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 Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid