News / Middle East

Sudanese Chief of Arab Observers in Syria Slammed by Rights Groups

In this image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network purports to show Arab League monitors visiting the Baba Amr area of Homs in Syria, December 28, 2011. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this
In this image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network purports to show Arab League monitors visiting the Baba Amr area of Homs in Syria, December 28, 2011. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this

Human rights groups and Syrian opposition activists are outraged that a Sudanese general from a nation with a checkered human rights record is heading an Arab league mission to measure Syria's crackdown on dissent.

The critics say General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi's actions as a military commander and intelligence chief during Sudan's recent conflicts make him unfit for the Arab League post.

About 60 League-sanctioned observers are in Syria to check the government of President Bashar al-Assad's compliance with pledges to end the crackdown on dissent and release political detainees.

Some media reports say a few dozen of them come from Sudan, a nation highly criticized by human rights groups for its record of violence against government dissenters during years of civil unrest.

Al-Dabi, 63, is a key figure in President Omar al-Bashir's Sudanese government. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed in western Sudan's Darfur region.

"The Arab League's decision to appoint as the head of the observer mission a Sudanese general on whose watch severe human rights violations were committed in Sudan risks undermining the League's efforts so far and seriously calls into question the mission's credibility," Amnesty International said in a statement this week

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, is closely watching al-Dabi's moves. SNC advisor Ausama Monajed told VOA the group is "seriously considering" asking the Arab League to replace al-Dabi, but not just yet.

"We will wait to see if there is any indication that the monitoring mission will submit a report [on the situation in Syria] that is somewhat biased towards the Assad government," he said. An Arab League official defended the choice of al-Dabi to the Associated Press, saying he enjoyed the support of all 22 members.

But Al-Dabi has long been intertwined with the Sudanese leadership.

After two decades as a Sudanese army officer, al-Dabi backed the 1989 coup that brought Mr. Bashir to power and was rewarded with the post of head of military intelligence that year.

Officers opposed to Bashir's takeover attempted their own coup in 1990, but Bashir loyalists foiled the plot and executed more than 20 alleged conspirators.

Magdi Gizouli, a Sudan analyst at the Rift Valley Institute, says that opposition activists blame al-Dabi for the executions.

Al-Dabi switched roles in 1995 to serve as chief of Sudan's foreign spy agency. He returned to the military in 1996 to oversee operations against an insurgency in what was then southern Sudan.

Adeeb Yousif, a Sudanese human rights activist based in San Francisco, said al-Dabi was a front-line commander in Khartoum's civil war against southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

"He was a very tough person, he did not have any mercy in killing innocent civilians," Yousif said.

Al-Dabi briefly served as a special presidential envoy in Darfur in 1999, a role that brought more criticism of his rights record.

Darfur's Masalit tribe accuses al-Dabi of arming and mobilizing Arab Janjaweed militiamen who attacked Masalit communities and forced many to flee their homes that year.

Yousif, who heads the Sudan-based Darfur Reconciliation and Development Organization, accused al-Dabi of committing a "genocide" against the Masalit.

No charges were filed against the general. His brief appointment in Darfur preceded the founding of International Criminal Court in 2002.

Al-Dabi left his Darfur post in 2000 for a four-year assignment as Sudanese ambassador to Qatar.

But he later returned as a presidential advisor on Darfur in 2005 as the region was engulfed in war between the Khartoum government and Darfuri rebels.

Andrew Natsios is a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and served as U.S. special envoy to Sudan from 2006 to 2007. He says there were a few Khartoum officials in Darfur who were moderating forces.

"I do not remember al-Dabi being one of them," he said.

Al-Dabi, however, was a key conduit as the U.S. softened its diplomatic approach towards Sudan.

Timothy Carney, U.S. ambassador to Sudan from 1995 to 1997, said he met al-Dabi in 1996 to discuss U.S. concerns about Sudan's alleged sponsorship of international terrorism.

"Al-Dabi was enormously cooperative on the terrorism questions," Carney said. "In July 1996, he accompanied a Washington-based U.S. officer and myself to inspect camps that the United States thought might be used for the training of terrorists."

Analyst Gizouli said al-Dabi also made an offer to the United States to deport al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who moved to Sudan in 1991 and set up a network of businesses and training camps.

Carney said U.S. officials identified bin Laden as a terrorist financier at the time and wanted him out of places where he had great freedom of action.

Washington pressed for bin Laden to face justice in Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh's refusal to take back the al-Qaida chief prompted Sudan to deport him to Afghanistan in 1996.

In Carney's view, al-Dabi's combination of intelligence, military, and diplomatic experience makes him well-suited for the role of leading the Arab League's Syria observer mission.

"I would argue that General al-Dabi is a man of considerable brain power who understands completely the human rights dimension," Carney said. "He has experienced a lot of it as a senior military figure in Sudan. I think you can expect to see a sensitivity especially to the human rights issues in Syria."

But U.S. Representative Donald Payne, who has visited Sudan about a dozen times since taking office in 1989, disagrees.

"Any Sudanese official who is close to the president, an indicted war criminal, and continues to ascend in that leadership, is part of a pariah government," he said.

"Why the Arab League, out of all the countries in the organization, would decide to put this general in charge of their mission astonishes me," he said. "It shows a lack of true interest and concern in trying to come up with a solution [to Syria's unrest]."

Since leading the first observer mission to Homs on Tuesday, al-Dabi has said Syria's government is cooperating well with his monitors. He also has said his team needs more time to get a clear picture of what is happening in Homs and other centers of the nine-month anti-Assad rebellion.

12/30 PM spelling corrected of: Magdi Gizouli


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid