Sudan's Bashir calls expelled aid groups 'spies'
Published Saturday, March 7, 2009 7:59PM EST
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted for war crimes, called foreign aid workers he expelled from the country "spies" and "thieves" Saturday during a rally of supporters.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on Wednesday on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The warrant lists five counts of crimes against humanity -- murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. It also contains two counts of war crimes, for attacks against a civilian population and pillaging their property.
Al-Bashir, wearing a traditional southern Sudanese feather headdress and holding a spear, lobbed his accusations at the aid groups during the rally, which was held in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.
"These organizations are for spies ... they are thieves," al-Bashir said. He charged that aid money donated to Darfur is used up by the groups themselves.
The Sudanese leader also accused the ICC of trying to undermine a peace deal between northern and southern Sudanese.
After the ICC issued the warrant, al-Bashir expelled 13 of the largest aid groups operating in Sudan's Darfur region, accusing them of colluding with the court.
About 40 per cent of aid workers in the region were affected by the decision.
The move led to sharp criticism from the United Nations and a number of countries, who fear that such a decision could create an even worse humanitarian crisis in the region.
The UN Human Rights Council said the expulsion of the workers was a "grievous dereliction" of duty and said they would investigate if the move is a violation of human rights, or perhaps even a war crime.
In 2003, ethnic Africans staged a rebellion, charging that they had been neglected and mistreated at the hands of the Arab-dominated central government.
The resulting war killed 300,000 people and drove 2.7 million more from their homes.
In 2005, Al-Bashir and the southern rebels signed a peace agreement that ended another war in the south that had carried on for more than 20 years and killed more than two million people.
That peace deal brought former rebels into a government with al-Bashir, but some southern Sudanese fear that the ICC charges could threaten the agreement.
Al-Bashir has rejected the court's jurisdiction and is not expected to turn himself in.
With files from The Associated Press