Welcoming War Criminals

Activists criticize Obama for hosting Sudanese official with ties to genocide

Nafie Ali Nafie / AP
April 30, 2013

The Obama administration has agreed to host high-level talks with a Sudanese delegation that includes known war criminals and state sponsors of terror.

The State Department announced Monday that a Sudanese delegation led by senior figures in the National Congress Party (NCP) has agreed to visit Washington, D.C., for "candid discussion on the conflicts and humanitarian crises within Sudan," according to the Associated Press.

U.S. policy has traditionally shunned genocidal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his NCP, which is considered a state sponsor of terror for crimes carried out in Sudan’s Darfur region where ethnic cleansing began in 2003.

The talks will be be helmed by Nafie Ali Nafie, an al-Bashir adviser and key NCP official who has been cited by watchdog groups for his role in the Darfur massacres.

"The man the Obama administration will be speaking with has blood on his hands, quite literally," the Sudanese peace activist group Girifna wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday.

"As one of the most brutal members of the National Islamic Front regime and head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in the 1990′s, Nafie masterminded a savage campaign of torture and killing in compounds known as ‘Ghost Houses,’ " Girifna wrote. "Thousands of people were tortured and hundreds disappeared in a campaign that saw the annihilation of voices of dissent."

"Leaders of civil society and professional and student unions were persecuted under his direct orders," the letter states. "He himself is known to have tortured individuals directly."

Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin said Nafie was "a key player" in al-Bashir’s genocidal regime, which is responsible for systematically killing upwards of 400,000 people, according to estimates by watchdog groups.

The United Nations International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2004 for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Sudan is also reported to be harboring Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, who is notorious for murdering and enslaving children. Kony is believed to be receiving support from the Sudanese army.

In addition to sponsoring the atrocities in Darfur, Sudan’s NCP has become a chief ally of Iran, helping it to transport weapons and other illicit materials that could be part of Tehran’s rogue nuclear program.

Nafie is "Iran-trained and was a key player in Omar al-Bashir’s reign of terror," Rubin said. "To dismiss him as a bit player would be akin to dismissing Himmler and Goebbels as bit players in Hitler’s rise."

Other longtime Darfur activists chided the administration for taking what they say is a docile approach toward al-Bashir and his regime.

"Just two days ago it was revealed that the mass murderer Joseph Kony has been harbored and protected by the army of Sudan, which is led by President Omar Bashir, architect of the Darfur genocide," said Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Medoff’s organization has been pressing the Obama administration to take action against al-Bashir for his role in the Darfur massacres.

"Bashir and his representatives should be jailed, not invited for negotiations," Medoff said. "The Obama administration, in continuing its kid-gloves treatment of the ‘Butcher of Darfur,’ is sending a message to would-be perpetrators of genocide everywhere that the United States will not take serious steps against them."

United to End Genocide, one of the nation's top peace groups, also condemned Obama's decision to hold talks with murderers.

"United to End Genocide believes that the delegates of Sudan’s National Congress Party (NCP) do not deserve to be rewarded by the United States government and invited to Washington, D.C. until they stop committing crimes against the civilians throughout Sudan," the group said in a statement, which labeled the talks an undeserved "reward".

The Sudanese activist group Girifna maintains that the Obama administration is ignoring the NCP’s history of violence.

"The U.S. government must understand that the NCP has lost all legitimacy and has never represented the Sudanese people," the group wrote to Obama. "Rather, it represents a tiny cabal of individuals that have exploited us, killed hundreds of thousands of our innocent brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and continues to commit mass atrocities and crimes against humanity until this day."

"The regime of Omar al-Bashir has proved itself unwilling to accept the rule of law, or implement any of the myriad agreements it has signed with the various armed groups and the civilian opposition," the letter adds.

"If the United States is genuinely interested in stability and peace in the region, it must not fall into the false paradigm that the NCP is the only harbinger of stability," Girifna stated in its open letter. "In fact, the NCP’s prolonged rule will ensure that South Sudan will remain unstable, and that various armed conflicts in Sudan will continue."

Rubin said the Obama administration’s outreach to suspect Sudanese leaders is part and parcel of a misguided foreign policy that embraces foe over friend.

"There’s a certain irony about the Obama administration: It talks about a responsibility to protect, and then looks the other ways as tens of thousands are slaughtered in Syria," Rubin said. "It issues red lines on chemical weapons, and then signals to the world that it has no intention of enforcing them."