INNER CITY PRESS Global Inner Cities Archive 2006 - 2012 -- Click here for current ICP Global Inner Cities Report, reports from the United Nations

Inner City Press welcomes readers' comments or critiques.

December 31, 2012

As UN Squeezes Press Out, Gives Space to NYT Which "Never" Comes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 27 -- The UN, which preaches for rule of law all over the world, says that media organizations must come to its headquarters at least three days a week to be given office space and resident correspondent status.

  But as Inner City Press raised to the UN on December 27 during the UN's meeting announcing the layout of media space in the refurbished headquarters, the New York Times has not used or even entered its UN office since at least October.

  For more than a year, the New York Times has failed to comply with the three days a week rule. So why it is being assigned its own office, while other media have been told to leave?

   Inner City Press prefaced its question with "all due respect;" the Times is fine newspaper. But shouldn't they want to play by the rules? Shouldn't they have to, at the UN?

  A check by Inner City Press on December 26 found months' old fliers sticking out under the door of the New York Times' office, Room L-231. A long time correspondent concurred, "the Times is never here any more." UNTV archived video bears this out. Only the UN, applying a double standard it won't admit to, is in denial.

  This obvious double standard is emblematic of the UN. As regards media accreditation, 2012 saw an attempt to "review the accreditation" of Inner City Press, filed by Voice of America which said it had the support of Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

  All three are members of the UN Correspondents Association's executive committee, which on December 19 extended its term in office, to continue unchange, even nominating its successors.

  Even after the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the UN what rules applied to accreditation, and if Inner City Press was being challenged based on the content of its publications -- which among other things question the performance of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping -- the UN never responded with a set of rules.

  The UN, it seems, is all about who you know. How else to explain some freelancers being granted accreditation, and others being kept outside?

  After its experience in 2012, including on December 18 seeing Ladsous' Peacekeeping spokesman attempt to seize the UN TV microphone so that Inner City Press could not ask a question about UN inaction on the Congolese Army rapes in Minova, Inner City Press and others have founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA.

  FUNCA has so far raised to the UN, for action, the appropriateness of Ladsous seizing the microphone and refusing to answer questions, the double standards in accreditation and now in the assignment of space, using the New York Times as the example.

 In full disclosure, while Inner City Press for FUNCA on December 27 raised cases of an Egyptian journalist on the now-longer waiting list for a space, and a photographer forced through the metal detectors, Inner City Press is depicted sharing space with an Asian news service, which is fine. Advocacy should be for those who need it.

  Under this UNCA's executive committee's watch, media space at the UN is being reduced by 40%. After this loss, rather than look at which media actually come to cover the UN, favoritism is the rule. The UNCA executive committee members have been well taken care of (by themselves).

   Voice of America is depicted with its own office with four seats, as is Agence France-Presse (which tried to coax or coach the UN into describing its criteria as something other than favoritism).

  Photographers and staff of AFP and Reuters, no matter how infrequently they come to the UN, are given White passes to allow them in without metal detectors, while smaller media who are denied space must pass through metal detectors and experience other barriers to coverage.

  In the floor plan, there is not only an UNCA Club -- there is an UNCA office, and even an UNCA Pantry. Why would the UN need to brand its kitchenette with its company union? What's going on here?

  There is not enough coverage of the UN -- on December 24, Inner City Press was the only media organization in front of the General Assembly covering its meeting on the UN's $5.4 billion budget. The answer is to allow in more people, and to treat them fairly. Watch this site.

December 24, 2012

Refusing Rape Qs, Ladsous Has Mic Removed from Press as UNCA Watches

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous hit a new low on Tuesday, directing his spokesman to physically remove the microphone so that Press questions about the UN's knowledge of 126 rapes by Congolese forces in Minova could not be recorded. Video here.

  Afterward staff said in 13 years at the UN, they had never seen anything like it. Inner City Press was told that it, or the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, should file a complaint.

  The larger questions are why has Ladsous refused to answer questions about these rapes, by the Congolese army that the UN works with, on November 27, December 7 and now December 18?

  On November 27, Inner City Press asked about rapes at Minova, which the UN then downplayed as being 22. Ladsous refused to answer, then summoned favored correspondents, including one from Agence France-Presse who re-appeared on December 18, out into the hall for a private briefing. Video here.

  On December 7, after the UN had been forced by questions to up its estimate of the rapes to 70, Ladsous refused four times to answer a simple Inner City Press questions about Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, which would preclude Ladsous' MONUSCO mission from working with these Congolese Army units. Video here.

  Ladsous refused to answer. Since then, a profile of his stonewalling and abuse of UN Peacekeeping for the political interests of his native France has been published by Billet d'Afrique, here.

  On December 18, with the UN having just had to increase the count of rapes up to 126, it seemed inconceivable that Ladsous would not offer at least some answer.

  Two journalists were notified by Ladsous' office and appeared at the stakeout, including Tim Witcher of AFP who as an executive committee member of the UN Correspondents Association on May 25, 2012 signed a letter against Inner City Press, following a September 2011 a dispute about reporting on Ladsous.

   When Ladsous came out, these and Inner City Press went to the UN Television stakeout, where only the day before Inner City Press had asked another UN official, Valerie Amos, about the rapes in Minova. Since she does not run MONUSCO, she said she would have to look into it. Video here, from Minute 17:10.

But once at the microphone on December 18, Ladsous directed his spokesman Andre-Michel Essoungou to pick up the UNTV microphone and move it away from Inner City Press. The UNTV cameraman told him to put it back, that he had no right to touch it.

  Then Essoungou tried to use the boom microphone himself, even offering coaching on (non rape) questions that could be asked.

  Four times, when there was a lull, Inner City Press asked about the rapes in Minova, which FARDC units were involved. Ladsous never answered, finally walking away.

    Inner City Press was told it or FUNCA should file a complaint. Tim Witcher left - UNCA, which used to but no longer defends journalists' rights, is preparing a $250 a plane dinner-dance for December 19, honoring not a journalist but Arnold Schwartzenegger.

  It is worth nothing that it was only after the May 25, 2012 letter by five including Witcher, Lou Charbonneau of Reuters and Margaret Basheer of Voice of America -- these three went into the hall with Ladsous on November 27, video here -- did Ladsous decide he would no longer answer Inner City Press' questions.

  These questions have included his MINUSTAH mission's introduction of cholera into Haiti and why he has General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan Army, depicted in the UN's own report as engaged in war crimes, as an adviser, now also inspecting Ladsous' Lebanon mission UNIFIL.

  This same UNCA, back in September 2011, allowed Silva to screen a war crimes denial film in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium, the fallout from which was reported by the Sri Lanka Campaign here.

  In June 2012, Voice of America stating in writing it had the support of "colleagues" at Reuters and AFP asked the UN to "review" the accreditation of Inner City Press. Letter here.

    The two other May 25, 2012 signers and UNCA Executive Committee members are, notably, receiving UNCA monetary prizes on December 19.

Ladsous and UNCA deserve each other, and flock together, in the hall. Video here. But shouldn't the UN be at least a bit better than this? The Free UN Coalition for Access will be pursuing this. Watch this site.

At UNCA, of Lyall Grant & Rice, Sri Lanka & Expulsion Links, Schwarzenegger Prized

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 19 -- As Ambassador Susan Rice entered Cipriani's on 42nd Street Wednesday night, Cipriani's security told a couple also trying to enter to wait, "Susan Rice is going in."

  "Are you joking?" retorted UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. As he went in, the Cipriani's security guard said, "You don't have to touch me."  Inner City Press video here. Embedded below.

   Inside, the UN Correspondents Association was holding a $250 a plate dinner and giving an award to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

   Inner City Press, which in full disclosure has been questioning UNCA since it screened in the UN a Sri Lanka government film denying war crimes, treated this UNCA Ball as a news event, standing in front of Cipriani's and asking questions.

To a question about Arnold Schwartzenegger as a UN role model, is it appropriate, many entrants laughed and asked to go off the record. The majority then said No, it is not appropriate.

  German Permanent Representative Peter Wittig, who to his credit did not ask to go off the record, said diplomatically "I don't know him well enough."

  Another Security Council Permanent Representative was more emphatic, saying, "No, it's totally inappropriate, UNCA is a joke, come inside and I'll tell you more over a scotch."

   But Inner City Press did not accompany him in. After Inner City Press reported on the Sri Lanka propaganda film, and that Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona had in the past paid rent for a luxury apartment to UNCA's president, a process began to try to expel Inner City Press from UNCA, to whose Executive Committee Inner City Press had been elected.

   Then on June 20, 2012, after UNCA Executive Committee member Margaret Besheer told her employer (and US government agency) Voice of America that her colleagues from Reuters and Agence France-Presse supported her, VOA asked the UN to "review the accreditation" of Inner City Press. Click here to view VOA's letter to the UN.

   After Inner City Press obtained related documents under the US Freedom of Information Law, these three and other UNCA executive committee members did not respond to requests to explain or comment on the documents.

 (Nor have they answered two requests to know the agenda of their December 21 general meeting, or what they propose to vote on, even as they purported to remain in office past the December 31 expiration specified in the UNCA Constitution.)

   So is their UNCA a freedom of the press organization? Why did they choose Arnold Schwarzenegger to receive their award? Why did they award prizes to their own Executive Committee members, two of whose media organizations have purchased full page advertisements in the UNCA Ball publication?

   These questions were not answered. Outside, a habitue recounted how at the previous night's Cipriani event, for the Humane Society featuring Mike Bloomberg, a woman incongruously walked in wearing a fur coat. The crowd stopped talking; she left.

   Meanwhile Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palitha Kohona went in to the UNCA Ball -- without answering Inner City Press' question.

  If his deputy General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan Army, depicted in the UN's own report engaged in war crimes, showed up, wouldn't it be similar to the lady in the fur coat? Except there would be no reaction. This is UNCA.

   Press freedom must and will be better defended at the UN in 2013.

  At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Inner City Press on behalf of the newly launched Free UN Coalition for Access -- yes, FUNCA -- asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to ensure that his Under Secretaries General hold press conferences and answer questions without discrimination or censorship.

  This was a reference to USG Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping, who has repeatedly refused to answer Press questions, about Silva, cholera in Haiti and most recently the Congolese Army rapes in Minova.

  Inner City Press' reporting on Ladsous gave rise to a process within UNCA, initiated by Tim Witcher of Agence France-Presse (on one of whose boards Ladsous once served, in another conflict of interest), to censure Inner City Press.

  On Wednesday night, Inner City Press did not witness Ladsous entering the UNCA Ball, but his spokesman Kieran Dwyer did go in. Shouldn't this be seen like the lady in the fur coat going into the Humane Society ball?

   But this is 2012's UNCA -- those engaged not only in war crimes but also censorship are invited and celebrated. But did they pay $250 for their tickets?

   Ban Ki-moon himself graciously invited Inner City Press to enter. In truth, it was cold outside. But it was from there that Inner City Press watched the spoof "BanFall" film produced by CNN's Richard Roth.

  And yes, not left on the cutting room floor but broadcast was a segment in which Inner City Press says "UNCA, you'll never take me alive," on the roof of the very same Dag Hammarskjold Library where UNCA screened the Sri Lanka war crimes denial film, with commentary from only Kohona and Shavendra Silva.

   It is full circle, and it is enough. 2013 will be different. Watch this site.

December 17, 2012

UN Elections Scams from DRC, Pension to UNCA, Banning Democracy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 15 -- What is it about election scams and the UN? On December 14, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about today's Egyptian constitutional referendum.

  Closer to home, Inner City Press asked Nesirky about the UN Correspondents Association violating their own constitution and purporting to remain in office after January 1, having ignored the December 15 deadline to hold an election.

   Nesirky was dismissive -- see transcript here -- and hadn't even been asked yet about the UN's questionable role during the last two elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  Today there UN beneficiary Joseph Kabila gave a speech entirely taking for granted more UN collaboration with his army, which committed mass rapes in Minova which the UN's Herve Ladsous refuses to answer questions about.

   Meanwhile it emerged on Friday that even the UN's own election for its Pension board has been extended, mis-run according to staff by previous vote player Bibi Khan.

  So the UN can't correctly hold its own elections, and enables scam elections in the Congo.

   Even on an absolutely clear violation in not holding an election by the deadline by its Media Access Guidelines partner, UNCA, the UN refuses to take action or comment, calling a blatant legal violation a personal matter.

  Here's from UNCA's Constitution, Article 3, Section 3:

"The members of the Executive Committee shall assume their duties on the first day of January following the election and shall hold office until the last day of December of the year. Elections of the Executive committee shall be held between November 15 and December 15."

