Human Rights Watch has petitioned Nigerian diplomat, Ibrahim Gambari, the joint African Union-United Nations special representative, for attending the wedding ceremony of Chad’s President Idriss Deby on January 20, 2012 in Khartoum, where he hugged the wanted Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir.
The wedding of President Deby and daughter of Sudan’s Janjaweed militia leader, Musa Hilal, took place in a top hotel in Khartoum and was attended by a host of dignitaries led by President Omar al-Bashir.
“As you know President al-Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in Darfur, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said.
UN guidelines limit UN officials’ interactions with individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court, such as President al-Bashir, to “what is strictly required for carrying out UN mandated activities.”
“Attendance at a wedding ceremony cannot, in our view, be justified as “strictly required,” Mr. Roth said in a complaint letter to UN Secretary General on Thursday.
The human rights group said Mr. Gambari’s presence at the wedding brings the UN’s credibility in disrepute and sends a “terrible message” to victims of war crimes in Dafur
“Indeed, images of Mr. Gambari embracing President al-Bashir have been widely circulated, showing Darfuri victims that the head of UNAMID socializes with suspected war criminals,” Mr. Roth said.
President al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes in Dafur region, Sudan. He has several bans, sanctions and an arrest warrant hanging on him and UN guidelines forbid the presence of UN representatives in any ceremonial or similar occasion with persons indicted by international criminal courts.
“Interactions of a ceremonial nature with President al-Bashir should be avoided, including courtesy calls, receptions, photo opportunities, attendance at national day celebrations and so on,” UN guidance states in relation to President al-Bashir.
The UN’s guidelines seek to deny President al-Bashir, and others wanted for serious international crimes, the legitimacy that may come with such ceremonial interactions.
It is also reported that Sudan’s defence minister, Abduraheem Hussein, also attended the ceremony. The ICC prosecutor on December 2, 2011 requested an arrest warrant for Hussein on
charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has however replied Human Rights Watch saying Mr. Gambari “attended the wedding at the invitation of President Deby … [and had] no control over the guest list.”
But the rights group insists that given the significant likelihood that President al-Bashir would attend the event, proper due diligence on Mr. Gambari’s part would have avoided this situation, and the resulting harm to victims in Darfur and the UN’s reputation.