Dangers to UN
staff increase following ICC
arrest warrant for President Bashir
ICC prosecutor attempts to have Sudanese President Omar
Bashir arrested. Sudan’s Foreign Ministry refuses to
recognize the ICC and says any of its decisions are
“non-existent”. Non-essential UN staff to be evacuated.
July 14, 2008
UN to withdraw staff from Darfur as ICC prosecutor attempts to have Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrested
The United Nations has announced it is to withdraw non-essential staff from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.
The move comes after a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court sought the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur.
Judges have still to decide whether there are reasonable grounds for an arrest warrant to be issued.
Sudan's foreign ministry said it did not recognize the ICC, and any of its decisions were "non-existent".
As of May this year, the joint UN-African Union Darfur mission, Unamid, included nearly 9,600 uniformed personnel and about 1,300 civilian staff, both international and local.
It is not clear how many will be withdrawn. But Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, Unamid force commander, said the peacekeepers would maintain their unit strength and would not stop patrolling.
"We will continue to protect the UN personnel and UN facilities that are here and we will continue to help the humanitarian organizations to continue to do their job of rendering humanitarian services to the people in Darfur," Gen. Agwai said.
A Sudanese official told the BBC that he had been informed by Unamid the evacuation would begin on Tuesday.
"This is a unilateral decision which the Sudanese government was not involved in," Mr. Mutrif Seddeek told the BBC.
While clarifying that the ICC is an independent body over which it has no influence, the UN is nevertheless bracing itself for possible increased difficulties in western Sudan, the BBC's David Bamford reports.
But it is continuing to run, alongside other NGOs, large-scale humanitarian operations there and has thousands of peacekeepers in place, our correspondent notes.
Appeal for calm
On July 8, seven Unamid peacekeepers were killed and 22 injured, seven critically, when they were attacked by heavily armed militia in northern Darfur.
Sudan's president was accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BASHIR
Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages
He told judges at The Hague that Omar al-Bashir bore criminal responsibility for alleged atrocities committed over the past five years.
Sudan has refused to hand over two suspects who Mr. Moreno-Ocampo charged last year, Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmad Harun and militia leader Ali Kushayb.
It has also labeled Mr. Moreno-Ocampo a criminal, and warned that any indictment could stall peace talks and cause mayhem in Sudan.
Sudanese cabinet minister al-Samani al-Wasila told the BBC the accusations were "politically motivated".
The White House urged all parties in Sudan to "remain calm", saying it would "monitor the situation" in The Hague.
US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe stressed that the US was not part of the ICC.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Khartoum to co-operate with the ICC.
There was no immediate formal reaction from Russia or from China, which is Sudan's biggest arms supplier.
Some 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur since 2003 while more than two million people have fled their homes, the UN estimates.
Sudan's government denies mobilizing Arab Janjaweed militias to attack black African civilians in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003.