Genocidal Intent and the Irony of Expelling the Humanitarian Groups

Genocidal Intent and the Irony of Expelling the Humanitarian Groups

In its application for the arrest warrant, the Prosecution argued that the Sudanese government’s genocidal intent could be inferred from, inter alia, the slow-death conditions in the IDP camps.  As part of that claim, the Prosecution pointed out the numerous ways in which Bashir’s regime had hindered international efforts to provide the Darfuris in the IDP camps with humanitarian assistance.

One of the least compelling aspects of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision — and that is saying something — is its casual dismissal of that argument.  The PTC began by pointing out, rightly, that “hindrance of humanitarian assistance, as well as cutting off supplies of food and other essential goods, can be carried out for a variety of reasons other than intending to destroy in whole or in part the targeted group.”  It then offered the following “argument” as to why the “systematicity, duration and consequences of the alleged GoS obstruction” is insufficient to support an inference of genocidal intent:

184. In relation to the extent, systematicity, duration and consequences of the alleged GoS hindrance of medical and other humanitarian assistance needed to sustain life in the IDP Camps in Darfur, the Majority observes that in the additional materials provided by the Prosecution, at the request of the Chamber on 18 November 2008, the Prosecution included a chronology on the evolution of this alleged GoS practice from 2003 to the end of 2007.

185. According to the reports included in this chronology, the higher level of obstruction to humanitarian aid took place during the first year of the conflict until June 2004, at a time in which GoS forces appear to have launched their two main offensives (summer 2003 and January 2004). The lack of humanitarian assistance is explained in some reports by the GoS’s attempt to hide the magnitude of the crisis. Yet, in one of the reports, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs emphasised the late reaction and lack of coordination of the international community.

186. The reports provided by the Prosecution also underline that, after the conclusion of the Moratorium on Restrictions (July 2004), access to the IDP Camps improved substantially and permitted Darfur to eventually become the site of “the largest world humanitarian effort”.

187. Finally, the said reports also highlight that bureaucratic barriers and difficulties in accessing a number of areas increased again in 2006. Nevertheless, despite increasing difficulties it appears that aid programmes continued to operate.


189. As a result, the Majority considers that the materials submitted by the Prosecution in support of the Prosecution Application provide reasonable grounds to believe that the extent, systematicity and consequences of the GoS hindrance of medical and humanitarian assistance in IDP Camps in Darfur varied greatly over time. Consequently, the Majority finds that such materials reflect a level of GoS hindrance of medical and humanitarian assistance in IDP Camps in Darfur which significantly differs from that described by the Prosecution in the Prosecution Application.

Frankly, I find this argument more than a little offensive — using the international community’s sometimes successful efforts to frustrate the Sudanese government’s genocidal policies as evidence that the Sudanese government did not have those policies.

That, however, is an issue for another day.  What I want to point out here is that, ironically enough, Bashir’s decision to expel the humanitarian aid groups simply reinforces the Prosecution’s argument concerning his genocidal intent.  To be sure, his motive for expelling the groups is not genocidal — he simply wants to punish the Darfuris for the ICC’s willingness to stand up to him.  But expelling the groups lays bare a basic truth about the camps: namely, that when they operate as intended, they do indeed “deliberately inflict[] conditions of life calculated to destroy” the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa.  That basic truth has been obscured by the ability of the international community to shame the Sudanese government into (sometimes) allowing humanitarian aid to reach the camps.

But no longer.  The Sudanese government seems intent on ensuring that there are no international humanitarian groups left in Darfur by the end of the year.  As deaths in the camps start to mount, so will the force of the Prosecution’s argument that the conditions of life in the camps support an inference of genocidal intent.  And Bashir will then have no one to blame but himself.

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Africa, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights Law, Organizations
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