(New York) - During their meeting on Thursday at the African Union summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should publicly call on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to end his government's obstruction of the new peacekeeping force in Darfur and his disregard for justice for international crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the secretary-general.
Ban has said that he will use the meeting with Bashir in Addis Ababa to seek "concrete commitments" from Sudan on the deployment of the United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID). But Ban has not clarified whether he will also press Bashir on justice issues. In particular, the secretary-general should call on Bashir to reverse his recent appointment of Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal as presidential advisor.
"Getting peacekeepers on the ground is critical. But as Ban Ki-moon himself has stated, peace and justice go hand in hand," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "Soft-pedaling justice with Khartoum has not led to Sudan's cooperation in other areas. Instead, it has led to increasingly blatant disregard of the Security Council's efforts to end the suffering in Darfur."
On April 27, 2007, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first arrest warrants for Sudan, citing former state minister of the interior Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheib for 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In September, the Sudanese government appointed Haroun to co-chair a committee to hear complaints from victims of human rights abuses in Sudan. Haroun is state minister for humanitarian affairs and the government's liaison with the UNAMID forces.
In October, the Sudanese government released the second ICC suspect, Kosheib, from prison where he had been held on unrelated charges. In mid-January, Bashir appointed Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal, who is subject to Security Council sanctions, as a special advisor.
The Security Council referred the situation in Sudan to the ICC in March 2005.
"Bashir's appointment of a Janjaweed leader subject to Security Council sanctions is a direct affront to the United Nations," said Dicker. "Ban Ki-moon should publicly condemn Musa Hilal's appointment when he meets with Bashir in Addis Ababa."
At the AU Summit, Bashir is also expected to bid for the prestigious role of chair of the AU Commission. Sudan's candidacy was rejected in 2006 and 2007.
"It's outrageous that Bashir is even being considered for the AU presidency," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "How could one of Africa's highest honors be given to the leader of a government that's implicated in massive atrocities and is determined to block justice at every turn?"
UNAMID is jointly commanded by the African Union and United Nations. Human Rights Watch believes that if Sudan were to assume the chairmanship of the African Union at this time, it would seriously compromise the neutrality of the force.
UNAMID was authorized last July, but the Sudanese government has deliberately obstructed its deployment, particularly by refusing critical troop contributions from non-African states, and by attempting to insert unacceptable provisions in the Status of Forces Agreement.