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Weekly News Brief: 02.09.09 – 02.16.09

In this week’s issue: A false alarm from the ICC amid a continued escalation of violence in Darfur, another attempt to engage the Burmese junta, and a regional reunion in DR Congo.

Featured: This week, an announcement of a decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir turned out to be a false alarm. Still, the warrant is expected any day now. To learn more about the potential implications of the ICC proceedings, check out the ENOUGH Project’s new report, entitled "What the Warrant Means: Justice, Peace, and the Key Actors in Sudan." 

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Reports that the ICC had decided to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir rocked the international community this week. While the ICC was quick to deny that an official decision had yet been issued, the news caused significant reactions across the international scene, ranging from offers of protection for Bashir to calls for cooperation, to warnings, to disclaimers.

Instability continued to increase in Darfur, with several attacks reported on UNAMID, and displaced residents of Muhajeriya, South Darfur continuing to stream into camps in North Darfur. Humanitarian aid agencies are currently blocked from Muhajeriya itself.

Meanwhile, talks between Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels and the Sudanese Government commenced last week in Doha, Qatar. JEM denies that any deal has been set and even accused the Sudanese government of undermining the talks by advancing on JEM positions.

The Doha peace talks have been dismissed by both Abdel Wahid al-Nur and Minni Minawi, as well as displaced Darfuris.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee held a roundtable discussion on the situation in Sudan. Panelists, including Special Representative on Sudan Roger Winter, ENOUGH Co-Chair John Prendergast, and Save Darfur Coalition President Jerry Fowler discussed a number of topics, including the ICC, future of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and the feasibility of a no-fly zone. A video recording of the full hearing can be viewed here.


Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN envoy on human rights in Burma, arrived in the capital city of Rangoon on Saturday. Mr. Quintana plans to conduct a 6-day mission to assess developments in Burma’s human rights situation since his last visit in August. Given ruling junta’s blatant disregard for Quintana’s previous recommendations, rights groups in Burma are not optimistic about this visit’s prospects for success. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Sunday for Asia, on her first official trip as Secretary of State. During her visit to Indonesia, she is expected to discuss closer collaboration with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address human rights issues in Burma. Based on statements from the Obama administration, it is likely that Clinton will discuss the situation in Burma with China as well.  

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva admitted on Friday that refugees fleeing west Burma may have been forced back out to sea by the Thai military in "some instances." Hundreds of refugees, members of a Muslim minority group known as the Rohinya, have been rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters in recent weeks after being expelled from Thailand.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Human Rights Watch reported on Friday that Rwandan Hutu rebels known as the FDLR have killed 100 civilians in eastern DRC over the past three weeks. The killings are thought to be in retaliation for a joint Rwanda-DRC operation to track down the FDLR that began in late January. HRW has also accused Rwandan forces involved in the mission of committing sexual assault in North Kivu province, a charge which the Congolese government rejects.

Congolese military officials announced that air strikes conducted by the joint mission last week have killed at least 40 FDLR fighters. At the same time, Rwandans living in eastern DRC continue to flee the operation and seek repatriation in Rwanda. According to border officials, nearly 2,000 Rwandans have been repatriated since the end of January, including some former FDLR combatants.

Meanwhile, the Congolese government announced on Sunday that it has granted the Ugandan military an indefinite mandate to remain in DRC as part of a joint mission to track down the LRA. The mission’s mandate was initially set to expire at the end of February. While Ugandan officials claim the operation is going as planned, it is widely blamed for the LRA reprisal attacks against civilians.

In a new report detailing atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northeastern DRC since December, Human Rights Watch urged the UN Security Council to send reinforcements for MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC. An additional 3,000 troops authorized by the Council in November have yet to deploy.

At the Mobile World Congress opening in Barcelona, London-based Global Witness highlighted the link between minerals used in mobile phones and the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC, and called on mobile phone companies to examine their supply chains in order to ensure that that they are not purchasing from mines controlled by armed groups.

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