[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] spokesman Rupert Colville said Friday that his office may investigate whether Sudan's expulsion of foreign aid agencies [Oxfam press release] is a possible breach of human rights law or war crime. Colville said that such an investigation had not yet begun, but strongly criticized [NYT report] Sudan for ordering the groups to leave. Also Friday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website] spokesman Ron Redmond warned that the removal of the aid agencies could have a serious impact [press release] not only in Darfur, but also in the rest of Sudan and 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.
The statements come after an earlier plea [press release] by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] asking Sudan to allow the the agencies to remain in the country.
The expulsion of the groups is seen as retribution [JURIST report] by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [ICC materials, PDF; JURIST news archive] against Western powers after the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued [decision, PDF; JURIST report] a warrant for his arrest earlier this week, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The controversial arrest warrant [JURIST news archive] had been sought by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], who in July filed preliminary charges [text, PDF; JURIST report] against Bashir alleging genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute [text]. The ICC announced last week [JURIST report] that they would decide whether to issue an arrest warrant on Wednesday. The announcement came after the New York Times reported [NYT report] last month that the warrant had been issued, leading a court official quickly to issue a denial [JURIST report].