Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
May 24, 2010

Dear Secretary-General:

I was dismayed to learn of your spokesperson's recent announcement that UN representatives Haile Menkerios and Ibrahim Gambari plan to attend the May 27 presidential inauguration of Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum. I urge you to reconsider this decision because it is both wrong and contrary to United Nations (UN) guidelines on this very issue.

UN guidelines limit UN interaction with individuals indicted by international criminal courts such as President al-Bashir to "what is strictly required for carrying out UN mandated activities." Attendance at the inauguration cannot be justified as "strictly required." To the contrary, the UN guidelines state that "[t]he presence of UN representatives in any ceremonial or similar occasion with [persons indicted by international criminal courts] should be avoided." In addition, I understand that further UN guidance specifically concerning President al-Bashir bearing your initials states that "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."

These guidelines are right. Disregarding them will significantly damage the UN's credibility. Attending the inauguration of an individual subject to an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for serious atrocity crimes would send a terrible message to victims of such crimes in Darfur and around the world that their suffering is not reason enough to dispense with ceremonial support for their alleged abuser. Attendance also risks signaling that the United Nations is not committed to the ICC's success-a signal that would be particularly unfortunate to send in the week before the first review conference of the ICC's Rome Statute, which takes place in neighboring Kampala, Uganda from May 31 to June 11, 2010. The review conference will be a moment of significant attention to the court's work and an important time to showcase dedication to the cause of international justice. Any short-sighted breach of the UN's own principles will be doing neither the court nor you any favors.

For all of these reasons, I hope you will reconsider the plans for UN officials at any level to attend the al-Bashir inauguration. Should you wish to discuss this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director