In this week’s issue: Millions of Darfuri lives are at risk in the aftermath of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Bashir, Southeast Asian leaders discuss the future of Rhohingya refugees in Burma, and the FDLR remains at large in eastern Congo.
Featured: The New York Times’ Nick Kristof wrote an op-ed this week urging the Obama administration to take immediate action to help Darfuri civilians in light of Khartoum’s expulsion of aid groups. Visit the STAND Blog to learn how you can take action by sending a message to Secretary Clinton.
On Wednesday, the ICC issued a long-awaited arrest warrant for the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The charges include five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, rape, torture, and forcible transfer) and two of war crimes (pillaging and intentional targeting of civilians). Though a charge of genocide may be submitted again, is has not been included for what was seen as a “failure [by the prosecution] to provide reasonable grounds [of intent].” Different reactions to the warrant from Sudan, the international community and interested parties were featured on the STAND blog earlier this week.
Hours after the ICC’s announcement, al-Bashir revoked the licenses of 13 major aid groups to Darfur, saying they gave information to the courts which led to the warrant’s issuing. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is appealing to the Government of Sudan to reverse their decision in the face of “irrevocable damage” to the already suffering population of Darfur. Despite these pleas, al-Bashir traveled to Darfur, and at a rally in El Fasher on Sunday he threatened to eject additional aid groups if they became engaged in the ICC case, promising to "fill the gap" with Sudan-friendly NGOs. The expulsion, which could quickly leave millions without food, clean water and medicine, is being condemned world wide, and even by South Sudan.
In the days leading up to the issuing of the ICC warrant, UNAMID welcomed additional Egyptian troops to Darfur, bringing the total to 12,937 troops (of the authorized 19,555). Their main duties will be patrols and escorts for humanitarian aid.
In other news, a shooting incident at the Manawashi market in El Fasher left one dead and six injured. It was determined to be a result of a looting attempt made by militiamen discouraged from not being
The the Chief of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) met with Thailand’s Foreign Minister to discuss Thailand’s mistreatment of the Rohingya refugee’s fleeing Burma. Most of which have now escaped to India and Indonesia. The Thai military was accused of towing hundreds of Rohingya back out to sea after sailing to Thailand on makeshift boats to escape political repression in Burma.
During the 14th summit of ASEAN, the military junta in Burma declared that they would take back the Rohingya "boat people" if they could filter the Burmese Rohingya from the Bengali Rohingya who also left Bangladesh. The chief of UNHCR will help ASEAN memebers make a "handbook" for distinguishing the Bengali Rohingya form the Burmese Rohingya. The Burmese government has always thought of the Rohingya as Bengali aliens and not Burmese citizens.
HBO a secured the broadcast rights to "Burma VJ" a documentary about the 2007 democratic protests.
Bangladesh, a the behest of the UN is accepting more Rohingya refugees. The Bangladeshi government considers the Rohingya Burmese and the Burmese government considers them Bengali.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Even though Rwandan troops began withdrawing from the eastern DRC last week, in the continuation of cooperation between the two countries, there are reports that FDLR rebels have retaken their positions. Congolese officials are denying any major organizational movement on the part of the rebels, affirming they are only “hit-and-run” raids. Four leaders of this Hutu rebel group have been subject to travel bans and freezing of assets by a UN sanctions committee.
The Ugandan army captured Thomas Kwoyelo, who is said to be the LRA’s fourth-in-command, this past Tuesday in the DRC’s northeastern Garamba national park. Kwoyelo was wounded during fighting and is the first high-profile insurgent to be captured since the Congolese and Ugandan troops began their joint offensive against the LRA, known as “Lightning Thunder,” in the Congo since December. DRC President Joseph Kabila has been under pressure to end the operation so to make the Ugandan troops leave but Uganda says Kabila has agreed to let the troops stay and pursue the LRA in the Congo.
MONUC, the UN mission DRC, is concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in the eastern Congo, as the FDLR has resumed its violent attacks this week, especially in relation to humanitarian aid. A UN refugee agency had to abandon a mission to reach the newly displaced 160,000 civilians in the North Kivu region because of these security reasons.
The pre-trial chamber of the ICC has decided to delay the confirmation of charges against the former DRC Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba. The Judges have asked the Prosecutor to amend the charges so that Bemba can be tried for war crimes as a military, rather than political, commander.