Expulsions of NGOs from Darfur
Delivered in Plenary - 12th March 2009
It was entirely predictable that President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan would respond to his indictment by the ICC with a political gesture, but by expelling NGOs and aid agencies from his country he has reinforced the popular image of a brutal tyrant, without any concern for the plight of the long-suffering people he nominally governs.
A few people still argue that what has happened in Darfur is not genocide. Fewer still support Bashir openly, although China – regrettably – has been a lone voice in his defence because of the heavy Chinese involvement in Sudan’s extractive industries.
Like most Members, I welcome the indictment of President Bashir by the ICC and the issue of an international arrest warrant. It may not succeed, but it is an important gesture to show the world’s disgust at the horrors he has perpetrated in Darfur without any remorse.
I also think that the indictment strengthens the reputation of the ICC, which hitherto has been shunned by some, including the great powers such as the USA, for fear of politically motivated prosecutions. Indeed it is fascinating that the United States, which is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, has nonetheless used its position on the UN Security Council to facilitate the ICC indictment of Bashir.
One possible way out of the impasse that now exists is for the Security Council to strike down the indictment, as it has a right to do under the Rome Statute, on condition that Bashir goes into exile and the killings and repression stop, and in partial recognition that Sudan was never a signatory to the Rome Statute.
While this might seem to some like an unjust response to the killings in Darfur and effectively grants some form of partial immunity, it would remove the main protagonist and spare the long-suffering people of Darfur more bloodshed and enable Sudan as a country to move on. Of course, if Bashir refuses, then he should be prosecuted with the full force of international law. The AU, Arab League and China should make this clear to President Bashir before it is too late for him and his brutal regime.