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memri
August 27, 2008 No.
2035

Qatari Liberal and Former Dean of Islamic Law at the University of Qatar Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: The Arab Lawyers' Union Defends Al-Bashir Instead of the Victims in Darfur

In an August 6, 2008 column in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad, Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of Islamic law at the University of Qatar and prominent liberal intellectual, attacked the Arab lawyers' unions for defending oppressors like Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein while ignoring their victims in Darfur and Halabja.

The following are excerpts: [1]

This Is Not the First Astonishing Position Taken By the Arab Lawyers' Union

"Following the indictments issued against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, Arab Lawyers' Union president Sameh Ashour[2] headed a delegation that hastily flew to Khartoum, where he met with Al-Bashir and declared 'the Arab lawyers' solidarity with Sudan in confronting the plot against the Arab peoples.' He also expressed the union's readiness to fight the indictments and prove them wrong on the grounds that they violate international covenants and treaties.

"The Arab Lawyers' Union said that the International Criminal Court's position represents flagrant violation of all the values, norms and principles of international law and human rights charters, and that what has occurred is conclusive evidence of the deterioration of the international community's institutions due to the U.S.'s control over them.

"This position is not a surprising one for either the Lawyers' Union or its president. This is not the first astonishing position they have taken, for their history is replete with marvels and curiosities."

The Union Supported Assad in the Hariri Investigation

"Two years ago, the union's general secretariat scurried to Damascus to convene a conference under the slogan 'Supporting Syria is a National Duty,' to oppose the international commission of inquiry formed under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 to investigate the killing of [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafiq Al-Hariri and those with him. The lawyers convened at a well-attended conference and listened to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad say, 'Our sovereignty is above the Security Council.'

"One of the lawyers stood up and told Al-Assad, amidst cheers and applause, that he was the Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser of this century! Then Lawyers' Union president Ashour stood up, and, pounding his fist on the podium, shouted, 'Even if the Arab rulers agree to Al-Assad's meeting with the commission of inquiry, the lawyers will not permit it, and will prevent it by force, because their dignity and his are one and the same.' Absorbed in his own performance, Ashour criticized and condemned the trial of Saddam Hussein, calling on the Arabs to cut ties with 'occupied' Baghdad, and demanding that they acquire nuclear weapons…"

"Lawyers' Unions and Syndicates in Both Egypt and Jordan Raced Frantically to Defend Saddam"

"Just recently, lawyers' unions and syndicates in both Egypt and Jordan raced frantically to defend Saddam Hussein, and the Jordanian Lawyers' Syndicate recruited 1,500 lawyers to support his defense committee. The day after Saddam fell into the hands of the coalition, the syndicate's head said that it 'considers President Saddam Hussein the leader of the resistance to liberate a beloved part of the Arab homeland from the American cabal, and he is still the president of Iraq, and he remains immune from criminal interrogation by virtue of the Iraqi constitution and international law.'

"Committees and boards were formed in defense of Saddam, and lawyers, former Arab justice ministers, and Arab and international figures volunteered for some of them, such as the Frenchman Roland Dumas,[3] the Malaysian Mahathir Mohamad,[4] the Algerian Ahmed Ben Bella,[5] the American Ramsey Clark,[6] and the Qatari [Najib] Al-Nauimi.[7] They were joined by A'isha Al-Qaddhafi[8] and Saudi lawyer Rim Al-Jayb. When Saddam was executed, they held conferences in tribute to the 'late hero of the nation,' praising his exploits and enumerating his accomplishments!"

"The Excuses and Justifications Offered Today in Defense of Al-Bashir… Are [The Same As] Those Offered in Defense of Saddam"

"The excuses and justifications offered today in defense of Al-Bashir and his policies are [the same as] those offered in defense of Saddam and his escapades, all of which were in vain. They repeat the same canned excuses, such as 'the politicization of standards of justice,' 'judging by a double standard,' 'justice biased against the Arabs,' 'selectivity,' and 'the service of American schemes.' The most recent of these accusations was expressed by one reader in Al-Ittihad, who said: 'What kind of international justice is this, that holds [Sudan] to account for a domestic crisis in Darfur that has lasted less than five years, while continuing its policy of turning a blind eye to the most heinous crimes in Palestine, which have lasted for 50 years?'

"It is their right to defend Al-Bashir as they defended Saddam. And it is their right to demand universal international criminal standards and that they be applied in the case of anyone suspected of perpetrating similar crimes, as Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim says. But what these people always try to ignore is the victims.

"We will not be hearing the voice of the Lawyers' Union, which mobilized to defend accused presidents, [speaking out] for the weak and the marginalized. Saddam did not need an army of lawyers to defend him; likewise, Al-Bashir does not need the Arab Lawyers' Union to defend him. It is the victims of Darfur and the millions of the crushed and pulverized who are most in need of the legal support of masses of lawyers."

"The Bleeding Wound of Darfur Is a Mark of Disgrace for All the Arabs"

"U.N. reports indicate that 300,000 people were killed in Darfur, and that two million fled their homes after their villages were destroyed by the Sudan-backed Arab Janjaweed militias. Who is for them? Who is for the widows? Who is for the orphans? Who is for the displaced?

"These victims are all Muslims, and their only offense is that they are not Arab, the ethnicity of their rulers! If they find no support among those who are supposed to defend rights and help the weak, then to whom can they turn for shelter and protection? Is the international community to be accused if it intervenes to extend a helping hand?

"For five bloody years, the people of Darfur have been ruined and expelled, and the satellite television channels have broadcast horrific scenes that tormented the hearts of the world and make their consciences bleed – except for the Arab conscience, which was on vacation, and except for their [Arab] League, which remained comatose, and except for their media, which neglected to cover and broadcast the facts.

"The Arabs did not venture to extend sincere counsel to Sudan in the matter of Darfur to protect it from the danger of international intervention. They have left it to commit error after error…

"It appears that the Arabs are a nation that does not benefit from the lessons of the past. Today, in their fear for Al-Bashir, they are continuing on the path of 'Support your brother, whether oppressor or oppressed' – the same error as in the past.

"If they truly feared for the Sudanese president, they would instead speak frankly and sincerely [of the need] to adopt different policies: to comfort the grieved, to heal the wounds, to reassure the terrified, to shelter the expelled, to achieve a comprehensive domestic reconciliation, to punish those who committed crimes, and to compensate the injured. This is fundamentally Sudan's responsibility, [but] it is [also] the responsibility of all Arabs. The bleeding wound of Darfur is a mark of disgrace for all the Arabs.

"The positions taken by the lawyers' unions awaken grief in [our] souls and bitterness in [our] hearts – when rights organizations, which are [supposed to be] the bastions of defense of freedoms and support for the weak, turn into bastions of suppressing freedom, repressing thought, and supporting the powerful oppressors.

"Where were these unions [in the case of] the mass graves, the massacres in Darfur, and the mass exterminations in Halabja and southern Iraq? Why do they raise their voices and display their heroism against America on the pretext of Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo, while they hold their tongues on what is happening in the prisons and detention camps in their own countries, and on what happened to hundreds of people who have disappeared without a trace?"

"They Accuse the International Community of Judging By a Double Standard – While We Judge By 10 Standards"

"I have said in the past that the Arab political opposition – our hope for a better tomorrow – was our great misfortune, because it is worse than our regimes. Today I say that the civil society organizations are a greater misfortune – first and foremost among them the lawyers' unions!

"They accuse the international community of judging by a double standard – while we judge by 10 standards, and among our own citizens! They accuse the international tribunal of bias, whereas our lawyers are the most biased – against the oppressed! They accuse the international organizations of biased justice, but when was justice established in our countries? And they accuse the West of politicization, while the Arab Lawyers' Union overlooks its own politicization!

"When America and Israel commit crimes it is against their enemies. But we commit crimes against our citizens and the people of our own nation! We want the international community to respect our arguments, but we are deluding only ourselves."

[1] http://www.alittihad.ae/wajhatdetails.php?id=38694

[2] See Arab Lawyers' Union president Sameh Ashour's website: http://samehashour.com/en/index.html.

[3] A French lawyer and socialist politician and former minister of European affairs, minister of external affairs, and president of the constitutional council. He formed the Emergency Committee for Iraq with Mahathir Mohamad, Ahmed Ben Bella, and Ramsey Clark.

[4] Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysian prime minister 1981-2003.

[5] The first president of Algeria after it won its independence from France, 1963-1965, and president of the International Campaign against Aggression on Iraq (ICAAI), founded in Cairo in 2003.

[6] Former U.S. attorney-general under president Lyndon Johnson, 1967-1969; in recent years, a left-wing human rights activist.

[7] Dr. Najib Al-Nauimi, a Qatari lawyer. See his website at: http://www.nn-law.com/.

[8] A lawyer and a daughter of Libyan leader Mu`ammar Al-Qaddhafi, she joined Saddam Hussein's defense team in 2004.