Clinton Says Bashir Will Be Held Responsible for Darfur Deaths

17 March 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 16 Mar 2009
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (file photo) 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will be held responsible for any deaths among Darfur refugees caused by his decision to expel foreign aid groups from the country. Clinton says the Obama administration will soon name a special envoy for Sudan.

Clinton had harsh words for both the Sudanese leader and countries that have been protective of his government, saying that President Bashir will be held responsible for any deaths in Darfur that result from his decisions, while his international allies should make up for the assistance lost due to his expulsion order.

The secretary's remarks, at a news conference with the top officials of the Northern Ireland administration, were the strongest to date by a senior U.S. official over the Sudanese leader's decision last week to expel 13 international aid groups and subsequent order that all such groups cease activity in Sudan by the end of the year.

Clinton said Mr. Bashir's actions, an apparent response to the International Criminal Court arrest order against him for allegedly orchestrating Darfur war crimes, has created a "horrendous situation" that will cause untold misery and suffering in Darfur, especially in refugee camps.

"The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum [to get them] to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps. Because by their expulsion of the aid workers, who came from all over the world to assist with the health and the sanitation and the security and the education of the refugees, they are putting those 1.4 million lives at risk," she said.

Clinton said the Bashir government, which created the refugee problem in the first place, bears what she called a "sense of responsibility and infamy" for what is occurring and that his international protectors share liability for the situation.

"For those governments that support President Bashir's decision to expel the aid workers, they have a responsibility to persuade the government in Sudan to change its decision, to let the aid workers back in, or they must replace with money and personnel, those who have been expelled, so that innocent lives are not lost and further undermined," he said.

Clinton said the Obama administration will name a U.S. special envoy for Sudan in a matter of days. The post has been vacant since Richard Williamson stepped down as Sudan trouble-shooter at the end of the Bush administration.

Non-governmental organizations involved with Darfur have been pushing for a new envoy and more assertive U.S. diplomacy on Sudan.

Earlier Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said the United States is reaching out to Arab League and African Union member states as well as to China, which has close economic relations with Sudan, to try to get them use their influence to avert a humanitarian "catastrophe."

Wood again stressed U.S. opposition to proposals by some Arab states to defer the case against Mr. Bashir by the International Criminal Court, saying that the United States does not accept any link between the ICC action and the humanitarian situation.