The U.S. envoy to the United Nations blasted Sudan's government for its order two weeks ago expelling the 13 largest international aid groups working in the country, saying President Omar al-Bashir and his government must be held responsible for each and every death caused by the decision. Susan Rice made the comments at a hastily called meeting of the Security Council Friday afternoon.
Ambassador Rice said that by expelling the aid groups the Sudanese government is denying food, water, healthcare and sanitation to the very same people it drove from their homes in the first place. She said the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur over the past two weeks is a crisis of Khartoum's own making and urged the government to reverse its order.
"President Bashir and his government are responsible for and must be held accountable for each and every death caused by these callous and calculated actions. The Sudanese government made this decision and owns its consequences, which will not only cost lives but leave the government locked deeper in an isolation of its own making," she said.
Ambassador Rice made her remarks after the director of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, Rashid Khalikov, gave a grim report on the deteriorating situation in parts of northern Sudan. "There is no doubt that our ability to help the people of Darfur and northern Sudan has been seriously compromised. The current atmosphere of fear and uncertainty facing all aid organizations is affecting the assistance available to the people of Darfur," she said.
President Bashir's decision to expel the charities followed the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for him earlier this month on charges of crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur.
The court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, observed Friday's briefing. He told reporters afterwards that President Bashir's decision to expel the aid groups confirms his guilt. "The court decided on March 3rd that Omar al-Bashir committed crimes of extermination against the civilians in Darfur, including affecting the humanitarian help in the camps. And that is confirmed now. Expelling them is confirming the crimes. So that for me is very clear," he said.
Sudan has refused to reverse the expulsion order, contending that the aid groups were ordered out because they went beyond their mandate and gave information to the court. Moreno-Ocampo denied the claim, saying he received "zero information" from any aid group.
Nearly five million people in Darfur rely on some sort of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has actively worked to fill the gap of the expelled aid groups, but says it does not believe it can adequately fill the void left by their departure.
Next week, the council will be briefed on the results of a joint United Nations-government of Sudan mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the wake of the aid groups departures.