  This is simple, and is one of the only acts this Executive Committee is required to do (the $250 a plate reception for Arnold Schwarzenegger they've set for December 19 is entirely voluntary.)

  But on December 14, the day before the election had to be held, this UNCA Executive Committee simply announced that it would not hold the election before the end of the year.

  There is an obvious legal problem: they have no powers after January 1, they have no power to run an election after January 1. They are, in essence, trying to stay in power unconstitutionally. And their partner the UN refuses to comment.

  UNCA's president or figurehead, when asked directly to about violating the terms of UNCA's constitution, had no response.

   It has been suggested to Inner City Press that what brings these together is an implicit claim of powerlessness: the UN can do nothing, and UNCA does little.

   But UNCA could and should do things, like make sure that UN officials like Herve Ladsous cannot openly refuse to answer questions about how to avoid bringing cholera to new countries, and to not work with units of the Congolese army guilty of mass rape.

   Instead, top UNCA officials follow Ladsous into the hallway for private briefings, video here.

  These three -- Voice of America, supported by Reuters and Agence France-Presse -- urged the UN to dis-accredit and expel Inner City Press, and met with still un-named UN officials in furtherance of their plan.

   Since their UNCA attacks rather than defends investigative journalism, the beta Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, has been launched, online and in action, Friday here then here.

   The UNCA executive committee announced a purported general meeting for Friday, December 21 at 4 pm, but didn't even say what the agenda is, nor what they propose to be voted on.

   This microcosm of lawlessness takes place right in the UN, with an entity Ban Ki-moon spoke before on December 12 (more on this anon), and will party with on December 19 along with, yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

   Other such events celebrate actually investigative journalists not affiliated with or buying advertisements from the prize-giver. For example the CPJ event recently at the Waldorff, which Inner City Press covered as a journalist.

   This UNCA is quite different: prizes to Schwarzenegger and its own Executive Committee members, no provision for press coverage. Is it any wonder? Watch this site.

On Sri Lanka, UN Review to 2Q 2013, Any Silva Visit Screening & Kilinochchi Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 13, updated -- A week ago, Inner City Press asked the UN what it would do in the face of the troubling report on its actions and inaction in Sri Lanka, penned by sometime UN official Charles Petrie.

  The UN answered that Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson would lead a team to review the report.

   Today, the UN announced a bit more: that Eliasson has asked UN departments, funds and programs to nominate people to participate in the review, and that the review is due in the second quarter of 2013.

   Inner City Press immediately asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if any UN specialized agencies would be involved, for example the IMF (which stands accused of lending into increased military spending by the Rajapaksa government, even after 2009).

   Nesirky reiterated, only funds and programs, and not agencies like the IMF.

   Inner City Press asked how it was that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations allowed General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan Army, showing up in the UN's report as engaged in war crimes, to "inspect" its troops in the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon.

    Doesn't DPKO have some type of review?

   Nesirky said he would ask DPKO. The chief of DPKO Herve Ladsous has refused to answer any Press questions, including  about Silva as a "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations" and other human rights issues, see recent video here. How about Silva as a UN troop inspector?

  The lack of standards in the UN was exemplied by a Shavendra Silva appearance in September 2011, complaints about which started a series of anti-Press moves profiled by the UK based Sri Lanka Campaign, here. Months later this has led to a new move in the UN: the Free UN Coalition for Access.

   After a troubling report forwarded by the SlC, Inner City Press asked Nesirky about at least 20 women brought into a military wing of a Kilinochchi hospital and not allowed visits.

   For the record, the SLC recites

Of the women recently recruited to the 6th Brigade of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA), 20 were admitted to the Kilinochchi district hospital on December 11, 2012 between 11.00 pm and 12.30 am.

They had recently been trained in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts

They were brought from Navam Arivu Koodam located in a village called Krishnapuram. Killinochi West

Upon arrival at the hospital, some of the women were unconscious.

They were immediately isolated from the other patients and subsequently detained in a small room in the hospitalís northern section.

The northern section of the hospital is not accessible to the public; it is used exclusively by army personnel.

Shortly after the group of women was admitted, a large group of army personnel (male and female) gathered at the hospital.

Only SLA doctors and nurses are looking after these female patients.

   Nesirky said that the Eliasson review is separate, but that the UN maintains a presence in Sri Lanka. So do THEY have anything to say about the Kilinochchi hospital? Watch this site.

Update of 6:30 pm -- Here was Thursday's evening's UN answer to Inner City Press' noon question, note the last line:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 at 5:33 PM
Subject: Your question at the noon briefing - a reminder
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The Spokesperson later said that Major General Shavendra Silva was part of the Military-Police Advisors Community (MPAC) delegation visiting the United Nations Interim Force Mission in Lebanon from 28 Nov - 4 Dec 2012. The official MPAC programme included briefings and visits to UN positions. The MPAC is a group comprising permanent missions' military attaches and police advisors, and the UN had no authority over the group of visitors that included Gen. Silva.

  "Had no authority?" The UN has no say over who visits and inspects its peacekeepers? Watch this site.

December 10, 2012

FOIA Appeal Shows UNCA Tried to Throw Press Out of UN, So FUNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 6 -- For four months, Inner City Press has not published one additional word about the United Nations Correspondents Association, even after the organization's treasurer Margaret Besheer had US government Voice of America (on behalf of her and so-far unnamed others) meet with and ask the UN to "review" Inner City Press' accreditation to enter and cover the UN.

   Documents obtained this week under a Freedom of Information Act appeal prove that Besheer wrote that her Reuters and Agence France Presse colleagues, Lou Charbonneau and Tim Witcher, supported ousting Inner City Press from the UN.

  Only this week did the overseer of Voice of America, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, finally rule on Inner City Press' FOIA appeal, and release additional documents.

  The ruling on the appeal, which can be challenged in a Federal District Court, is here; some of the improperly withheld but now released documents are here and here and here and here.

  The newly released documents show that Voice of America was given a Congressional heads-up that "the work of VOA correspondent on this peer review panel at the UN, it has the potential to kick up a storm up here. For my part, I think it's terrible judgment on the part of your correspondent to participate."  Click here to view that newly released document.

  Even the VoA official who later made the request to the UN to "review" Inner City Press' accreditation stated in writing, it has now been revealed, "Puzzling that Margaret would take up against a reporter who would... be aggressively questioning UN officials and would call on him to write more positive stories about the UN."

  But then Voice of America was told that AFP was ready to join the attempt to throw Inner City Press out of the UN and that "I think Reuters is up for sending a letter too."  Click here to view that newly released document.

  When Inner City Press complained to Voice of America, including that it was and is unconstitutional to spend US government money to seek to eject a journalist for what he or she writes, the internal VOA memo was "All: Please disregard and do not reply to any email from Matthew Lee or Inner City Press, no matter how insistent."

   This is how a US government agency responded to a petition for redress of grievances? It was and is actionable. And in that connection, more documents have been requested and are expected.

  Given these and other anti-press freedom moves by this UNCA Executive Committee, its legitimacy is and will be challenged, including by a new FUNCA: the Free United Nations Coalition for Access, being launched in beta here.

   To quickly recap: in September 2011, UNCA's outgoing president Giampaolo Piolo threatened that if an article about him was not removed from the Internet, he would get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. He invoked an archaic provision of the UNCA constitution; the resulting letter of denunciation has remained posted on UNCA's glassed-in bulletin board for six months. What kind of correspondents' association is this?

  Eight month ago, Pioli's handpicked successor Louis Charboneau of Reuters, after telling Inner City Press in an UNCA meeting that it is too critical of the French mission to the UN, filed a stealth complaint with the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit over a merely verbal disagreement. (An UNCA "examiner" then filed a similar specious complaint with UN Security, which was released under FOIA; it was dismissed as frivolous by UN Security. But there was no reason for any similar verbal exchanges.)

  Then on June 20, Besheer had Voice of America formally asked the UN, on behalf of her and "others," to review the accreditation status of the UN of Inner City Press.

  Inner City Press immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request, including to learn the identity of these unnamed others. Pioli and Charbonneau then asked Inner City Press to withdraw the FOIA request, while threatening to go forward with a Kafka-esque "Board of Examination" report and trial against Inner City Press for what it had said and written.

   The BBG, on which Hillary Clinton has a seat, initially denied and then after appeal granted Inner City Press "expedited treatment" of its FOIA request.

  This came after the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote to the UN citing Voice of America's complaint against Inner City Press and demanding the the UN have content neutral rules for accreditation.

   The first round of documents arrived on August 7, and Inner City Press wrote a short piece that day, linking to some of the documents. Then it appealed the withholdings and redactions, and requested additional documents.

    Then as noted this week the BBG finally ruled on Inner City Press' appeal, and release additional documents. Again, the ruling on the appeal, which can be challenged in a Federal District Court, is here; some of the improperly withheld but now released documents are here and here and here and here.

  The entire UNCA Executive Committee has been asked, twice in writing, to respond to and explain earlier documents which already were "evidence of certain wire services' support for and involvement in the request by US agency Voice of America for 'review' of UN accreditation. The documents also state that UNCA is 'now discussing with UN officials (very quietly)' just that."

  Inner City Press submitted to each UNCA Executive Committee members three of the documents obtained under FOIA "for your response" -- but received none.

   UNCA under Pioli, Charbonneau, Besheer and others such as Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse has devolved into a club for self-protection and censorship. Witcher tried to censor Inner City Press' reporting on the French Mission and its last minute nominee for UN Peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous.

On September 18, Ladsous who has sought to bootstrap on UNCA's witchhunt to not answer Press questions about UN Peacekeeping, refused to answer Inner City Press' question about his DPKO helping recruit militias in the Congo and turned to Witcher, who said, "Thank you, sir."

  More recently on November 27, when Inner City Press asked Ladsous about raped committed by his MONUSCO's partners in the Congolese Army in Minovia, Ladsous refused to answer and then summoned a handful of hand-picked journalists into the hall, including Besheer, Charbonneau and Witcher. See video here. These are leaders of the UNCA Executive Committee; this is what they have turned UNCA into.

  And now on December 19, their UNCA will celebrate none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Why?

  Because repeated UNCA meetings to demand censorship, even of photographs that Inner City Press ran, came to take up more and more time, Inner City Press sought to put the ugliness into the past by unilaterally ceasing to write about it.

    But now, with UNCA "leadership" sneaking around with Ladsous and the new documents released, action must be taken, including by the new Free United Nations Coalition for Access, being launched in beta here.

   First up: how can the UN delegate administration of passes to cover the UN General Debate in the North Lawn building to UNCA, an organization which now has demonstrably sought to get Press expelled from the UN and claims it is separate from the UN?

   Relatedly, why is this UNCA given special rights to ask the first question at press conferences, and to be the "pool" at other UN events? In fact, a small group of Western wire services masquerade as UNCA, as took place when Ban Ki-moon met Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

  Inner City Press asked the UN MALU, who said Reuters and AFP asked and were given access, in a role that is (wrongly) supposed to be for UNCA. More recently, longtime UN-based photographers were barred.

   The UN and this UNCA cannot have it both ways, and we and FUNCA will be pursuing this. Watch this site.

Ladsous Now Admits Minova Rapes, But Won't Say by Whom, If Works With

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 7 -- The UN claims to have a Human Rights Due Diligence Policy under which it will not work with or support military units or personnel who engage in abuses like rape.

   But Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Herve Ladsous four times on Friday refused to answer a simple question: which Congolese Army units were in Minova during the 70+ rapes, and what's being done to ensure the UN does not work with them?

  See video here, and below, at Minute 0:22, 0:40, 1:34 and 1:49.

  Ladsous was at the UN Television stakeout ostensibly to answer questions about the Congo. After on November 27 refusing questions about the rapes in Minova, earlier video here, Ladsous on Decmeber 7 conceded rapes there, by the Congolese security forces.

   But he would not answer the key UN question: what meaning does the supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, announced by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have?

  Afterward a range of diplomats from Security Council members and Troops Contributing Countries told Inner City Press Ladsous' stonewalling and choosing friendly questioners is making them look bad.  One used the old saw, "A fish rots from the head."

  Yesterday the UN Secretariat confirmed to Inner City Press that Ladsous' DPKO now allows Sri Lanka General Shavendra Silva, whose troops were depicted engaged in war crimes in the UN's own report, to "inspect" Ladsous' peacekeepers in Lebanon.

  Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press' question about Silva. Yes, a fish rots from the head.

Previously on November 30, the military adviser of a a major TCC told Inner City Press Ladsous is the worst DPKO chief "ever," much worse than his predecessor Alain Le Roy.

   Le Roy was the third Frenchman in a row to head DPKO, but at least he was vetted. Ladsous as it turned out was rejected as a candidate by previous Secretary General Kofi Annan, a senior Annan aide has described to Inner City Press.

   And this time, he was a last minute, no-check fill in for Jerome Bonnafont, who bragged in India that he had the post. Clearly, this is no way to choose senior UN officials. But this UN is so out of control, it seems, no one can stop it.

  Ladsous began refusing to answer Press questions in late May, right after and latching onto other anti-press moves in the UN. These moves are related, and due to the vacuum of leadership will be confronted in 2013.

 On December 7, while refusing four times the Press question on the rapes at Minova and his Department's role and follow up, Ladsous and his spokesman directed the UN microphone to other questioners -- two of whom retreated to the hallway with Ladsous on November 27, video here -- and took questions not about the Congo.
  Ladsous was asked about Northern Mali, on which while in Paris he said nothing could be done under September 2013. When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky on whose behalf Ladsous was speaking, since the Security Council has not decided that, and some members think that too slow. Inner City Press asked if there was a transcript. But none has been provided.

  Ladsous also took a question about Syria -- anything but the Congo and his failure and cover up there, it seemed -- and repeated the answer in French and English, without including what he said in Paris about Salafists. And he was not asked. This is how this UN works, or doesn't.

  At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey questions about the supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (that he counldn't answer without DPKO, which has not been answering these questions), and if Ladsous would evenhandedly take questions, including on Minova.

"Mr Ladsous manages his own stakeout," Del Buey replied. But isn't there some absolute minimum that is expected of a UN official, given how much they get paid, taxfree?

The briefing itself saw TCCs disagree with some others on the mandate of MONUSCO. Ladsous is in no position to show leadership, and isn't, sources say. And so civilians suffer, under this UN. Watch this site.

December 3, 2012

On Rapes in Minova, Ladsous Calls Situation Fluid, Won't Say Which Units, Policy Question Dodged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- When top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous took questions Friday across First Avenue from the UN, he said apparently without irony that the MONUSCO mission has done a good job in Eastern Congo in the last two weeks.

  Inner City Press asked Ladsous about two specific places in the Kivus: Pinga, on which Ladsous previously refused to answer a Press question, and Minova where at least 22 women were raped after the Congolese Army retreated from Sake.

  Since the UN, specifically Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations, says it has a Human Rights Due Diligence Policy under which it will not work with or support rights abusers, Inner City Press asked Ladsous whether the Congolese Army units at issue will be named.

  Ladsous dodged the question - better than refusing it, as he did before - saying that the situation was "fluid." He said that Policy will be complied with.

  But when Inner City Press asked again the unanswered question, whether the units of the Congolese Army or FARDC in Minova at the time will be named, Ladsous did not answer at all.

  As Ladsous continued, including to say that he has no problem with the media, his spokesman seem to indicate that more information may be available.

   We hope it is, and await it, having two days ago emailed three of Ladsous spokespeople, and the two spokespeople of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon whom they copied, these questions on Minova:

"On Minova, (a) which FARDC units were present in Minova when the 21 rapes took place? (b) What was MONUSCO's presence in Minova during this time? (c) What and where are the "appropriate processes" through which DPKO will report? Are any of them public, so that compliance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy can be assessed?"

   As soon as these questions are answered, we will report the answers in full. Until then, we will keep asking.

   Inner City Press had to leave Friday's event, after several more statements, to continue to cover the Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security. Ladsous spoke there, with no mention on Minova or abuses by the Congo forces that MONUSCO works with.

   Nor did no respond on the reports, including in TIME Magazine, that Mai Mai Cheka rebels decapitated civilians in Pinga and the MONUSCO peacekeepers there did nothing.

The event, entitled "Telling the Peacekeeping Story Better," was held across First Avenue at the International Peace Institute, on whose Syria program Inner City Press also recently reported / tweeted.

  The program of theStorytelling on Peacekeeping event is or will soon be here -- several of the other panelists and participants spoke movingly, for example about winning over a BBC reporter to the UN's work in Sierra Leone by actually explaning and answering questions about it -- and video should be available shortly (though UN Peacekeeping's link to it wasn't working at press time.) We may have more on all this. Watch this site.

On Palestine, US Pressure Gets Pacific Abstentions, Scorn at Slovenia, ICC Games

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 29, updated Nov 30 -- When finally the UN resolution on Palestine as an Observer State came to a vote, it passed with 138 in favor, 41 abstentions and only nine against.

  Inner City Press had predicted ten negative votes, even days before the vote. But things change.

  Ultimately the negative nine were the US, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands. Panama, Nauru, Canada, Israel and the Czech Republic. Sources in the EU tell Inner City Press that the Czechs were flirting with abstention, but fell back to no.

  There were 138 votes in favor, and 41 abstentions. List here.

  A well placed European Permanent Representative, speaking exclusively to Inner City Press, expressed particular scorn for Slovenia, which after almost voting Yes, ending up abstaining.

   He told Inner City Press the Slovenian mission at the UN in New York pushed for a Yes vote, but couldn't get the capital to agree. And not having an Ambassador here, he said, was a problem.

  US pressure didn't get even ten "no" votes. But many Pacific Island states abstained. And, it was noted, Liberia did not show up. But neither did Ukraine, nor Madagascar. Two of these three accounted for small gap between Palestinian Mission's internal projection of 140, and the final 138 Yes votes.

  After the vote, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant about his statement about abstaining because he could not get assurances such as Palestine not rushing to the International Criminal Court.

   Doesn't this cheapen the ICC and make it look like a political chip to be played?

   Lyall Grant gamely answered that the assurances sought were in order to permit the peace process.

   Inner City Press asked the Ambassador of Sudan, which introduced Palestine's resolution as this month's head of the Arab Group and whose president Omar al Bashir is under ICC indictment for genocide, about the UK's position.

  He replied that it is strange that a country that is a member of the ICC would ask another not to take a case there.

  Indonesia's Foreign Minister, when asked by Inner City Press if the blockage of Palestine from UN membership by the US veto in the Security Council militates for reform said, the rules are the rules. But for how long? One wanted to ask him about the Rohingya in Myanmar. Next time.

   When Palestine's Rial Malki came to speak, Inner City Press asked him about the ICC. He said that if Israel doesn't continue with settlements and aggression, then Palestine won't go to the ICC. And if they do? Watch this site.

One wag joked that perhaps Hamas, for Gaza, could go to ICC.

Footnote: more transient insights remain on Inner City Press' Twitter feed, here.

November 26, 2012

In DRC, UN Spun Failure As Allowing Monitoring, Then Silent on Minova

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25, updated -- The inaction of UN peacekeepers under Herve Ladsous as M23 took over Goma and then Sake is one of the biggest UN failures in some time.

  A member of the UN's C-34, to which Ladsous first proposed drones in March of this year, has analogized it to previous UN breakdowns, such as in Srebrenica (not to say as in Congo's neighbor Rwanda in 1994).

  While the numbers in Srebrenica, which some put at 7000, were higher the structure is the same: the UN says it will protect a place, people gather and remain -- then the UN does nothing when the place is attacked. Here, the UN ended up saying it was better it did not fight. Better for whom?

  The UN also said that by not fighting, it could remain and "keep records." But how? And for whom?

  After Herve Ladsous refused again on November 21 to answer any Press questions, including "would MONUSCO defend Bukavu" and about the protests against the UN, Inner City Press on November 23 submitted simple questions in writing to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's three top spokesmen.

  They forwarded the Congo questions to Ladsous spokesman Kieran Dwyer, who had been the one to tell UN personnel to make sure not to give the microphone to Inner City Press, to instead search for a friendly question "en Francais."

  Dwyer, who by that and other acts appeared to become something other than a spokesman, emailed a response to basic questions, I am looking into that, before 4 on November 23.

  A day and a half later, despite major developments and more UN failure on the ground, and the statement issued by a meeting of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, neither Dwyer or the other UN spokespeople have provide any of the promised responses to the questions.

  One awaits as of 11 am on Sunday at the UN in New York even any comment on the ICGLR plans, on which Inner City Press asked the three top UN spokespeople for UN "comments and plans on the roles assigned to it by what was announced."

  Surprising in light of its failure, the UN's MONUSCO mission, which did nothing as the M23 took over Goma, was assigned the task of standing between the new territory taken by M23 and the city of Goma, which the statement says M23 should leave - except, paradoxically, for its airport. So far, a full 24 hours after the communique, the UN has had no response.
  And now DRC President Joseph Kabila has said there will only be talks with M23 if they leave Goma first.

  On November 23, Inner City Press asked the UN to "please describe any and all of MONUSCO's interaction with or support of elements of the Mai Mai or NYATURA so far this year."

  On November 23, Ladsous' Kieran Dwyer replied, "I am looking into this." In the 43 hours since, no information has been provided. But it is widely reported that NYATURA fought alongside the Congolese army in Sake; and that the Congolese army when it retreated to Minova robbed people's houses and stores and committed rapes.

  And so questions have had to be asked, on the morning of November 24, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including that "in Minova, there have apparently been rapes and looting by FARDC units as they retreated. Has anyone from OHCHR visited Minova?" No far, nothing.

  What was that again, about a benefit of not fighting being the ability to keep records?

  The UN has refused even to provide its records of its own damages. Inner City Press also asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople to "please specify all damage or injury to UN system staff, facilities or property in the Democratic Republic of Congo since November 20, including but not limited to in Bukavu, Bunia, Goma, Kinshasa and Kisingani."

More than three hours later, all Dwyer responded with was, "I am looking into this." And as with the question above about Mai Mai and NYATURA, no information was provided in the 43 hours since.

  How could the Department of Peacekeeping Operations purport to have no answer to this? UN buildings have been set aflame, rocks thrown at cars, mortars reportedly fired at the MONUSCO base in Monigi. But after 43 hours, no information at all was provided.

  Back on November 21, it was Kieran Dwyer who for Ladsous asked UN personnel to not give Inner City Press the microphone as its question "would MONUSCO protect Bukavu" was asked.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's three spokespeople to "please state the Secretariat's position on its Department of Peacekeeping Operations' spokespeople directing staff of the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit and UN Television / audio to hold the Security Council stakeout microphone away from Inner City Press, most recently by spokesman Kieran Dwyer on November 21."

  This question was paradoxically referred to Dwyer himself, and he did not purport to answer it or even claim "I am looking into it."

  There was another, entirely factual question about Herve Ladsous, including his role during and public (and private) communications about, the Rwanda genocide in 1994, to which Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office has replied only that "We do not comment on recruitment processes." We'll have more on this.

   Meanwhile, Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations is issuing short statements about the "background" and mandate of MONUSCO. When a Tweeter with three followers asked online why the UN and its humanitarian chief Valerie Amos didn't respond as in Somalia,  with AMISOM, the UN Peacekeeping account replied with MONUSCO's mandate.

   But when asked by a more active Tweeter with hundreds of followers why Ladsous does not resign after his failures, here, there was no response from UN Peacekeeping. And so others online answered the question themselves. Who will be held accountable? Watch this site.

Update: more than 24 hours after the ICGLR communique, and still without any responses from Ladsous' DPKO, the UN put out a statement in which Ban Ki-moon "calls on the M23 to immediately lay down their arms in accordance with the agreements reached in Kampala, and comply with the immediate withdrawal of their forces from Goma" and "is also determined to ensure that the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo be adjusted to respond to the evolving challenges in line with relevant Security Council resolutions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

  So why did the UN, evne under its mandate, do nothing in Goma, and why does it not answer since?

After Gaza Deal, Israel Talks Iran, Rice Opposes Observer State Status

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 21 -- For a week on Gaza, the Security Council met behind closed doors. Finally on Wednesday after the ceasefire was announced in Cairo, the Council agreed on a Press Statement.

  After President Hardeep Singh Puri read it out, Inner City Press asked him about the delay, and what role if any he thought the Council had in the reaching of the ceasefire. He said it was not yet time for assessments, but at least "we got an outcome."

  But what outcome? Inner City Press asked Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative Waxman is the deal means ships to Gaza will no longer be intercepted, but only inspected. He answered that the week showed the volume of weapons Iran is getting into Gaza.

  When Moroccan Ambassador Loulichki, who represented the Arab Group throughout the week, came out Inner City Press asked him what impact he thought the week would have on the November 29 voting on Palestine's resolution to upgrade to Observer State status at the UN.

  Loulichki said that it should be kept separate, that the position of regional groups remains the same. Earlier in the day Hardeep Singh Puri, this time representing the IBSA grouping of India, Brazil and South Africa, read out a statement on Gaza that included support for the Palestine move for Observer State status.

