Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 4 December 2014

An open letter to the ICC prosecutor from the former UNAMID spokesperson


Your Excellency,

I write to thank you for your laudable commitment to the pursuit of the truth and justice without fear or favour. In particular I commend you for your very strong expression of this on 23 June 2014, when you solemnly called on the U.N. Security-General to set up a “thorough, independent and public inquiry” into the accusations of deliberate manipulation of UNAMID reporting on Darfur. As someone who had been pressing the U.N. to take this step for over one and a half years, I was especially grateful for your willingness to speak out and to remind the world body that it too must uphold the principles of accountability and transparency.

It is therefore deeply disappointing that your public call went unanswered by the Secretary-General. Instead, on 2 July 2014, he set up a Review Team on Allegations of Manipulation of Reporting on Darfur. This review turned out to be an internal, partial, biased and secretive process.

This review body was incapable of uncovering the truth about the gross misconduct and routine manipulation of the facts that have become the hallmarks of UNAMID and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). As a result, those who manipulated the truth previously continue to do so, confident they will be shielded by the U.N.’s questionable immunity policy.

Reasons for the failure of the Cooper Review

The review team was not independent. Rather, it was made up of U.N. staffers under the leadership of Philip Cooper, a U.N. retiree and former DPKO official. This resulted in a blatant bias in favour of DPKO. It would have been difficult for any staff member to work free from improper influence and without fear of retaliation if they presented DPKO and the U.N. Headquarters in an adverse light.

The review was far from thorough. The Cooper team admitted having reviewed the public reports on only six incidents out of a total of 16. It also acknowledged that it did not examine all “the Secretary-General and the DPKO/ Department of Political Affairs (DPA) Weekly Briefing Notes on Field Operations to the Security Council.”

The review was not public. The level of secrecy that surrounded this review is rather rare and extremely disturbing. In fact, the U.N. maintained secrecy about the composition of the review team as well as the members’ backgrounds, credentials or investigation experience. It also concealed the terms of reference and the timeline for their work. And most shockingly, still to this day, the U.N. refuses to share the full Cooper report with Security Council Member States, the International Criminal Court and the public. What has been published so far is only a five-page summary.

Moreover, the irrefutable evidence that I shared with Mr. Cooper leaves no doubt that the DPKO was fully informed of the crimes committed by the Sudanese Government forces and the armed movements and chose to conceal the truth from the Security Council, the Sudanese public and the international community at large. And yet, the Cooper whitewash declared DPKO absolutely innocent.

In its findings on 29 October, the review admitted that due to UNAMID’s repeated omissions, lies and half-truths “the Government could not be held accountable for the criminal acts of its forces and/or proxies.” However, it failed to speak of misconduct or to seek any sort of accountability, defying the ultimate rule that says that where there is misconduct, there must be accountability.

The cover-up charges are extremely serious as they extend from 2010 to present. UNAMID and DPKO failed to alert the Security Council about the Government’s use of non-Arab tribes in its reprisal war against the Zaghawa population since the end of 2010. They omitted the Government’s arming Arab tribes and pitting them against each other, at least since the Jebel Amer gold rush war. They also concealed the truth about the serious human rights violations by the armed movements, including reports of civilians being used as human shields.

Instead of speaking the bitter truth about a war that has been widening and deepening, UNAMID and DPKO issued sunny reports of the decline in violence and talked up the prospects for peace. Their deliberate misrepresentation of the situation on the ground has paved the way for a severe downsizing of UNAMID since April 2012. So far nearly 6,000 troops and civil servants have been sent home. Worse still, they convinced the Security Council to embark on perilous plans to develop the U.N.’s “exit strategy” for UNAMID.

Why a commission of inquiry must now be demanded of the UN Security Council

The troubling gap between what UNAMID sees and what it is prepared to tell the world was recently exposed by the Mission’s bungled efforts to investigate the shocking allegations of mass rape in Tabit. What made this all the more concerning were the lengths the mission and the U.N. Secretariat were prepared to go to, to avoid exposing the measures taken by Sudan’s own security forces to cover up the rapes and their likely responsibility for carrying out these atrocities in the first place. This incident showed that nothing has changed and nor is it likely to, until such time as a thorough, independent and public inquiry into the operation of the mission is conducted.

Therefore, I strongly urge you to use your historic twentieth briefing to the Security Council on Darfur to call on the Security Council to order an independent commission of inquiry into the cover-up. At this juncture, the only credible option left to uncover the truth about the U.N. manipulation of reporting is an investigation under Security Council auspices. Such a step will ensure accountability for any past wrong-doing and will work to ensure non-repetition of these serious acts of misconduct in the future. This is the least that the international community can do to make amends to the people of Darfur.

Your support for a commission of inquiry ordered by the Council would send a strong message to the perpetrators that they stand to be held personally accountable for their crimes. It should also help stop the apocalyptic scenario of UNAMID’s premature departure from Darfur, which would leave millions of acutely vulnerable civilians at the mercy of an ICC-indicted government that has shown itself unwilling and unable to protect them.

I trust you will stand on the right side of history.

Truly yours,

Aicha Elbasri

Former Spokesperson for UNAMID

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  • 4 December 2014 06:24, by Akuma

    Dear Aicha Elbasri,

    Your cry will not grant you another opportunity to Sudan again, the war going on in Darfur is continuing because of your interest for employment there. Sudan government & Darfur are working daily to bring peace back to Darfur, but with your interest of getting job there, the war keep going. Pushing for ICC will not bring peace but worsen situation

    Dr. Akuma
    Chicago, US

    repondre message

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