The good news: World leaders appear to agree with rare consensus that the Syrian government’s violent killing of civilians – more than 5,000 in recent months, including an estimated 300 children – must end. The Arab League has condemned and sanctioned Syria. The United States, Canada and European Union have imposed sanctions, and even Russia has belatedly issued a finger-wagging statement condemning recent violence in Syria.
In what should have been more good news, the Arab League is sending a team of Arab observers to Syria today for a month-long human rights observer mission. But instead, very bad news: The Arab League has appointed General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, Sudan’s former head of military intelligence and state minister for security arrangements, to lead the observer mission. There’s no better example of sending in a fox to guard – or in this case observe and report on – the chicken coop.
Mustafa al-Dabi was in charge of Sudanese military intelligence and security personnel – notoriously brutal forces responsible for committing torture, rape, and other inhumane acts against Sudanese civilians. His forces played critical roles planning and executing recent attacks against civilians in Darfur, Blue Nile, Abyei and South Kordofan that have left untold thousands dead and half a million people displaced from their homes. Refugees are fleeing over borders to South Sudan and Ethiopia in the thousands daily. And al-Dabi’s boss, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
There has been plenty of reason to suspect the Arab League observer mission would be doomed from the start. According to a CNN news report, an unnamed Arab diplomat involved with the Arab League deliberations commented, “We expect Syria to follow a policy of buying time, delay and limit the observers’ movement on the ground. We think it is a political maneuver by the Syrian regime.”
What possible signal could the Arab League be seeking to send Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad by appointing a general who oversaw grievous human rights violations and killings in his own country to lead a human rights observer mission in Syria? Maybe the more important question is how will the United States and the rest of the international community respond to this travesty?
Even since Syria’s ”acceptance” of the Arab League observer mission early this week, government forces have killed an estimated 250 people. On Tuesday, Syrian troops surrounded unarmed villagers from Kfar Owaid and fired on them with tanks, rockets and machine guns, killing 100 people in what Syrian activists called “an organized massacre.” The international community needs to put an end to this farce and push for real protection of Syria’s citizens.