  When US Ambassador Susan Rice came out, and after she gave a well-prepared answer to a question on her TV appearances on the attack on Benghazi, Inner City Press asked her about Palestine's application:

Inner City Press: I'm going to ask you a Gaza question although I definitely respect the right of people to ask a follow up to that [Benghazi]. I just wanted to ask you one-on Palestine, the controversy here at the UN about Palestine seeking observer state status. You heard Ambassador Loulichki say there's no relation between the fighting in Gaza and the vote, and Israel obviously said states should think again. The U.S. opposes the vote, but what effect do you think this week of fighting-do you agree that this shows that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza? Should it make fewer states vote in favor of Palestine becoming a state observer at the UN?

Ambassador Rice: Well, I'll let other states comment on how they see the Palestinian bid for observer state status in the General Assembly. From the United States' point of view, we've been very clear. Our goal remains a negotiated, two-state solution. A Jewish democratic state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, viable Palestinian state. The only way to accomplish that in the real world is through direct negotiations, and we continue to urge the parties to come back to the table and to resume those direct negotiations. We view unilateral steps, including the bid for upgraded status to statehood-observer state status at the General Assembly-to be counterproductive and not take us closer to that goal, and, therefore, we strongly oppose it.

We'll be here on November 29, and until and after then. Watch this site.

November 12, 2012

At UN, States Get Palestine Resolution for Observer State Status, Vote "Near Future"

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 8 -- Two days after the US elections, Palestine's Observer Mission to the UN on Thursday sent to UN member states its draft resolution to upgrade its status in the General Assembly.

  Inner City Press has obtained a copy of Palestine's draft resolution, and puts it online here.

  After recalling and stressing many things, the resolution would grant Observer State status, and hope that the Security Council grant full status.

  In the interim, Palestine has had win and losses in getting seated in UN bodies, as Inner City Press has reported, from the Arms Trade Treaty through the Law of the Sea to Geographical Names.

Now, Palestine has written to member states:

Attached please find note verbal MI.274/12 regarding a draft resolution on the enhancement of the status of Palestine in the United Nations General Assembly to be considered by the Assembly at a date to be announced in the near future

Best Regards,

Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations

How will the US (and EU and others) respond? Watch this site.

At UN on Genocide, Burying Sri Lanka Report, Rwanda's French Connection

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 7 -- It was a snowy Wednesday evening when the UN held a screening and panel discussion entitled "The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide."

  The event was sponsored by the French Mission to the UN; the short but moving films were on Holocaust killings of Jews in Ukraine and of Roma.

  After the first film, UN official Gillian Kitley told the snow-limited audience that the UN's now combined Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect advises Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of development in which mass killing may become possible.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Kitley, what happened with Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2009, when the UN pulled its workers out of northern Sri Lanka, then concealed and denied casualty figures -- Inner City Press got and published a leaked OCHA count of over 2000 civilians killed in a short period -- and then didn't even call for a ceasefire.

  Ms. Kitley replied, "I understand there's been a very thorough investigation" into the UN's actions and inaction in Sri Lanka during that period, and that she'd be very interested to see it. But what about the public, to try to ensure that the UN does a better job in future cases?

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Kitley to have her Office and Adama Dieng, the Under Secretary General for Genocide Prevention (USG for R2P Ed Luck appears to have rather quietly left for an academic job in San Diego) inquire and urge Ban Ki-moon to make the so-called Petrie report on the UN in Sri Lanka public.

  Ms. Kitley did not answer the plea, and the event moved on. Video here, from Minute 1:03:11.

  Alongside the Holocaust, Rwanda in 1994 was repeatedly mentioned (though France's role in supporting the genocidal government, including in the Security Council where current UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous was then France's Deputy Permanant Representative) -- and Syria was mentioned, by Ms. Kitley.

  Earlier on Wednesday Inner City Press was told by a Sri Lankan diplomat that its close coverage, for example of its recent Universal Periodic Review (#UPRLKA) is not fair, in that it took the richer UK 30 years to deal with its "Irish troubles." We report this in fairness; duly noted. But it is also worth comparing responses to events in Syria and Sri Lanka. We'll have more on this.

November 5, 2012

On Somalia, With EU & US "Too Cheap" for Naval Component, Amendments?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1 -- At the UN on Somalia, it's war. Not on Al Shabaab, but about the Kenyan naval component of the AMISOM mission.

  In the UN Security Council, African sources in and beyond the Council say, European members and now the United States are "too cheap" to pay for the Kenyan naval assets they "used" to take and hold Kismayo.

  The AMISOM mandate was set to expire on October 31. In a rare session outside of Security Council chambers, with a short text "put in blue" by UN staff working from their homes, the Council agreed to roll over the mandate for a mere seven days.  Click here for Inner City Press in-person coveage of that meeting and vote.

  But, sources say, there is a move to put a longer resolution into blue -- without including the "naval component" of AMISOM.

  The non-Europeans are incensed; there is talk of amendments "from the floor of the Council" to put the naval issue forward.

  This follow-the-money issue is alongside another, about an exemption to allow the sale of charcoal built up in Kismayo. But to reduce this story to "paternalist" EU and US only caring about the welfare of Somalia -- can they buy weapons, can they sell charcoal -- would be misleading.

   As several African diplomats put it to Inner City Press on Thursday, "the Europeans are just cheap." Watch this site.

October 29, 2012

As UNSC Speaks on Ceasefire But Not Terrorism, Al Qaeda OK in Some Places?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- After envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told the UN Security Council by video to await an official Eid ceasefire response from the Syrian government tomorrow, the Council agreed on a press statement directed particularly at the government, as the stronger party.

  After the statement was read out, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was asked of the reported rejection in advance of the ceasefire by the Al Nusra Front, which claimed credit for deadly bombings in, among other places, Aleppo in an attack the Council condemned in a statement.

  Churkin said those with influence should speak with such groups. Inner City Press asked Churkin about his other draft Council statement on "Terrorism in Damascus," which the Council did not agree to.

  Churkin said there is a trend of not denouncing some acts of terrorism. He said some find attacks by Al Qaeda OK in some places but not in others: there is, "say that Al Qaeda cannot do certain things in one place but is welcome to do them in another place."

  Minutes later, Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari told the press, "There will be an official statement tomorrow" - that is, the day before the Eid holiday begins. Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press exclusively reported on and put online a list Syrian Mission filed with the Security Council of 108 "foreign nationals" arrested in Syria. Click here for that.
  Wednesday the Mission said nothing had been done on the list; it filed a letter about the killing of some 25 civilians in Douma, in an area it says there is no government army presence. Don't expect a press statement any time soon.

On Sri Lanka, Heyns on 40,000 Dead and Video Half-Shown in UN, UPR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 25 -- The UN system's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions has inevitably dealt with Sri Lanka for some years, given the mandate.

  Inner City Press on October 25 asked Christof Heyns what he has done, to follow up on his predecessor Philip Alston's work on video footage of executions, and otherwise. Video here, from Minute 32:25.

Alston deemed the executions video authentic, in a session in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium. Heyns on Thursday told Inner City Press that he followed up on new video which came out after he took up the mandate in 2010, and subsequently appeared "in the Channel 4 documentary."

  That was never shown in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, while the government's purported rebuttal to it was.

Heyns said, "in the meantime as you know the Secretary General's panel reported that up to 40,000 people were killed in the last days of the war." This is a figure that whenever used, push-back and vitriol results. But that's what Heyns said. Video here, from Minute 37:45.

While there is a so-called Universal Periodic Review coming up at the Human Rights Council in Geneva with a mere 72 seconds per speaker, Heyns looked forward to "next March, 2013" when the "High Commissioner needs to report back. The issue is again on the table."

  Heyns said that this year's HRC resolution "requests Sri Lanka to engage with special procedures on a road map dealing with reconciliation and dealing with the past."

  Earlier on October 25 Inner City Press asked the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt about Sri Lanka. He said there are "religious elements" to conflicts and spoke of "national mythologies," seeing "the Other as acting in the interest of a colonial power." He said the UN should "have witnesses planted in those areas." He mentioned the UPR, without mentioning it's only 72 seconds per speaker. Video here, from Minute 32:54.

While it may be unlikely that Bielefeldt will visit Sri Lanka, Heyns said "I am willing to go, the same applies to other mandates as well." He said "the reconsideration next March is important." He called Sri Lanka's "one of the largest reported killings in the world in recent times" that has yet to be "sufficiently dealt with."

  But with Ban Ki-moon's view of accountability, as not requiring punishment of anyone, what will the UN do? For now, it looks like the report prepared by Charles Petrie as he set sail to Myanmar will be buried. Watch this site.

October 22, 2012

Defending Drones at UN, Koh Says Transparency Is Aided by US on HRC, 2d Term Promises

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 19 -- When Harold Koh came to the UN on Friday to pitch the US' candidacy for a second term on the Human Rights Council, his opening statement did not mention an issue with which he has become associated: drones.

  Nor did the moderator's question to him -- Koh was asked what the US would do on its HRC campaign pledge about torture. While important, this seemed a softball focused on the previous Bush administration. (An ACLU question extended it to what the Obama administration will do to hold accountable those who tortured in the past.)

  There were only ten minutes left when Inner City Press was able to ask Koh to "address drones, on which there's been controversy at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, whether their use complies with human rights law. Would the US support a special session or inquiry into the use of drones to commit executions?"

  When it was Koh's turn to answer -- he was moved up in the queue -- he cited to his own speech "in March 2010, echoed by John Brennan at the Wilson Center....The point is, all killing is regrettable [but] not all killing is illegal."

  He said that killings by drone "in the course of armed conflict or in self defense is consistent with international law." He cited Al Qaeda, the Taliban and "associated forces" -- presumably including Al Shabab in Somalia and forces in norther Mali or Azawad -- and said it is "not illegal to target an individual who is leader of an opposing force."

  What about a 16-year old who is not a leader? What about "collateral damage"?

  These weren't answered. Rather, Koh said he thought he questions were "ask[ed] in friendly way." He closed with the pitch that it would easier to work on the issue and get "transparency" if the US remains on the Human Rights Council. And then he left.

  Inner City Press had also asked, "if the others running [for the Human Rights Council had] a interest in having drones addressed at the Council, the use of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries."

  But the other candidates present did not address this in their answers after the question. Germany's Permanent Representative Peter Wittig answered a question about vote-trading by saying that Permanent members of the Security Council don't have to engage in it, but others do. Estonia and Montenegro addressed this and other points, but not drones.

  Argentina acknowledged that the Latin slate is "clean" -- three candidates for three seats -- just as it ran unopposed the day before for a two-year seat on the Security Council.

  Ireland's closing statement concerned the "style" it brings; the moderator's Irish question about about food security." Sweden focused on Internet freedom -- the country hosts, for example, sites that Russia argues are subject to UN Security Council sanctions.

  Greece spoke about the difficulty of being besieged by immigrants. There were echoes of the previous Romney - Obama debate, to which Koh jokingly referred. But drones are no joke. Watch this site.

October 15, 2012

On Sri Lanka, UN's 4 Month Report Not Done in Year, Petrie on to Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- The UN's acts and omissions during the killing of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009 has given rise to criticism, to which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon responded in September 2011 by saying UN official Thoraya Obaid would investigate and issue a report in four months time.

  Nine months later, no report was issued and Inner City Press asked why not. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said for the first time that Obaid had not been able to do the report, but that Charles Petrie was not on the case and would issue a report shortly.

  That hasn't happened either, and Inner City Press has since learned that Petrie has another job, with the Norway government funded Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI), which is also controversial.

  But it's made Inner City Press wonder: how can Petrie do two jobs at once? How he work for the UN and, essentially, for the Norwegian government at the same time, in seeming violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter? And where is the report on the UN in Sri Lanka?

  On October 11, Inner City Press asked Nesirky:

Inner City Press: I had asked about this report that was supposed to be now done by Charles Petrie into the UNís performance in Sri Lanka in 2009. And I went back and looked at it. It seemed like it was supposed to be finished in August and you had said that when it is finished it will be up to the Secretary-General whether to make it public or not. One, so I want to know the status now that we are in October. But also, I didnít know this, but Mr. Petrie has another job, which is to be the head of the Myanmar peace support initiative, Norwegian. Did he do this at the same time? Was this a full-time position? Has he finished the report and what is going to happen with the report?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The work with that Norwegian organization has absolutely nothing to do with the United Nations. It is the work that is being carried out on the report and continues to be carried out is obviously entirely separate and is not a full-time role. So I think that covers that. The first part of your question, yes, it is still in the works, and when it is ready, it will be ready, but it is still in the works.

Inner City Press: Okay. So it hasnít been finished and given to the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Not yet. It has not been given to the Secretary-General at this point, yeah.

  If the long delayed report has not been given to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, then mustn't it still be with Charles Petrie? But where IS Charles Petrie? He is being quoted at the director of the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI).

  On October 12, Inner City Press asked Nesirky again: what is the UN's view of the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative, and how can Petrie work there and for the UN at the same time?

  Nesirky said he has answered the question yesterday -- see transcript above -- so Inner City Press followed up and asked what is Petrie's status with the UN, and about Article 100 of the UN Charter, essentially requiring serving only one master.

  Nesirky insisted he had answer the question, and that if he has anything more he will provide it. We'll see. Watch this site.

October 8, 2012

As France Spins 2-Step on Mali, ECOWAS Frustration, What of Algeria and Chad?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 -- When Thursday's Mali consultations of the UN Security Council broken up near 5 pm, French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged and confirmed that France would circulate a draft resolution shortly (in a day or two) but NOT yet to deploy ECOWAS forces.

  Why the delay? Araud twice said, we've been waiting for some time for details from ECOWAS. He said the resolution might specify, deliver the delays in 30 days or as soon as possible.

  Inner City Press asked Araud, what about Mali neighbors which are not members of ECOWAS, like Mauritania and Algeria?

  Araud replied that any and all countries are invited to be involved. He mentioned the European Union, then circled back to Chad.

  But again, what about Algeria? The country has long opposed interventions, especially involving former colonialism France. While pretending not to take the lead or play any special role on Mali, it was Araud who came to the stakeout; it is France which is drafting.

Then again, MUJAO in Northern Mali last month executed an Algerian diplomat. Araud said that there is unanimity in the Council on Mali, and afterward Cote d'Ivoire Ambassador Bamba, who was not allowed in the meeting, emphasized to the press that at the Sahel meeting at the UN during General Debate week, there was a strong political demand a resolution authorizing force.

But what about the neighbors, which are not members of ECOWAS? Watch this site.

October 1, 2012

At UNGA's Surreal Stakeout, Swiss Small 5 Lost in Translation, Morocco Runs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- Even penned in cavernous Conference Room 1 during a badly administered first day of the UN General Debate, opportunities that seem potentially newsworthy crop up unexpected.

  Between scheduled "media availability" stakeouts by Julia Gillard of Australia and Guatemala's president, Switzerland's president Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf appeared on UN Television speaking at the stakeout microphone.

  After first her answers were in German. But then an Australian journalist asked if Europeans would vote, in the current Security Council seat race, for Luxembourg and Finland rather than Australia.

  She declined this question, but half-answered the next one, about Obama or Romney. She said they would be the same on banks, that she has a preference but will not say it.

  As she responded to a question about sanctions on Iran, Inner City Press ran from the Media Center along a corridor of blue painted barricades to the stakeout and asked a Swiss question: does the "Small Five" effort to reform the Security Council's working methods survive its withdrawal earlier this year?

To be diplomatic, it seems the question was misheard. She answered "2022," apparently that Switzerland is running for a Security Council seat in a decade's time. She called it a "one year term," when the terms are for two years.

Afterward a spokesman told Inner City Press, "you can't use that." If agreed in advance, Inner City Press always respects that.

  But in this case, the comments were already broadcast on UN Television. And this comes shortly after hoopla about Switzerland's ten years in the UN -- click here for decade's review by Inner City Press. For the record, Inner City Press has had praise for the Swiss Mission to the UN and related community. But answers to questions on UN TV are for use.

  Minutes later the foreign minister of Morocco Saad-Eddine El Othmani appeared. Inner City Press has previously filmed Q&A with him, and this time ran to the stakeout as for Switzerland's president.

 But this time a signal was given and the media availability abruptly called to a close. There are questions. Hey, it might have been a softball about Morocco's position on a UN envoy for the Sahel. Maybe --watch this site.

* * *

As Wittig Takes Abyei Question Ladsous Refused, DPKO Tries Edit UNTV

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- The dispute between Sudan and South Sudan about Abyei has been the subject of UN talk and spending at least since the time of the defunct Peacekeeping mission UNMIS.

   But on September 27, when Inner City Press asked "on Abyei, what is the UN's role?" the chief of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous refused to answer.

   On September 28, after belatedly obtaining a response to the same question from outgoing Security Council president Peter Wittig, Inner City Press learned that Ladsous' DPKO had hit a new low.

   DPKO asked to get even Inner City Press' question about Abyei removed from the UN webcast archived video.  That is the strategy: to censor or modify the UN's video production to make it appear that no question was even asked. A new low.

   But here, even if this new low for the UN is achieved by Ladsous and (at least) three spokespeople he has debased is successful, is YouTube video of that Abyei question stakeout. Video here.

  And German Ambassador Wittig, while seeking to focus on the congratulatory aspect of the UNSC Press Statement he read out, said that the Security Council will meet again about Sudan and South Sudan, and Abyei, and get a briefing from envoy Haile Menkerios. Apparently, the bi-weekly meetings on the Sudans will continue.

  But what of Ladsous and his refusal to answer Press questions about his job, and then attempts to get even the questions censored or edited out of the UN's webcast video? Who is hurting the UN's credibility?

  On Thursday evening, Ladsous' spokeswoman told the UNTV boom microphone operator not to give the mic to Inner City Press, and tried to convince the two other correspondents present to ask questions. But there were no other questions. Ladsous walked away from the microphone as Inner City Press asked the Abyei question. Now DPKO has asked to have the question edited out.

  Ladsous is hitting a new low. Beginning in late May, after Inner City Press ran an exclusive article about Ladsous' proposal behind closed doors that DPKO use drones, Ladsous had refused to answer any Inner City Press questions, no matter how simple.

Inner City Press asked Ladsous why his Department flew Congolese military officials to a meeting to recruit the Mai Mai militia to fight another group, the M23. Ladsous refused to answer.

But on Sudan and South Sudan, on which the member states which pay Ladsous' tax-free salary have spent billions, after millions of people have been killed, Ladsous' refusal to answer the basic question -- "on Abyei, what is the UN's role?" -- is particularly troubling.

By contrast, at the very same stakeout area earlier on the same day, Inner City Press questions were taken and answered by the foreign ministers of Jordan and Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. But Ladsous, ostensibly an international public servant, won't answer.

  A fish rots from the head, as the old saw goes. And this old saw, more than one diplomat has said, should go. Watch this site.

September 24, 2012 -- for UNGA week coverage, click here.

As Ban Ki-moon Meets UAE & Arab League, Roed-Larsen at Both, Ladsous UAE

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- As this Fall's UN General Assembly begins, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and different members of his team met back to back Friday with the United Arab Emirates' foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan then with an Arab League delegation led by Nabil Elaraby.

  Inner City Press covered both as photo-ops, being confined between the two in a holding room with an Egyptian videographer in the office of Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Questions arose about Ban's different line-ups for the two meetings.

  Ban's uncommunicative top Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post, attended the meeting with the UAE but not with the Arab League.

  Since the UAE is hardly big in UN Peacekeeping, one thought the rationale would be to talk about Syria. But Ladsous was absent from the more Syria-focused Arab League meeting.

   Terje Roed-Larsen, whose mandate under Security Council resolution 1559 Syria has repeatedly sought to reign in, was present for both meetings.

  Ban's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien, also uncommunicative in that she has repeatedly refused requests to do a press conference or take questions, arrived for the Arab League meeting, of which Inner City Press made a 3-minute video, on YouTube here.

  The head of the UN Department of Political Affairs, former US State Department official Jeffrey Feltman, was understandably present for both meetings. The UAE foreign minister called out to him, "Jeff, I just sent you a text message," which Feltman acknowledged receiving. For Iran - LOL?

  Here was Ban's spokesperson's office's read-out of the UAE meeting:

"They discussed several regional issues including Syria, and the Middle East Peace Process. The Secretary-General thanked Sheikh Abdullah for hosting the UN presence in the UAE and welcomed the newly established UNOCHA Gulf Office. He also noted the important role the UAE is playing in humanitarian financing through its Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid."

So that's why the UN's top humanitarian Valerie Amos was there. But why was Ladsous at the UAE meeting? Watch this site.

Update of 6:36 pm -- the UN spokesperson has put out this read out of the Arab League meeting:

They discussed first and foremost the situation in Syria, with its political impasse, widespread human rights abuses, and growing humanitarian crisis.

They expressed serious concern about the question of Palestine, the lack of progress in peace negotiations, and the alarming economic situation as well as the absence of hope in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Finally, they discussed the rioting that recently erupted following the posting of the irresponsible and provocative video on the Prophet Mohammed, which they condemned, while deploring the violence that ensued.

But what about France Banning even peaceful protests? Click here for that.

September 17, 2012

After Benghazi Killings, US Proposed Criticizing Denigration of Religion, France Said No: Likes Denigrating

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 14, updated below -- Two days after the UN Security Council issued a press statement on the "Attacks against U.S. Diplomatic Personnel" in Libya, Inner City Press has learned of a telling back-and-forth in the Council prior to adoption of the statement.

   The US Mission to the UN proposed the initial draft, which included a phrase against the denigration of religion, Inner City Press has exclusively been informed, then France opposed inclusion of that phrase, arguing among other things that the French constitution is secular.

  While this action too will have its reaction -- three Council members paraphrased French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud that he likes and takes pride in the freedom to denigrate religion, and two called this outrageous -- the Council Press Statement was issued on September 12 without anything on denigration of religion.

   It is newsworthy, Council members emphasize to Inner City Press, both that this US Mission to the UN proposed the phrase criticizing denigration of religion, and that France -- where the Sarkozy-era spats about religious jewelry and even halal butchers are apparently not over -- opposed it.

   "There are other statements coming," a Security Council member told Inner City Press at 4 pm on Friday. Watch this site.

Update of 7 pm -- Council members tell Inner City Press there IS another press statement under the silence procedure, about the attacks on embassies in Sudan.

  Meanwhile the US had Vice President Biden call Sudanese Vice President Taha. President Omar al-Bashir, of course, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide. But that didn't stop Ban Ki-moon from greeting, if not meeting, Bashir. Priorities...

As 3 More Afghan Audits Leak, UNAMA Deputy Says UN Should Disclose Risk

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- Exposing a series of audits of the Law & Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan over the past 11 weeks, Inner City Press has received a few responses from the UN Development Program but no direct comment on the exclusively published leaked audits.

  On Friday, Inner City Press asked the UN's Afghanistan deputy Michael Keating about them. Video here, from Minute 11:07.

   Keating said "we need to be more explicit in acknowledging... the risks that are inevitably there with a program of this size and complexity and not try to hide those risks."

   But as donors threaten to stop funding LOTFA, a question is whether disclosing the risks would be enough, or whether some of the corruption like double payments and "missing assets" would have to curtailed.

   Today Inner City Press exclusively publishes three more audits. In "Observation 19," the auditors drily note:

"During the course of our physical verification of assets, we noted that some of the assets, which were appearing in Statement of Assets, were not physically present."

  This diplomatic "not physically present" phrase, if accepted, would have a good future on all manner of criminal defense.

In Observation 18, the auditors state that "during the course of our audit we noted certain instances where purchase orders were not raised in respect of procurement of goods," including over $300,000 for the purchase of Toyota vehicles.

   Observation 17 "note[s] instances where evidences of required approvals by Special Procurement Commission were not available with the contracts" and "recommends that the provisions of the Afghanistan Procurement Law should be complied" with. Ya don't say.

  Beyond this UN system corruption, there is a more serious debate about the proposed spending on constructing a new electoral roll -- would it be done fairly for all groups and how much would it cost.

  But with this clear example of UN corruption not yet addressed, and with UNDP declining to directly address the audits, the questioning of the UN's role(s) in Afghanistan inevitably takes place in the aura of these, shall we say, irregularities.

  Inner City Press had been informed by sources in Afghanistan that Keating, after working for the Africa Progress Panel with Robert Rubin, among others, on its board, got the post with the support of Tony Blair (Blair also works for JP Morgan Chase and ostensibly for the UN on Palestine) --  and that he is now leaving the Afghanistan Deputy post. So Inner City Press asked. Video here, from minute 17:22.

  Keating confirmed that he is leaving, saying it is after two years in the post, calling leaving "absolutely normal." Watch this site.

September 10, 2012

On UNICEF's Syria Death Count, UN Says It's Not on Ground, Cites Ban in GA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- UNICEF on August 31 and September 2 offered Syria casualty figures -- 1600 killed in a week -- that it refused to explain, but which went out all over the world.

  The figures were in fact derived, Inner City Press persisted and on September 3 learned, from the media itself.

 At UN headquarters on September 5, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about it:

Inner City Press: on Friday, UNICEF said there had been 1,600 people killed in the previous week, the highest week so far; and then when asked, UNICEF said, about the basis of the figures, they said, 'ask OCHA.' So I did ask OCHA, and they said itís based on UNICEFís monitoring of media reports. The numbers are high, definitely. But the UNís numbers, are they based on media reports, or are they based on the Syrian Observatory?  Whatís the UN standard for putting in a UNICEF report thatís on ReliefWeb, which was announced in Geneva as a solid number?  Is it really just the UN reporting to the media what the media already reported?

Spokesperson Nesirky:  Well, I think you need to ask UNICEF precisely on their sourcing.  Let me simply say that itís obvious that the United Nations does not have the kind of presence on the ground that would be needed if it would be possible at all to establish accurate figures.  I think thatís obvious to everybody.  Itís also obvious that there are many people who are monitoring whatís happening inside Syria and are providing figures which obviously need to be treated with appropriate caution.  I think you are absolutely right that the figures are high. We heard the Secretary-General and Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi say this in the General Assembly just yesterday.  The tragedy is that those numbers continue to climb, and yet itís almost got to the point where it does not create the waves in the media that it should do, because it has become almost grotesquely commonplace.  And thatís what the focus should be on.  Thatís where we need to focus our efforts to try to stem the bloodshed and move things onto a political track.

  To some, even inside UNICEF, it also seems important that the numbers announced by the UN be credible, or at least that their sourcing be disclosed as the same time they are announced. The worst is the mis-direction in which UNICEF engaged, saying "call OCHA" when they weren't OCHA's numbers at all.

  After UNICEF's Patrick McCormick was quoted that "at least 1,600 people were killed in Syria last week" and Reuters said he was "citing a U.N. document," Inner City Press early on September 2 asked McCormick, which document? And how was the data collected?

   McCormick replied to Inner City Press, "call OCHA" -- the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  This seemed strange anyway: in 2009 OCHA refused to release very specific casualty figures -- 2,683 --  it had collected in Sri Lanka.

  At the time, the UN told Inner City Press it is not in the business of counting the dead -- Inner City Press thought and thinks the UN should at least do this, where it can. But in a credible and transparent way.

  In this case, Inner City Press' initial questioning was picked up by the UK Guardian, as was the above-quoted OCHA response

Still UNICEF's number continues to proliferate. Voice of America at 2 pm on September 2 dutifully quoted McCormick on the numbers for UNICEF, headed by Anthony Lake. Click here for Washington Post; UNICEF's one-week 1600 death count has since been in, among others, Canada's big newspapers, GlobalPost, IBT, Slate, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast - and in the UN's host city, New York Post and New York Daily News.

  Since then, the Jamaica Observer, VOA-affiliated Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, San Francisco Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Detroit Free Press, South China Morning Post, and more.

 More doubts should have been raised: in Syria in 2012, the UN's mission has left after UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that even observers in armored cars can't get around. How would OCHA have collected figures of the type it refused to release in Sri Lanka in 2009, and why would it (well, UNICEF) release them about Syria in 2012?

  Despite OCHA's belated response to Inner City Press after UNICEF's, in context, deception play, will this be like the Inner City Press exposed but never corrected claim that new UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is a "Nobel Peace laureate"? Click here for that. And watch this site.

As Feltman Jogs Into US Mission, Need for UN FOIA, & Schedules Online

By Matthew Russell Lee, View

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- The UN claims to be transparent, but it has no Freedom of Information law. So its steps toward transparency are small and random.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has a "public" schedule, but for example his recent encounter with Sudan's Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, was not disclosed.

 When Inner City Press asked about it, it was called a mere handshake. But Sudan issued a read-out of four issues covered.

  Ban's new Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson also has a public online schedule. But recently Inner City Press was told that a visiting foreign minister had met with Eliasson -- and it never appeared on his schedule.

  Wednesday morning Inner City Press happened to see Ban's new chief of the Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, jogging into the US Mission to the UN on 45th Street. It seemed noteworthy, since most missions come to meet Feltman in his UN office.

  When Inner City Press asked, it was informally told that Feltman goes out to meet with other missions beyond the US, his native country whose State Department he served until earlier this year. Inner City Press asked, which ones? But that, seemingly as a matter of policy, is not public.

  Under Eliasson, the UN DSG position has a political component, which Inner City Press compared to that of Feltman. Why does one make his schedule public, and the other not? Why isn't the schedule of top UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, resistant to Press questions, put online?

  Both Under Secretaries General, we have noted, made themselves present at a sculpture exhibition opening Tuesday night at the UN, along with Ban Ki-moon and ambassadors including that of North Korea.

  Ban, Feltman, Ladsous and other USGs will retreat to Torino this weekend. Increased transparency should be in their agenda.

  Inner City Press asked on Wednesday, why doesn't Feltman put his schedule online, at least as DSG Eliasson does? We need to keep some secrets was the affable but unsatisfactory answer. Secrets on behalf of whom?

  It is time for a UN Freedom of Information Act, which Inner City Press has long asked for. In the interim, Feltman should consider putting his schedule online. Watch this site.

September 3, 2012

On Syria, UNICEF's 1600 Death Count Came From Media, Not OCHA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 3 -- On Syria, the UN announces to the media death figures which are derived, Inner City Press has learned, from the media itself.

  Then these are circularly sourced to "UN documents" and given more weight than they should be.

  UNICEF on August 31 and September 2 offered Syria casualty figures it refused to explain, but which went out all over the world.

  After UNICEF's Patrick McCormick was quoted that "at least 1,600 people were killed in Syria last week" and Reuters said he was "citing a U.N. document," Inner City Press early on September 2 asked McCormick, which document? And how was the data collected?

   McCormick replied to Inner City Press, "call OCHA" -- the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  After three separate inquiries with OCHA, and McCormick refusing to respond to follow-up questions, Inner City Press has just been informed by OCHA's spokesman in Geneva that

"The estimated figure of 1,600 persons was arrived at from UNICEF's own internal monitoring of different media sources. The figure does not come from OCHA."

   The key phrase here is "media sources" -- UNICEF took the number from news reports, despite the adjective "different" and the reference to "internal monitoring OF media sources." Essentially, UNICEF reads reports on the Internet.

   But where do these news reports come from?

  Increasingly, Western wire services take their casualty figures from "non-governmental organizations" or, more accurately, "activists."  Sometimes, at least, the sourcing is disclosed as such.
    But by laundering the activists figures through the UN system, as UNICEF has done, the figures take on the veneer of objectivity.

   Reuters' report said that McCormick has "citing a UN document."

   Inner City Press repeatedly checked, and fourd on OCHA's ReliefWeb site a UNICEF report stating that "a record death toll of 1,600 persons was reported." So it appeared even then that UNICEF's McCormick was quoting a UNICEF report.

  But, tellingly, UNICEF's spokesman McCormick could or would not explain UNICEF's own numbers. Why else pass the buck to OCHA?

  This seemed strange anyway: in 2009 OCHA refused to release very specific casualty figures -- 2,683 --  it had collected in Sri Lanka.

  At the time, the UN told Inner City Press it is not in the business of counting the dead -- Inner City Press thought and thinks the UN should at least do this, where it can. But in a credible and transparent way.

  Inner City Press immediately on September 2 did try to contact OCHA. But OCHA's lead spokesperson is away, as was one of the two referred-to replacements. The other did not initially respond. Nor did McCormick, to follow-ups.

Inner City Press asked OCHA:

Hi, I'm sorry to bother you on a Sunday, but when I asked UNICEF for the source of its figure of 1,600 killed last week in Syria, I was told to "call OCHA." I checked ReliefWeb and found a UNICEF report where it's stated "A record death toll of 1,600 persons was reported."

Press question on deadline, I'm sorry to say, since this figure is going out all over the world: reported by whom? Where do the figures come from? Does the figure cited include military deaths? Deaths among armed groups?

Seems important to answer this, especially since the UN system in other contexts has said it does not have access (in Syria at least since UNSMIS left) and / or does not count the dead (I was told this regarding Sri Lanka in 2009 -- I thought and think that UN should at least do this, where it can. But in a credible and transparent way.

Does OCHA has casualty figures beyond the above-quoted (but unsourced) UNICEF report?

The next day, OCHA replied:

Subject: Re: I was told to "call OCHA" about UNICEF's statement of 1,600 killed in Syria last week: reported by whom? Thanks
From: Jens Laerke [at]
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]
Date: Mon, Sep 3, 2012 at 4:48 AM

Dear Matthew

At a media briefing in Geneva last Friday, a UNICEF spokesperson gave an estimated figure for the number of deaths in Syria over the previous week.

The estimated figure of 1,600 persons was arrived at from UNICEF's own internal monitoring of different media sources.

The figure does not come from OCHA.

Hope this helps, Best regards

Jens Laerke, Spokesperson & Public Information Officer OCHA Geneva

  Inner City Press' initial questioning was picked up by the UK Guardian, as was the above-quoted OCHA response.

  Still UNICEF's number continues to proliferate. Voice of America at 2 pm on September 2 dutifully quoted McCormick on the numbers for UNICEF, headed by Anthony Lake. Click here for Washington Post; UNICEF's one-week 1600 death count has since been in, among others, Canada's big newspapers, GlobalPost, IBT, Slate, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast - and in the UN's host city, New York Post and New York Daily News.

 Since then, the Jamaica Observer, VOA-affiliated Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, San Francisco Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Detroit Free Press, South China Morning Post, and more.

 More doubts should have been raised: in Syria in 2012, the UN's mission has left after UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that even observers in armored cars can't get around. How would OCHA have collected figures of the type it refused to release in Sri Lanka in 2009, and why would it (well, UNICEF) release them about Syria in 2012?

  Despite OCHA's belated response to Inner City Press after UNICEF's, in context, deception play, will this be like the Inner City Press exposed but never corrected claim that new UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is a "Nobel Peace laureate"? Click here for that. And watch this site.

Rwanda's Mushikiwabo Says UN Looks for Excuses, Hege is Ideologically Bankrupt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 29 -- The day after a Rwandan delegation sharply criticized the UN's Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions Group of Experts and its coordinator Steve Hege, Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that Hege and his report are "ideologically bankrupt." Video here.

  Inner City Press asked Minister Mushikiwabo four questions after her closed door meeting interacting with the UN Security Council.

  While she did not answer if the Rwandan government believes that Hege (and his Group of Experts colleague Marie Plamadiala from Moldova) met with Jean Marie Micombero, she called Hege's "ideological leanings troubling."

   She said, "for anybody who is sympathetic to the genocidal militia FDLR, which is proven through his writings, to be the man who is at the head of this Group of Experts is just an aberration... We have signaled our concern to the appointing authorities and we will wait to see what the reaction is. But I will find it deeply troubling that the Security Council could not look into how this man was appointed"

   Hege spoke to the DRC Sanctions Committee on August 28. Inner City Press previously first pointed to two articles he published in 2009 about the FDLR -- one was taken down quickly off Scribd after Inner City Press linked to it. We continue to await an explanation of this. The UN told Inner City Press it vetted Hege.

  Last time she was at the UN, Mushikiwabo was critical of the performance of the UN mission in the Congo, MONUSCO. On August 29, Inner City Press asked her specifically about MONUSCO chief Roger Meece, and the Mission's admitted flying of Congolese officials to try to recruit Mai Mai militia to fight the M23.

  Mushikiwabo said that, while failing in their missions, MONUSCO and some in the Congolese army FARDC are looking to "find excuses."

  She said much the same when Inner City Press asked how the M23 rebellion should be addressed, saying solutions should come from within the DRC, not by blaming the neighbors.

   Inner City Press asked of media reports that the SADC has offered to send troops along the DRC - Rwanda border. Mushikiwabo said she is not aware of such an offer, but rather since four SADC members are also members of the Great Lakes groups ICGGLR, then SADC -- of which the Congo is a member -- could offers support and advice.

  On August 28, it was Patrick Karuretwa, Defense & Security Adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who told Inner City Press regarding Hege that "a line that has been crossed by the coordinator of the Group of Experts. We expect any member to have views, baggage, but here a line has been crossed. You [pointed to] two of his articles.... in one of them he said the international community is souring on Rwanda. We say he's been given the tools to do precisely that."

   There are other questions for Hege, ranging for alleged radio intercepts to claiming the presence of one Jack (or "Jacques") Nziza on the Congolese border when Rwanda says there are more than 100 alibi witnesses, including diplomats.

 We'll have more on this.  Inner City Press believes there is a need for more accountability at the UN, including of sanctions "experts." Watch this site.

August 27, 2012

On Eve of Return to NY at 81, Brahimi's Jordan & Anti-Election Links Eyed

By Matthew Russell Lee, 1 in a series

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- With Lakhdar Brahimi on his way to the UN in New York, already some bad-mouthing of him has started. The opposition's critique is not only of his statement that it's too early for him to say that Assad must go, but is more fundamental.

  "Wasn't he part of annulling the Islamists' electoral victory in Algeria?" one source pointedly asked.

  Another pointed out Brahimi's connection by daughter's marriage high into Jordan's royal family.

   Inner City Press, which has pointed out that contrary to wire and then other reports Brahimi is NOT a "Nobel Peace laureate" was itself corrected, for having said Brahimi is 78.

  "He's 81," a source said, noting that in 2004 Brahimi presented himself in Iran as being 73 years old. Once this is confirmed, as the Nobel Foundation confirmed to Inner City Press that Brahimi is NOT a Nobel Peace laureate, we will have more.

   So why did Brahimi take the job? One source said, "These guys just can't stand to give up power, even if it is only the UN kind of power."

  It was predicted Brahimi will try for a smaller team than Annan, perhaps keeping on Ahmad Fawzi and trying to place three or four people in Damascus. That, like after his meeting with Francois Hollande, he will now present himself as in the "listening mode."

   And that it is late, too late, for a mediated solution. "This will be decided," a well placed UN source said, "on the ground."

   The problem is that there are many, many armed groups in the opposition, he said. There's an Al Qaeda-like movement; there's the Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Egypt and Qatar. And then there are 200 groups, who control areas here and there and will not bow down to any Syrian outside. So even if a deal is cut, "these guys won't stop."

   "This will be a failure for the UN," the UN source concluded. "It will be seen as weak and ineffectual. Ban Ki-moon is trying to avoid the fall-out by appointing one high profile envoy after another, and letting them take the heat." The source paused and then marveled, "It's actually pretty smart."

  These are some views; there are others. Watch this site.

UN Confirms Flying DRC Officials to Meet Mai Mai, Says Didn't Know Topic

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 -- The UN flew Congolese government officials to meet with a Mai Mai militia leader, Janvier Karairi, who afterward said "they came to ask me to form an alliance with the army to fight M23" mutineers.

  On August 23, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, "given the history of criticism [by] the UN [of] many of the Mai Mai factions, is it true that the UN is assisting the Government of the Congo to recruit these militias to fight another militia?"

  Nesirky first referred the question to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations -- whose chief Herve Ladsous has twice said on camera he will not answer any Inner City Press questions -- then on August 24 offered an amazing answer.

  Nesirky confirmed that the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo "provided transporation and security" for the Congolese officials to meet with Javier and the Mai Mai, but said that MONUSCO is "not aware of any initiative to recruit Mai Mai."

  So what did the UN think the meeting with militia leader Javier was about? Especially AFTER Javier said publicly that it was a request that what he says are his 4000 fights to take up arms against M23?

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky this, quoting Javier that "they came to ask me to form an alliance with the army to fight M23." Video here, from Minute 12:15.

Nesirky repeated that MONUSCO did not know what the meeting was about. But why then did they fly Congolese government officials to the meeting? What type of meeting WOULDN'T the UN fly government officials to?

Nesirky said, "ask the DRC." But it is a UN question. How can the UN ask anyone to be accountable, when it is not? We'll have more on this, which again highlight how the UN has lost its way in the Congo.

  After nearly being thrown out of the country by President Joseph Kabila, the price for staying in has been to slavishly support the government and its often undisciplined army, the FARDC.

  As previously noted, DPKO chief Herve Ladsous has said openly, twice on camera, that he will not answer any Inner City Press questions. Video here, at Minute 28:10. And Ladsous spokesman Kieran Dwyer reiterated this in writing, and on camera. Video here, Minute 6:50.

  But this is a question that should be answered: how can the UN be playing a role, even a transportation and facilitation and "security" role, in recruit a militia that the UN itself has been highly critical of?

  In Sudan, the UN provided free helicopter flights to Ahmed Harun, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, click here for one of Inner City Press' exposes on this.

  This year, Ban Ki-moon and Ladsous accepted as a Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations the Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva, whose battalion is depicted in Ban's own Panel of Experts report as engaged in war crimes.

  Ladsous specifically refused to answer a question about Silva - this was the first time Ladsous said, "I will not answer questions" from Inner City Press. Video here, at Minute 28:10

  But in the Congo, the UN is going "hands on," flying Congolese officials to meetings with a militia leader who says the meeting was to recruit him and his 4000 fighters to join the bloody fight with the M23? How much lower can DPKO go, under Ladsous? How much more unaccountable can this UN become? Watch this site.

August 20, 2012

Brahimi Is Not a Nobel Laureate, Nobel Foundation Tells ICP, Who Corrects?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 19 -- Two days after Lakhdar Brahimi was named Joint Special Representative on Syria and a wire service called him "a Nobel Peace Laureate," and a day after Inner City Press twice questioned this designation, the Nobel Foundation has told Inner City Press that Brahimi "has not been awarded a Nobel Prize and should therefore not be referred to as a Nobel Laureate."

  The Nobel Foundation's public releations manager Annika Pontikis also said that, until Inner City Press' question, no one had asked her this question.

  So the initial wire story wasn't fact checked -- in fact, that Brahimi is not a Nobel laureate is clear from a simple search of the Nobel web site -- and those who ran it did not check either.

  The "Brahimi as Nobel Peace laureate" phrase continued to proliferate, from Reuters to SABC, Malta Today, Euronews, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Eyewitness News, Channel 4

  Nor did any of these respond to inquiries, nor apparently run any correction.

   As Inner City Press has previously asked without answer, how are these things supposed to work?

  There is the media, then there is the source or subject. Should Brahimi, personally involved in his public relations machine, have reached out to correct the inaccurate description of himself receiving a prize he never received?

  Inner City Press before and just after Brahimi took the job wrote that it would be a form of "Nobel Prize lottery" for him - if anything good happens, he might be in line for the Nobel Peace Prize; if not, expectations are low.

  Further lowering expectations, Brahimi did phone interviews: first with French state media France 24, telling them that the UN only cares about helping the Syrian people.

   On August 18 Brahimi called Reuters, which then wrote for yet another time that Brahami is "a Nobel Peace laureate."

  Finally, Inner City Press asked the Nobel Foundation "whether former UN official (and incoming Syria envoy) Lakhdar Brahimi was or is a Nobel Peace laureate" and "if others have asked you this." The reply:

From: Annika Pontikis [at]
Date: Sun, Aug 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM
Subject: SV: Is Lakhdar Brahimi a Nobel Peace laureate?
To: Matthew R. Lee [at]

Dear Matthew Lee,

As you probably know the United Nations, as an organization, has been awarded the Nobel Prize. This, however, does not mean that persons affiliated to the UN can call themselves Nobel Laureates.

The person referred to below has not been awarded a Nobel Prize and should therefore not be referred to as a Nobel Laureate.

I have not received this question from others.

Kind regards,

Annika Pontikis

   As Inner City Press wrote before this answer, a "Nobel was given in 1988 to UN Peacekeeping, but if that makes Brahimi a Nobel laureate many others can claim that same prize. So why the designation? We'll wait and see." And now we see. What next? Watch this site.

At UN, Tale of 12 Twitter Feeds, Missions Tweet Stakeouts, Facebook Start-Ups

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 15 -- It was by Twitter alone that the French Mission to the UN announced two press stakeouts last Friday by its Permanent Representative to the UN. Not surprisingly, the turnout was low -- in fact, only Inner City Press at the second of the two stakeouts, on Mali.

   So it seems timely, especially in this mid-August lull, to review some UN Mission's twitter accounts, and wonder how long it will be until all 193 UN members -- and Palestine and the Holy See -- establish their twitter feeds.

   Beyond its many spokespeople, the US Mission to the UN maintains @USUN, the most recent tweets of which involve Ambassador Susan Rice's time representing President Barack Obama as the closing of the London Olympics.

  The UK Mission to the UK tweets frequently on @UKUN_NewYork, for example yesterday about Ali Saleh supporters' assault on the Yemeni Defense Ministry, about which the UN at its noon briefing said it was not even aware.

  On the Latin tip, @GuatemalaONU while serving in the Security Council last tweeted about its vote for the Syria resolution in the General Assembly on August 3. This even is its affable expert greeted Inner City Press on her way into the GRULAC Third Committee meeting about the rights of the child.

   The Syria GA vote is @NorwayUN's second most recent tweet, superseded by an announcement of the sheathing of the Empire State Building in Norway's colors for its participation in the Olympics.

  One wondered: couldn't many other countries get that as well? Former Permanent Representative of Norway Morten Wetland, a tweeter himself, has gone back to work at First House, from which one hopes he'll tweet. Robert Mood began but stopped.

   Going Germanic, @GermanyUN's last tweet is about a meeting on, what else, the future of the Euro.

   Targets of Security Council sanctions can have their twitter too, although @EritreaUN's only tweet so far this year involves their cycling team.

   While not a member state, though sometimes said to seek to speak like one, the @EUatUN has announced it is moving this month from its offices on 41st Street -- but the new address, on Third Avenue, didn't fit in the tweet, ran over its the EU's page on Facebook. (Inner City Press, with voluteer help, is just starting Beta dabbling in Facebook, here:

  Poland's @PLinUN covered Beyonce in the GA, as did Inner City Press. @SwedenUN did indigenous. @PalauUN promises sub-tweets, with Ambassador Stuart J. Beck notated as SJB.

  South Africa's @SAMissionNY hasn't tweeted since February, but when it did it was about Palestine.

  Italy's @ItMissionUNNY does a lot of re-tweeting, but had an exclusive last month about Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson at the UN Staff College in Turin.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself is often (mis) represented by @secgen, which merely takes his daily public schedule and puts it online, even if the events are canceled or don't fit into 140 characters. And so it goes, with the UN and social media.

  We will have more on this. Watch this site - and pitch us your feeds!

August 13, 2012

On Syria, ICP Puts Ban's Letter Online, No Answer on Brahimi & Feltman

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- More than a week after the Syria report of top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous, who seems to have gone missing, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on August 10 turned in a bilingual update to the UN Security Council. Inner City Press is putting it online before 10 pm, here.

  Meanwhile amid reports that long time UN official Lakhdar Brahimi is to be named to replace Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria, Inner City Press at 11 am Friday witnessed the entry of Syrian Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar Ja'afari to meet with UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman. A well placed source exclusive told Inner City Press: Brahimi will be discussed.

  And so at Friday UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey

Inner City Press; I was just in the North Lawn and I was told that Mr. Jeffrey Feltman of DPA [Department of Political Affairs] is meetingÖI saw Bashar Jaíafari go in. Iím told that the topic is Mr. Brahimi. So my question to you is: because Martin Nesirky was willing to say that there are consultations with the permanent members of the Security Council about such an appointment, is Syria and its permanent representative, will they be conferred with prior to an announcement, whoever the name is?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: I will have to check on that. I donít know exactly who the consultation list is comprised of.

  Nine hours later, no response. But a well place Gulf source tells Inner City Press Brahimi is the Arab League's nominee, and will a more anti-Assad mandate than Kofi Annan had or acted under.

  It is still time to speed through some of Brahimi's positions. The US, Hillary Clinton in particular, opposed General Douglas Lute favoring Brahimi over Holbrooke on Afghanistan in 2010.

  Brahimi also said, in a 2008 interview, that Europe is a political midget.

Brahimi to his credit in March 2009 wrote, of Sri Lanka, "being a spectator when 150,000 thousand people are trapped in a death zone is not an option."

  That is, sadly, what the UN did, and now even has as a Peacekeeping adviser to Ban Ki-moon and Herve Ladsous one of the generals responsible for the killing, even according to Ban's own experts' report: Shavendra Silva.

  Brahimi is on the Advisory Council of the Sri Lanka Campaign, which of attacks on Inner City Press wrote this, about those who "played straight into the hands of the Government of Sri Lanka's attempts to silence its critics."

So which Brahimi would it be? Watch this site.

Reuters & AFP Sought Ouster from UN of Inner City Press, US Records Show

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 8 -- When the US government broadcaster Voice of America asked the UN on June 20 to "review" the accreditation status of Inner City Press, the UN Correspondents Association's president Giampaolo Pioli and first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters claimed they had nothing to do with the request.

   On June 30, however, the two demanded that Inner City Press withdraw a Freedom of Information Act request it had filed for records related to VOA's complaint, or face a release of a one-sided UNCA report and a subsequent show trial seeking to vote Inner City Press out.

