Memo to the new leaders of Libya: If you’re trying to establish a democratic, internationally recognized state founded on the rule of law, it’s a very bad idea to seek governance advice from the modern successor to Idi Amin.
In one of the more incongruous diplomatic visits in recent memory, Libyan officials over the weekend rolled out the red carpet for none other than Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir — the dictator next door wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for slaughtering his own people, very like the military dictator just overthrown in Libya who was also wanted by the ICC on similar charges.
Bashir’s warm welcome in Tripoli is a bit more comprehensible in the context of recent events. He and former Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi, despite the similarity of their methods, were not friends. Kadafi is believed to have armed rebels in Sudan’s restive Darfur region and offered sanctuary last year to the leader of one of Darfur’s key rebel groups. Bashir, meanwhile, claims to have provided weapons to the Libyan insurgents who overthrew Kadafi last fall with help from NATO forces. It’s possible, then, that Libya’s interim government welcomed Bashir on Saturday out of gratitude for his support during the revolution. But that’s no excuse.
Libya’s leadership is reportedly seeking advice from Bashir on ways to integrate former insurgents into the nation’s military and police forces. There may be nobody on Earth less qualified to offer such guidance. Bashir is a master at displacing and destroying whole communities in the name of disarming insurgents, and in arming proxy militias to carry out his regime’s genocidal work. Taking him on as a consultant on community policing is like soliciting cooking advice from Hannibal Lecter.
What’s arguably worse than Libya’s embrace of its monstrous neighbor is the silence about it from the rest of the world. Every time Bashir crosses the borders of his own nation for another country that defies the ICC by failing to honor the court’s arrest warrant, the practice of sheltering war criminals and disrespecting international law becomes more acceptable — and when this becomes so routine that world leaders cease to comment, it has devastating consequences for global human rights. Not a word about Bashir’s visit has been issued from Washington, London or other world capitals. The Arab League, meanwhile, is further sanctioning Sudanese genocide by appointing Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Dabi, former head of Sudan’s murderous intelligence agency, to head its observer mission in Syria.
This has to stop. President Obama and other global leaders should speak out loudly and forcefully, before Bashir gets another stamp on his passport.