Sudanese General Mustafa al-Dabi, the highly criticized leader of the Arab League’s observer mission in Syria, resigned his post over the weekend. General al-Dabi’s resignation comes in the midst of the Arab League’s withdrawal of what has been described as a “troubled mission” and subsequent request for a more robust Arab League-United Nations joint peacekeeping mission.
Referring to al-Dabi’s resignation and to the prospect of the proposed Arab League-U.N. effort, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby acknowledged the flaws of the first mission led by al-Dabi, saying, “The new mission must be totally different from the previous one.”
Al-Dabi was the focus of sustained criticism by human rights organizations, particularly from the Enough Project, for his incongruous role as the leader of a human rights observer mission. General al-Dabi’s personal relationship with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his connection to gross human rights violations in Darfur made him categorically unfit to head the Arab League’s observer mission.
Al-Dabi’s credibility was further tarnished when he reported last month that violence decreased with the arrival of Arab League observers, claiming the mission noted only 136 deaths, a figure far less than opposition reports and estimates from human rights organizations. In a press conference held in Khartoum just after the release of the observer mission’s report, General al-Dabi expressed satisfaction with the findings and the mission overall.
During his tenure, many members of the Syrian opposition felt that the Arab League observers provided convenient cover for the Assad regime to continue its crackdown on civilians.
Al-Dabi’s resignation comes at a time when the Arab League has decided to break off formal diplomatic ties with the Syrian government, “open channels of communications” with the opposition, and form a “Friends of Syria” contact group made up of Western and Arab nations. These developments signal increased consideration of human rights and civilian protection, and Al-Dabi’s departure improves the Arab League’s credibility in this realm.
Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby nominated former Jordanian Foreign Minister, Abdullah al-Khatib, as the new head of the Syrian observer mission.
Photo: Mustafa al-Dabi (AFP)