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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs