Sudan expels 2 employees of the International Organization for Migration working in Darfur

By Mohamed Osman, AP
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sudan expels 2 foreign aid workers in Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan has expelled two foreign employees of the International Organization for Migration working in the country’s Darfur region, the agency said Thursday.

The expulsion order comes days after the International Criminal Court charged Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, with genocide in Darfur.

Al-Bashir reacted similarly last year when the court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur. After that charge was announced, al-Bashir expelled 13 foreign aid organizations — most of which were working in Darfur — compounding the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Al-Bashir has refused to recognize the court or cooperate with it.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Muwaia Khaled, said the agency’s employees, an Italian and a Spaniard, had violated the conditions of the original agreement with the agency and were declared persona non-grata. Khaled said the pair were given 72-hours — as of late Wednesday — to leave the country.

The organization’s Geneva-based spokesman, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, said the Sudanese government gave no explanation for the move.

He said the expulsions would impact the agency’s activities on the ground in Darfur. The organization keeps a data base of Darfur refugees, provides them with assistance and protection, and assesses their relocation.

Chauzy said the agency was still in “shock” from the expulsions, and said it was too early to decide how it would respond. Ten international and 70 local staff remain in Darfur for the agency.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since ethnic African rebels rose up in 2003, accusing Sudan’s Arab-dominated central government of neglect and discrimination.

Also Thursday, a Khartoum criminal court sentenced three journalists to between two and five years in prison on charges of undermining the constitution and disseminating false information.

The three opposition journalists were facing charges that included terrorism and espionage for articles deemed too critical of the central government. Sudanese authorities have closed indefinitely the newspaper the journalists worked for.

Rights groups say the government has been clamping down on freedom of expression in Sudan, particularly after the April elections, in which al-Bashir easily won another five-year term.

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