AFRICANGLOBE – The BashirWatch Coalition, in partnership with civil society groups in Africa, Europe, and the United States, express our grave concern about the continued impunity that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan enjoys. Despite the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged President Bashir with committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, countries have failed to arrest Bashir and the other Sudanese leaders wanted for these heinous crimes.
The international community has not only failed to impose consequences for Bashir’s atrocities, but has allowed the government of Sudan to continue its crimes in Darfur and throughout Sudan with impunity, and has let down the people of Sudan who face violence every day. Countries that choose not to cooperate with the ICC arrest warrants are cultivating impunity and facilitating continued abuses.
President Bashir stands accused of the world’s most heinous crimes—genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bashir orchestrated the genocide in Darfur, which began more than 11 years ago when the Sudanese Armed Forces and its allied Janjaweed Arab militias launched a scorched earth campaign against the civilian population. Since 2003, over 3 million people have been displaced and many are still unable to return to their homes. More than 300,000 have been reported killed and thousands of villages are estimated to be destroyed.
Rape is used as a weapon of war; girls and women are attacked on a daily basis. Human rights defenders such as lawyers, journalists, and students are regularly arrested, tortured, and killed in custody. To this day, the people of Darfur face vicious attacks, forced displacement, and restriction of humanitarian assistance by the Sudanese government.
Deteriorating Humanitarian Conditions
Following the announcement of the first ICC warrant for his arrest on March 4, 2009, President Bashir forced 13 international NGOs out of the country and shut down three national organizations that were providing an estimated 75% of the lifesaving assistance for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur. As a result, humanitarian conditions have severely deteriorated, which increases the vulnerability of IDPs to starvation, diseases, water shortages, and acute malnutrition.
We are deeply troubled by a recent UN report released in January 2014 that highlighted the alarming conditions of those living in IDP camps. This report also points out a sharp rise in the number of internally displaced Darfurians: there were higher numbers of new IDPs in 2013 than the previous two years put together.
Violence And Killing Throughout Sudan
The BashirWatch Coalition is additionally extremely concerned about President Bashir’s tactical use of mass violence, which he has deployed since 2009 in other regions of Sudan, including South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
In 2011, as attacks continued in Darfur, the former interior minister in Darfur, Ahmed Haroun—also wanted by the ICC—was promoted by Bashir to serve as the governor of South Kordofan State. Under his command, the Sudan Armed Forces launched a large-scale attack against the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and forced humanitarian agencies out of the region. These attacks have resulted in the displacement of almost one million innocent civilians, many of whom are trapped in caves and barely surviving on tree leaves as their main food source. In the last two years alone, there have been over 1,000 confirmed bombing attacks in these two areas. As a result, civilians continue to flee to South Sudan and Ethiopia, which has exacerbated the delicate situations in these countries.
In the last two months, Bashir has capitalized on the international community’s focus on the tragic crisis in South Sudan and has intensified the aerial bombings in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur.
President Bashir has also used force to quell peaceful protests, most recently in September 2013. When fuel subsidies were cut, many people took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, but President Bashir’s regime responded with violence by firing directly at demonstrators, arresting dissident voices, censoring newspapers and subjecting journalists and students to severe torture.
Five Years Of Impunity Must End
March 4, 2014, marks the fifth anniversary of the first ICC arrest warrant against President Bashir. We appreciate that some ICC state parties have demonstrated a strong commitment to justice, and their actions have restricted Bashir’s ability to travel freely around the world.
Other countries, however, have consistently failed to hold Bashir accountable. China, a UN Security Council member, allowed a state visit by Bashir in 2011. So too have ICC parties Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, and Nigeria. Others that have welcomed Bashir include Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Sudan.
The failure to hold Bashir accountable not only has devastating effects inside Sudan, but it also sends the wrong message to leaders like Syrian President Assad and others perpetrating extreme violence throughout the world, for example in the Central African Republic.
Therefore, we urge all members of the Security Council and the Rome Statute to stand for justice and make this year the last anniversary of Bashir‘s impunity. We demand that the member states of the UN, and especially members of the Security Council and the Rome Statute, abide by the obligations deriving from the ICC arrest warrants for Bashir. Parties of the Rome Statute must fulfil their legal obligations to arrest Bashir if he enters onto their territory. Other UN member states should ensure they are on the right side of history by arresting Bashir and transferring him to The Hague for trial.
Furthermore, we strongly encourage all members of the UN, and particularly members of the Security Council, to use their positions of influence in the world to incentivize compliance with the ICC arrest warrants. For example, countries should consider withholding military or economic aid (with the exception of humanitarian aid) from countries that let Bashir enter into their territory without arrest. The UN should also seriously consider adopting policies to enforce ICC arrest warrants on any areas administered by the UN, including its headquarters. The BashirWatch Coalition and its members are willing to provide advice to any state on how they might take action to bring an end to Bashir’s impunity.
It is imperative for the international community to make it clear to Bashir and all perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity that impunity will not be an option for another year.