March 12, 2015

Whistleblower Spotlight — Darfur Whistleblower Aicha Elbasri

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

This week’s “Whistleblower Spotlight” features Aicha Elbasri, the former spokesperson for the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).  She resigned from that post in 2013 after calling out what she describes as the “conspiracy of silence” of UNAMID and the UN in failing to report on the atrocities committed by the Sudanese government against its people: “Systematic mass rape and other instances of violence went unreported, un-investigated and covered up, forcing me to blow the whistle.”  In an open letter she wrote last week to Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Elbasri implored the court to re-open its now-dropped investigation of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir and bring justice to the people of this war-torn country.

It was only last April that Elbasri wrote a scathing piece in Foreign Policy denouncing the UN for hiding “through a web of lies” Darfur’s “horrible war on civilians.”  As reported in Slate, Elbasri detailed several incidents in which the UNAMID peacekeeping mission and the UN more generally “ignored, denied, or failed to properly make public evidence of concerted attacks on civilians by the Sudanese government and associated militias.”  Her goal was to rouse the public to action:

Having failed to get the United Nations to investigate the situation, I have decided to put the matter in the hands of the public by sharing documents that show what the United Nations has done and how it has lied.  Since the United Nations may never investigate its own wrongdoing, and the African Union is more concerned with shielding war criminals than protecting the people of Darfur, I hope the media and the general public will take up the challenge. . . .

It is now a year later and unfortunately Elbasri seems no closer in her quest to improve the conditions in Darfur.  “Darfur’s victims marked another year without protection, peace or justice,” she wrote the ICC urging it to follow through on its six-year old arrest warrant for President al-Bashir for war crimes and genocide.  Elbasri blames the ICC’s inaction for emboldening al-Bashir into continued acts of repression; for leading to the UN’s depletion of its UNAMID peacekeeping mission in Darfur; and ultimately, for creating a feeling of “abandonment” among the people of Darfur.

That the ICC’s decision to halt its Darfur investigation came on the heels of the “mass rape by the Sudanese Armed Forces of at least 221 women and girls in the village of Tabit” in November 2014 only highlighted the urgency of Elbasri’s plea.  “The tragedy in Tabit should shock your court into action.  . . .  [It] will send a clear message to Bashir, the UN Security Council and the Darfuris that the ICC will not be defeated, and that it will bring the Sudanese regime to justice.”  Hats off to this brave whistleblower for taking a stand and speaking out so loudly to fill the void of the continuing “conspiracy of silence” over Darfur.

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