August 31, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese government on Thursday formally informed the African Union (AU) that it no longer wished to be considered for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
- Delegates are seen beneath a ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on on (December 2, 2011)
The Permanent Mission of Sudan to the United Nations said in a letter seen by Sudan Tribune dated August 30th addressed to Djibouti’s Mission, which is the current coordinator for East Africa sub-region at the world body, that “it is no longer interested in taking up one of the vacancies available in the Human Rights Council".
Sudan was almost certain to fill the vacancy as one of the states nominated for the five African seats available on the 47-member council which included Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Gabon.
But rights groups expressed outcry over Khartoum’s candidacy particularly as the East African nation is led by an individual wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes and genocide committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur since the conflict erupted there in 2003.
"Electing Sudan to the international community’s highest human body is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter," the Geneva-based UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said.
Western nations however, which have long been critical of Sudan’s human rights records gave no public signal of opposition to its candidacy.
This week the influential US Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen blasted president Barack Obama’s administration for failing to stop the "corrupt system" at the UN by not pressing for reform there.
"As Sudan appears poised to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN has hit a new low," said the congresswoman, who heads the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Allowing this genocidal dictatorship, which has killed thousands of its citizens, to serve on such a body is beyond hypocrisy, it is callous, dangerous, and tragic," Ros-Lehtinen added.
Ros-Lehtinen said in the statement that the United Nations has "surrendered to despots and rogue regimes as it allows the likes of Iran’s [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Venezuela’s [Hugo] Chavez, and now Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir to corrupt the system and use it to further their own oppressive and despotic schemes".
"It is beyond apparent that the UN is broken. It is time to stop this hostile takeover and implement real change," she stressed.
Foreign Policy (FP) magazine reported on its website today that the United States and other unspecified nations encouraged Kenya to declare its intention to enter the race to thwart Sudan’s bid which it agreed to do.
"Sudan, a consistent human rights violator, does not meet the Council’s own standards for membership," said Kurtis A. Cooper, a spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations was quoted by FP as saying.
"It would be inappropriate for Sudan to have a seat on the Council while the Sudanese head of State is under International Criminal Court indictment for war crimes in Darfur and the government of Sudan continues to use violence to inflame tensions along its border with South Sudan".
Philippe Bolopion, UN director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), welcomed the decision, telling Associated Press that “the worst human rights offenders are slowly recognizing they are not welcome on the Human Rights Council".
“Sudan joins notorious rights violators Syria, Iran, Belarus, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan whose hypocritical aspirations to sit on the Council have properly led to embarrassing retreat,” Bolopion said.
It is not clear what prompted Sudan’s decision but it is likely that Khartoum did not want the negative publicity associated with its candidacy and the possibility of a last minute diplomatic setback.
In May 2004 the US representative at the UN Human Rights Commission walked out after Sudan got elected to sit on it at the height of the Darfur conflict and amid numerous accounts of massive atrocities there which Washington unilaterally labeled that year as genocide.
“The United States will not participate in this absurdity,” Siv said at the time. “Our delegation will absent itself from the meeting rather than lend support to Sudan’s candidacy,” he said before walking out of council chambers.
Asked how the Africans could put forward a country so clearly unsuited for the job, one African ambassador told FP that "Even if we believe deep down that Sudan, whose president has been indicted, shouldn’t be elected, nobody wants to jeopardize their relations by telling Sudan you don’t qualify because you have a human rights problem. We will be sitting at the table with them in future".