack of medical care. I am very fearful of what this means for Darfur. What are you recommending now? What pressure can be harnessed? Are there specific economic sanctions that could be implemented?
Dear Ahmad Hassan,
You are absolutely right in that what we need to be doing now is trying to limit the damage done by the expulsion of the aid agencies. I appreciate that those expelled are a minority, but they represent more than half of the overall capacity of the Darfur relief operation. The assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs has said the suspension of their work means that â€˜1.5 million have already lost access to health care, and over one million could soon lose access to potable water. The loss of MSF alone will leave more than 200,000 patients in rural areas without essential medical care. The departure of Oxfam Great Britain, which is the largest NGO providing water, sanitation, and hygiene services, is likely to leave 600,000 people in a precarious situation.â€™ She warned that nearly 1.1 million people may be without food at the next distribution time.
OCHA said (privately) yesterday that Kalma and Kass would run out of water â€˜by tomorrowâ€™ – i.e. today.
The impact of the arrest warrant is going to have a massive impact, and soon. And not only in Darfur. In the east, the Three Areas and perhaps even Chad, if the displaced are forced to leave the camps – either through hunger, or thirst, or actions of the government or its militias, or possibly even the rebel movements. Can UNAMID protect them?
Iâ€™m not an aid person, and pretend to no expertise there whatsoever, but I understand that funds cannot be reallocated quickly, nor new personnel recruited overnight. Even if they could be, not every INGO has the operational capacity of those that have been expelled. National NGOs, however courageous and committed, simply donâ€™t have the capacity or the expertise for such a large and complex operation, that brought in the best cadres from all over the world. The transfer of capacity is difficult because assets have been confiscated. Management capacity canâ€™t be transferred because staff have been ordered to leave the country.
There seems to be an emerging consensus that it is more useful, in the short term, for the expelled NGOs to put their energy into helping the remaining NGOs to scale up their activities to prevent loss of life rather than putting all their energies into lobbying for the Sudan government to reverse its decision. And I would imagine a priority has to be mapping what remains, and where, and determining how the need that has been created can be best and quickest addressed.
John Smith says â€˜the Prosecutor is not a diplomat and should not be expected to act as such.â€™ Fair enough; he is only doing what the UNSC asked him to do. But he is required, by the Rome Statue, to take the interests of the victims of the account. And running out of water, food and health care, in the middle of a meningitis epidemic, is not in their interests. This government has been in power for 20 years – expect Bashir to organise one hell of a party on June 30 this year – and we have no excuse for not knowing how it works. It is constantly looking for pretexts to erect obstacles in front of humanitarians. This is a tragedy foreseen, and avoidable. Iâ€™m not against accountability at the highest level for the crimes committed in Darfur. Far from it. But with no-one to protect the victims, this is not the time.
Your diagnosis of the difference between the South and Darfur is spot on. Throughout twenty years of war, most Southern Sudanese never saw any relief. Most war-displaced Darfurians have received a fair amount.
Itâ€™s so much easier to know what not to do than what to do at this point, when we have so dramatically limited our options. Donâ€™t impose a no-fly zone, for starters, since most aid goes – or more correctly now, went – by air and must again. Donâ€™t bomb. Nick Kristof, who a few days ago told us that our fears that aid agencies would be expelled were â€˜overblownâ€™, now wants us to bomb the Sudan air force. And the same government that has cut the lifeline of more than a million Darfurians without batting an eyelid will take that sitting down? Pull the other one. De-escalate. Donâ€™t escalate. Get off the high moral ground into the dust and mud where displaced Darfurians live. Put yourself in the place of a mother who has been under canvas for five years, whose child has meningitis, malaria or diarrhea, and not a doctor or nurse in sight now. Prioritize the life of that child. There are hundreds of thousands of them, most already beginning to feel the effects of Bashirâ€™s arrest warrant.
The immediate challenge is to respond to the gaping holes in service provision – NGOs estimate that 70% of humanitarian service delivery to 4.7 million people in Darfur will be affected – and to try somehow to utilize (and if necessary protect) the 2,570 national staff rendered jobless. The 200 international staff have until 9 March to leave Sudan. Sudanese law states that NGOs should have 30 days to challenge the revocation of registration, but the government has dismissed this, citing ‘national emergency’ and ‘state security’. I see no moderates on the horizon, no ripe prospects for peace.
Somehow international organizations have to find a way to dialogue with the government – criminalized in its entirety by the ICC Prosecutor – at a time when it appears that those who want a degree at least of cooperation have been silenced or pushed aside. In the immediate term, this may have to be by proxy – through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the African Union. The CPA cannot be allowed to collapse. HAC Commissioner Dr. Hassabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman has said more NGOs are under investigation for collaboration with the ICC and will be expelled if a connection is found. Ever since Moreno Ocampo applied for the arrest warrant, activists in the US especially have been hailing this as a breakthrough for peace and a means of leverage on the government. I donâ€™t get this. I see a dwindling of peace hopes and vastly diminished leverage.
Security in the camps must be a major concern. The ICCâ€™s outreach was poor, and the arrest warrant against Bashir seemed to many like a magic bullet. (Even if he were, somehow, arrested, would the regime veer into democracy? Almost certainly not.) There is a need for urgent contacts with the rebel leaders who have influence in the camps – especially Abdel Wahid – to calm rather than inflame the situation and do what they can to stabilize it. JEM must be warned not to seize this moment to make another military push.
Economic sanctions? Would they not affect ordinary Sudanese? What I am hearing indicates that the main concern ordinary Sudanese have about the Bashir warrant is the effect it will have on their economy. Make things tougher on that front and risk increased support for Bashir, I think.
Finally, start telling it like it is. (In for a penny in for a pound.) Distortion of facts, purple prose and exaggerated rhetoric, with a liberal sprinkling of Sudanophobia, have all conspired to create the current dead end – Bashir dances while Darfurians risk starving again, en masse. Five thousand people are not dying a month. There is no â€˜ongoing genocideâ€™. (The ICC judges said that, effectively telling Moreno Ocampo he got it wrong.) Not all aerial bombardment by the government is â€˜genocidalâ€™ and unprovoked. Letâ€™s get it in perspective, stop talking about â€˜savingâ€™ Darfur and work out how best we can help them Darfurians to save themselves – especially now that our own leverage is so dramatically reduced.
Then we can worry about putting Sudanâ€™s leaders in handcuffs. Theyâ€™ll still be there in a few yearsâ€™ time.
Dear Julie Flint,
it is easy to blame the prosecutor of the ICC for the immediate consequences of the indictment, and that is essentially what you are doing. However, this misses the point. Ultimate responsibility lies solely with the GoS which decided to throw out humanitarian NGOs. Arguing that Ocampo is – at least partly – responsible for the ensuing gap in the provision of food, water and medecin is neither fair nor apropriate. It is Bashir’s decision to put the lives of millions of Darfuris on the line, fullstop.
Bashir’s reaction to the indictment demonstrates his ruthlessness and provides for another good reason to bring him to trial. Moreover, I am wondering if a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur – caused by the decision to expel the western NGOs – could theoretically amount to crimes against humanity (leaving aside that Sudan is not a party to the Rome statute)..?
To those who argue that peace without justice is a feasible option, I just want to give a cautionary remark as a German (just to stick to Julie’s diction above): Appeasment of a ruthless dictatorship is always a slippery slope that can, in the end, do easily more harm than good…
President of ‘Genocide Alert’
In response to Robert Schuette, let me make two points. First, Julie is not arguing that Moreno Ocampo bears criminal responsibility. But he was foolish, to say the least. Second, it may indeed be true that expelling aid organizations can amount to a crime against humanity. Having indicted Pres. Bashir on seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes last week, I suspect he will not be terribly afraid if the Prosecutor adds an eighth count of this kind. Let me also remind you that negotiation is not appeasement.
Dear Robert Schuette,
I am in total agreement with your views. I hope that that all could understand that the atrocities of Bashir and those of the GoS should not be left unquestioned. I don’t see also any contradition that justice on Bashir by the ICC and pursuing peace in Sudan on the other hand can go hand in hand. I repeat that the good will and the sacle up of the support to the remaining aid agencies ion the region by the international community could and should mitigate any effects of the expulsion. We should not try to fine excuses for Bashir and his government.
For us also justice is a high priority. As far as the peace saga is concerned, Bashir had already done a lot of damage, and no one is proud about the way his government honored the agreements in South Sudan or in Darfur, that are actullay falling apart now, for any observer to see. Let us not overestimate his role or have any illusions that he can bring peace to Sudan, he is been in power long enough, his chances already expired.
Justice and hunger is better than hunger without justice. The cause roots of hunger are entrenched in NCP’s policies.