There is little doubt that the international court’s warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s arrest was well-deserved. His actions have been unconscionable.
Yet far from being chastened by the indictment – in which he was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity in Darfur (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape) as well as two counts of war crimes (intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and pillaging) – his reaction to the warrant has been vindictive and cruel.
Adding to the murder and misery he has caused or countenanced, he has expelled 13 humanitarian aid groups from Sudan and closed down three domestic relief agencies.
With hundreds of thousands dead and millions living in refugee camps in Sudan and Chad, these groups are needed more than ever.
According to the Save Darfur Coalition – which has written to President Obama urging U.S. intervention – the expelled organizations account for at least half of the humanitarian operations in Darfur. Without them, some 1.1 million people will be without food aid, 1.5 million will not have medical care, and more than a million will be left without safe drinking water.
The American Jewish World Service, which has been in the forefront of efforts to raise the world’s consciousness on the issue of Darfur, has called for the U.S. government to take the lead in resolving this issue, and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, headed by Rabbi David Saperstein, is urging a similar course.
Until now, efforts to help Darfur have centered mainly on generating awareness of the horrors being perpetrated in that region. That will no longer suffice.
It is imperative that our elected leaders take up the cause of the people of Darfur, who cannot defend themselves. At the very least, they must insist that aid be restored.
In Saperstein’s words, “President Bashir’s actions, coupled with recent violence toward aid workers in the region, only make more obvious the need for a strong international presence in Sudan. U.N. peacekeeping forces must be reinforced, and the U.S. must send an envoy to help bring peace to the region. President Bashir has succeeded at killing his citizens for too long. We cannot allow this tragedy to continue.”
We must lend our voices to this appeal and ensure that our elected leaders know that we care about this issue.