[JURIST] Advocacy group Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has called on the League of Arab States [official website, in Arabic] to urge Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to allow expelled foreign aid agencies [JURIST report] back into the country, according to a letter [text; press release] released by HRW on Monday. Bashir took the action after the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued a warrant [JURIST report] for his arrest on war crimes charges. HRW warned that the expulsion of the agencies has effectively cut in half the aid going to Darfur refugees, and that some camps are now without clean water or medical care. HRW also urged the Arab League to abandon its calls for the UN Security Council to exercise its power to suspend the charges [Rome Statute text] against Bashir, saying that such action is unwarranted and would only prolong existing problems in the country:
Human Rights Watch believes that a deferral would be wholly inappropriate in the current context. It would reward the denial of vital assistance to vulnerable populations-thereby encouraging further abuses-and would risk impunity for widespread atrocities without identifiable benefits for international peace and security.
The peace process for Darfur has long been stalled, as you know, because of lack of political will to end the conflict that is unrelated to the ICC. Although the Sudanese government and one rebel group, JEM, signed a "declaration of intent" in February 2009, it did not include any significant concessions or a commitment to a ceasefire. Moreover, as a suspension under article 16 is limited to 12-month periods, once a deferral takes effect, the Sudanese government can be expected to use annual threats of violence and empty promises to secure renewals.
The Arab League has maintained that the warrant against Bashir threatens [JURIST report] the country's peace process, a claim which HRW rejects. Despite the call by HRW, Arab League leaders reiterated their support [NYT report] for Bashir during an annual meeting Monday.
Last week, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said that Bashir's decision to expel the groups demonstrates that the ICC was justified [JURIST report] in pursuing the charges against him. Bashir has also threatened to expel [JURIST report] any remaining agencies, diplomats and peacekeepers in Sudan. Human rights and other groups have previously urged Bashir [JURIST report] to allow the agencies to remain in the country, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] spokesman Rupert Colville has said that his office may investigate [JURIST report] whether Sudan's removal of the groups itself is a possible breach of human rights law or war crime.