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New Concerns Stir on Darfur’s Humanitarian Situation

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir expelled many of the country's aid workers after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of war crimes. John Holmes of the United Nations gives an update on the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir continues to defy a March 4th International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur.

    His initial reaction was to shut down more than a dozen aid groups caring for more than 2 million Darfuris driven from their homes. Today, Bashir was in Qatar, where he won the support of the Arab League summit in his standoff with the ICC.

    U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged him to let the aid groups return, but Bashir refused.

    Some 300,000 people have died in the conflict pitting black Darfuris and rebel groups against Arab militias backed by the Sudanese government. Today, President Obama said he was sending Special Envoy General Scott Gration to Sudan and Darfur.

    For an update, we are joined by John Holmes, under-secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs.

    And, Mr. Holmes, thank you for being with us. First of all, what's your reaction to the Arab League closing ranks around Bashir today? I mean, do you see that as a challenge to the legitimacy of the U.N., which had asked for the initial war crimes investigation?

  • JOHN HOLMES, United Nations Under-Secretary-General:

    Well, I think you need to keep in mind the distinction between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. These are separate institutions.

    It's true that the Security Council asked for the original investigations, but the ICC makes its own judgments. And I don't really want to comment on that part of it.

    My concern is the humanitarian situation you were drawing attention to, too, and in particular the expulsion of these 13 international NGOs and three national NGOs, which threatens to cause an even worse humanitarian situation in Darfur if they're not reinstated.

    That's what we've been calling for. So far, we haven't achieved that. But I think what's interesting is that much of Arab and African opinion makes a distinction between this ICC judgment, where I think many of them do support President Bashir, and the expulsion of the NGOs, which they don't support because they can see it can have such a dramatic effect on a million or more people in Darfur who need that help desperately.

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