A group of more than 100 Holocaust scholars and genocide experts signed on to a letter sent to the Obama administration Tuesday pressing it to cancel an upcoming meeting with a Sudanese delegation that includes war criminals who have facilitated “crimes against humanity.”
The Obama administration announced last month that it would meet with a Sudanese delegation led by senior figures in the National Congress Party (NCP), which is led by President Omar al-Bashir, a wanted war criminal who is known as “the Butcher of Sudan.”
The delegation is to be helmed by Nafie Ali Nafie, an al-Bashir adviser and key NCP official who has been cited for his “central role in orchestrating the Darfur genocide” and even admitted to torturing Sudanese citizens.
The administration’s decision to host the delegation reversed a longstanding policy of avoiding such figures and sparked an outcry among human rights activists.
“As scholars who have written or taught about the Holocaust or other genocides, we are deeply troubled by the news that your administration intends to host a visit by a delegation representing Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir,” according to the petition, which was spearheaded by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
“We must make it clear to the perpetrators of genocide that the United States will treat them as outlaws and bring them to justice, not treat them as respected statesmen and bring them here for friendly visits,” the scholars wrote.
The petition goes on to remind President Barack Obama that past U.S. administrations have turned a blind eye to genocide.
“We have just marked the 70th anniversary of the tragic Bermuda conference of 1943, at which the United States and England pretended to take an interest in the victims of Nazi genocide, but then did nothing to intervene,” the letter states. “Let us not repeat that tragic mistake. The victims of Darfur must not be abandoned as were the Jews of Europe.”
Scholars such as Rafael Medoff have taken aim at the administration for its failure to concretely address mass genocides despite offering much lip service on the matter.
The White House’s Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) has failed to respond to a single global atrocity nearly two years after its creation was ordered, according to critics who cite it for remaining silent about Darfur and the systematic murder of citizens in war-torn Syria.
“The leaders of President Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board should be up in arms over the prospect of perpetrators of atrocities visiting America and receiving the red carpet treatment,” Medoff told the Washington Free Beacon. “If the board cannot prevent the arrival of these killers, why does it even exist? Is the board being used as a cover for the administration’s kid-gloves treatment of the Darfur murderers?”
Obama announced the APB during an address at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in 2012, stating that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”
The White House maintained on May 1—just days after it announced the Sudanese delegation’s visit—that it is “has done much to keep faith” with its commitment despite persistent criticism from human rights activists.
Asked to describe the administration’s approach to Sudan, former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined.