How to get away with being a dictator, UN style

On the last day of December 2015, online users were left quite surprised after reading a certain post on the United Nations Library twitter account. The account tweeted the name of the book that was checked-out of the library the most in 2015, a book on how to be immune from international war crimes prosecution. The book is not a United Nations document, but a Doctoral thesis by Ramona Pedretti, of the University of Lucerne in Switzerland.

What was our most popular book of 2015? Find it in our library catalogue! (UN only)

— UN Library (@UNLibrary) December 31, 2015

The United Nations later clarified the tweet, calling it “the most popular new book of 2015.” It was “acquired in July 2015, borrowed twice and checked out for browsing 4 times.”  

It is not news that some of the UN member countries are led by dictators. However, it is surprising that a new book on “immunity from war crimes” garnered much attention from UN delegates, in the space of six months.

Here are four dictators who could have been checking out the book:

Omar Al-Bashir – Sudan

The embattled Sudanese president (1989 – present) has been running and hiding from the tentacles of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for some time now. Indicted in 2009 by the ICC for crimes against humanity and genocide, Omar Al-Bashir has repeatedly resisted summons by the court to answer to these charges. He was assisted, last year, by the South African government in escaping arrest after an African Union meeting in Johannesburg. He also delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in November 2015 in the United States. Who knows, while there he might have taken a peek in the library.

Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe is Zimbabwe’s longest serving president and the world’s oldest head of state. After gaining power in 1987, through an election, he has been condemned for his aggressive bid to allow him hold on to power. He has used Zimbabwe’s police force and some militant groups to prevent supporters of the opposition from voting at elections as well as arresting these people. These repressions have resulted in sanctions on Zimbabwe by international organizations at one time or the other in his 23 years at its helm. That has not stopped him from making controversial statements in meetings. He might have stumbled into the UN library at last year’s UN general convention in New York, just to update himself.

Pierre Nkurunziza – Burundi

Burundi’s president has been fighting his own people since August, last year, after he was sworn in for a third term as president despite receiving large opposition to his comeback. His detractors claim his candidacy as president in the elections were against the constitution and 400 people have died in violent attacks since Nkurunziza was sworn in as president. Perhaps, the country’s delegate at the UN summit also checked out this book in the library in a bid to help his boss.

Bashar al-Assad – Syria

After Bashir’s father, Hafez al-Assad, died in office as president in 2000, Bashar took over the country’s presidency. He immediately prevented the opposition from contesting in the elections and has, since then, engaged in a crackdown of any figure voicing out against his regime. Perhaps his ruthless mien has created the ISIS menace troubling Syria now. President Obama spoke out against Al-assad’s regime at the UN General Conference in 2015, even in the presence of Syria’s delegate. Perhaps, Al-Assad’s delegates stormed to the library in a huff after Obama’s speech.

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