4 Global Leaders Causing Drama At the U.N. General Assembly


Only a day into the 68th meeting of the UN General Assembly, some leaders are causing a stir. Think of the assembly as the equivalent of a high school reunion for global leaders. Schoolyard rules reign supreme; only this time, the mean girls are meaner, their entourage is armed, and their lunchroom political debates affect the world.

Here are four leaders causing drama at the UN Assembly:

1. Hassan Rouhani

Iran's newly elected president is giving President Barack Obama the cold shoulder. Iran rejected the White House offer to arrange a "handshake" between the two and said they were not ready to meet on an executive level. Avoiding the historic "handshake" may make the halls of the UN just a bit more awkward, but a senior administration official said "internal dynamics" in Iran were apparently just "too complicated."

2. Omar al-Bashir

Along with several Sudan experts and activists, Don Cheadle and George Clooney teamed up and sent a letter to President Obama asking him not to allow Sudan's president into the United States. Don Cheadle said, "Each time that President Bashir is allowed to travel freely, without the threat of arrest, is another blow to accountability and justice for his victims."

Under the 2007 Genocide Accountability Act, those who committed genocide can be prosecuted in the United States whether or not they committed the crime in a foreign country. As of right now, Bashir has traveled around the world without being held accountable for his actions. In the case the U.S. did allow Bashir into New York, the letter goes on to ask the U.S. to "open a criminal prosecution" upon his landing. Word on his arrival has yet to be heard.

3. Sheikh Hasina

The prime minister of Bangladesh is treading some murky waters when it comes to human rights. During an initially non-violent protest in the beginning of May, Bangladeshi government security forces and police attacked and killed many of the protesters. Hasina has denied all allegations and called them "rumors," but videos and pictures of police and military brutality against civilians have popped up on YouTube and Facebook. Conveniently enough, Hasina shut down access to YouTube in the weeks following the protests. Members of the Bangladeshi community in New York have plans to gather on Friday to protest her visit.

4. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberia is far from "most likely to succeed." This year it ranked number one on Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. Sirleaf is one of a number of African leaders expected to speak at the General Assembly, and Liberians in the United States are none too happy about it. Two groups, Concerned Liberians against Corruption and Impunity (CLACI) and the Movement of Liberians Against Corruption (MOLAC) are protesting her visit to let the United Nations know she needs to step down. According to these groups, she hasn't done anything to alleviate the corruption in their home country.