   Inner City Press did not withdraw the FOIA request. It stopped writing about the dispute until now, on August 8, when some 800 pages of documents requested under FOIA were released, while at least 150 pages have been withheld. (An appeal is being prepared).

   Even on first review, the documents show that Reuters and Agence France Presse, among others, were part of the campaign to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. They conferred with "UN officials," yet to be named; Reuters conferred with the US Mission to the UN.

  On June 18 at 12:40 pm, VOA's Margaret Besheer e-mailed her editor Steve Redisch that "My Reuters colleague just told me his people are probably going to go the same route - to press UN to pull Mr. Lee's UN accreditation." Click here for that e-mail, released August 7 under FOIA.

   The "Reuters colleague" is UNCA president in waiting Lou Charbonneau, who expressed outrage at Inner City Press complaining of his byline on unauthorized uncredited use of Inner City Press exclusive reporting, then said he has a policy of not crediting Inner City Press.

   When Besheer, Charbonneau and others -- the names have been redacted -- received a complaint about their censorship campaign that was send to Capitol Hill and to the US Mission to the UN, Besheer recounts that Charbonneau "asked the US Mission" about the complaint.  Click here that e-mail, including a threat that Reuters would sue Inner City Press.

  Reuters' threats came after Inner City Press several times requested a copy of the company's policy for crediting the exclusives for other, smaller media from four Reuters officials: Stephen J. Adler, Editor in Chief; Greg McCune, Ethics & Training; Walden Siew, Top News Editor; and Paul Ingrassia, Deputy Editor in Chief.

  Reuters never responded, but rather sought to "press the UN to pull" Inner City Press' accrediation, along with Agence France Presse.

Charbonneau shakes -- on what? -- with Ban Ki-moon, (c) Luiz Rampelotto

   As to Agence France Presse, on June 18 at 12:58 pm, Besheer wrote to VOA's lawyers that

"My AFP colleague asks if they could possibly get the tenor of our letter so they can stay on message and ask In the same way. Their legal dept is in France, so It would be their regional director in Washington contacting UN on their behalf."

  The "AFP colleague" is Timothy Witcher who previously sought to use the UNCA bureaucracy to admonish Inner City Press for an accurate article concerning the French Mission to the UN and Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping.

  They couldn't stop Inner City Press from reporting, so they sought to get it thrown out of the UN.

 On June 11, citing Bloomberg News, Besheer wrote that "UNCA now discussing with UN officials (very quietly) next steps... They will have to step up and do their part -and pull his accreditation. It is my understanding that UN legal dept is now involved." Click here to view this troubling e-mail, regarding which we will have more.

   Who were these UN officials discussing quietly with the UN Correspondents Association the planned ouster from the UN of Inner City Press?

  The documents produced include a response to VOA's Redisch from UN official Stephane Dujarric, formerly the spokesman for Kofi Annan, referring to Redisch's emailed complaint against Inner City Press of the previous day, stating "Dear Steve, thank you for your email. I will call you later this week. Click here.

  But also on June 21, the records also show, once Inner City Press obtained and published the (first) complaint on the same day it was filed, VOA received nearly immediate inquiries from Capitol Hill about its attack on freedom of the Press and in particular Inner City Press' investigative journalism at the UN.

  On the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which ostensibly oversees VOA, demands were made for copies of Besheer's and her editor Steve Redisch's e-mails.

  In one e-mail, Redisch wonders how the requesters on the Hill would like Inner City Press if it were covering the Senate.

  At the UN, the official to whom the request to "review" Inner City Press was directed, Dujarric, first denounced Inner City Press for obtaining and publishing the request, then ultimately begrudgingly granted Inner City Press a shorter extension of credentials than in previous years, while leaving the VOA threat pending.

  Dujarric's incoming boss Peter Launsky- Tieffenthal has been asked by the New York Civil Liberties Union to describe the UN's process for accrediting journalists, with specific reference to Voice of America's complaint against Inner City Press. Click here for that.

  The UN and UNCA both claim to be unrelated, as regards accrediation. But not only is this UNCA a party to the UN's Media Access Guidelines - the records released today should the submission of UNCA supposedly internal documents to VOA in support of its complaint to try to get Inner City Press expelled by and from the UN. We will have more on this.

  Perhaps most unseemly for the UN, at the heart of the dispute is an attempt by UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli to get removed from the Internet a factually accurate September 21, 2011 Inner City Press story that Pioli in the past rented one of his 12 Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona, then the chief of the UN Treaty Section.

  In September 2011 Pioli without first checking with elected UNCA Executive Committee members like Inner City Press granted the request of his former tenant Kohona, now Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN, to screen a Sri Lankan government propaganda film denying the very 2009 war crimes that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was forced to commission a report about.

Pioli behind UNCA banner, Kohona & Silva not shown, (c) Luiz Rampelotto

  At the screening Pioli granted, Kohona was joined by General Shavendra Silva, reportedly responsible for 4500 deaths in May 2009, who is now on Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. Ladsous has refused to answer Inner City Press questions on this, or anything else.

  On June 1, Lynne Weil wrote to three Voice of America officials that UNCA was"moving to expel a member whose apparent aggressiveness in interviewing a UN official prompted a UNCA investigation." E-mail here, emphasis supplied.

  Pioli told Inner City Press to take the story down, or he would get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.

  The Voice of America documents released today under FOIA make plain that the basis for trying to throw Inner City Press out of the UN was entirely what it wrote or in one case said.

  Inner City Press commented to Besheer that some on Capitol Hill might question the use of taxpayer money to try to throw an investigative reporter out of the UN. Besheer trumped up this remark as a "threat" -- which VOA has since described as such in the course of the resulting inquiry (on which we'll have more soon.)

  That there would be Congressional interest turned out to be accurate, and within days of the June 20 complaint, VOA's lawyers were preparing a draft memo for the BBG Governors which include, among others, Dana Perino and Hillary Clinton.

  Then it was decided that "less is more." There follow a slew of heavily redacted pages. Inner City Press is preparing a FOIA appeal of these withholdings, and will continue to report on the documents.

Besheer in front of UNCA logo, taxpayer $ not show, (c) Luiz Rampelloto

  Questions include is it legitimate not only for a US government broadcaster like VOA but global wire services like Reuters and Agence France Presse (which derives over 40% of its income from French government "subscriptions") to meet secretly with UN officials conspiring to get a smaller, investigative web site thrown out of the UN? Watch this site.

August 6, 2012

On Syria, As Russia Nixes Ahtisaari, India On Abstention, Strange Rights of Reply

By Matthew Russell Lee, Partial exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- When the UN General Assembly reconvened for speeches after the Saudi resolution on Syria was adopted with 133 in favor, 31 abstaining and 12 against, Inner City Press asked Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin what his country thought of Maarti Ahtisaari as a replacement for Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria.

   "No, no, he is in deep retirement," Churkin told Inner City Press. Russia clashed with Ahtisaari over his position on Kosovo.

   Inner City Press asked Indian Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri about his country's abstention. He indicated that if the "welcoming" of the Arab League's resolution had instead been "noting," India might have voted yes. He also, in the GA Hall, condemned terrorism in Syria.

   India's abstention allowed the argument, made to Inner City Press at the beginning of the afternoon's session, that more the half of the world's population did not support the Saudi resolution.

   Inner City Press asked the Saudi Permanent Representative about this and he said, Then they could change the way we vote. India's Hardeep Singh Puri added, we believe in One Country, One Vote.

   Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari indicated that this couldn't be an Arab League resolution, since two Arab countries had not supported it. Beyond Syria's negative vote, Algeria abstained.

   Inner City Press was asked via Twitter why Yemen sponsored the resolution but then did not vote. The answer is that Yemen is behind in due and not allowed to vote, despite being pointed to as one of the UN's few "successes" this year.

  Tanzania also abstained, explaining it was due to resolution's lack of focus on "external forces."

  Argentina, whose opposition to the stronger version of the draft had an impact as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, voted yes but said afterward the resolution does NOT in any way authorize force to protect civilians. Thou dost protest too much?

  Similarly, Nigeria said it does NOT support the Arab League's July 22 decisions or telling the Syrian opposition to unify. But Nigeria voted yes.

  New Zealand said that it "joins China" in regretting Kofi Annan quitting. Why China? Well, New Zealand will be running for a UN Security Council seat in a year. That's often what these speeches are about.

  Canada opined that "Annan" Six Point Plan is dead. But like Russia's Churkin said of the UNSMIS mission, it could just be renamed.

   Libya's Ibrahim Dabbashi -- many are unclear if he or Shalgam is the Permanent Representative -- called on the General Assembly to do two things it can't -- impose sanctions and make referrals to the International Criminal Court -- and one thing it could do: try to strip credentials, as happened also for Laurent Gbagbo's Cote d'Ivoire.

  At the end there were Right to Reply statements. Iran trashed the "Zionist Regime." Germany spoke, but did not reply on Syria's statement about its sale of nuclear submarines to Israel.

  The EU deputy representative spoke, but did not reply to critique of EU sanctions. Afterward he told Inner City Press that under the current resolution, the EU does not HAVE a right to reply. That might be a problem.

  Bahrain replied that the forces in its borders "are from Al Jazeera." One wag mused, well that clears it up. And then the debate ended. We will have more on this -- watch this site.

At UN, Broken Elevators, Hot Offices, No Drinking Water After Capital Master Plan

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- Returns to the UN Headquarters tower have been less than smooth, after a rehabilitation which Inner City Press showed featured massive cost overruns. UN staff have exclusively complained to Inner City Press of getting stuck in the "renovated" elevators, about uncontrollable window blinds which leaves the offices overheated, and now about a lack of drinking water.

According to staff, after bad-tasting water was repeatedly noted, the UN shut down the system and ordered bottled water to be trucked in and taken upstairs. All this while yet more staff are slated to move in this coming weekend.

"Where did all the money go?" a staff member demanded to know. "Two billion dollars for this?"

The UN's Fifth (budget) Committee, now slated to be taken over by a Sri Lankan diplomat named in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on war crimes in that country, has until now raised numerous questions about cost overruns in the Capital Master Plan, run by American Michael Adlerstein.

The US quietly let the UN keep tens of millions of dollars in so-called Tax Equalization Funds, but for securing the Conference Rooms over the East River. But no drinkable water? Watch this site.

July 30, 2012

On Syria, Mood Has Changed, UN Front-Runner, Rwanda Like Exit?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 -- Norwegian General Robert Mood, after having declined to renew his contract to head the observer mission in Syria which is being dismantled by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, made this observation, dateline Oslo:

"In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportional violence against the civilian population is going to fall."

   While prefaced with "in my opinion," the verdict within an hour was getting big play in Western media, akin to an endorsement late in a political campaign.

   But one wonders: did the UN say this about, for example, Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government's use of even heavier military power killing 40,000 civilians, nearly all of them Tamils, in northern Sri Lanka in May 2009?

   The answer is, No. And the reasons, we posit, is because the UN did not think the government would fall. The UN in this view is like a casual sports fan coming to loudly root for the team it thinks is about to win.

   And in the nitty-gritty decision making of Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping, the goal seems to be not doing what is possible to protect civilians but rather to get out of the way, or look the other way, and let this overthrow take place.

   Even as the UN Security Council debated two competing draft resolutions to extended the mission in Syria UNSMIS, the UN under Ladsous had three planes deployed in Beirut, ready to pull all UN observers out.

  Some ask: how is this different from the UN's pull out from Rwanda, which the UN has had to live down and apologize for since 1994?

  As Inner City Press has noted before, Ladsous in 1994 was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, supporting the murderous Hutu government in the Security Council. Noting this historical fact and others has led Ladsous to refuse all questions from Inner City Press.

  And coming full circle, in his analogy how does Mood, the Oslo Oracle, compare with General Romeo Dallaire? We will continue on this. Watch this site.

July 23, 2012

To Extend Syria Mission, West Drops Troops to Barracks Condition

By Matthew Russell Lee, Partial exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- In order to avoid a second day of vetoes, the European sponsors of Friday's Syria mission resolution made a significant change to their draft.

  As Inner City Press first reported, putting the new draft online prior to the vote, they dropped the condition that Assad's troops should leave cities and return to barracks. Click here to view the final text, compared to the draft. Also see below.

  Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice about dropping the condition of "pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers, as well as to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centers to their barracks."

  Rice emphasized that the US was not a sponsor of the resolution -- in fact, as Inner City Press first reported, Rice on Thursday when asked if the US wanted the UNSMIS mission extended said no -- and urged Inner City Press to "speak to the author, who I think will be coming behind me.  We frankly prefer the text that included all of paragraph 2 [of Resolution 2043], but we were able to accept the draft that was voted today."

  The UK's Mark Lyall Grant was next, and to his and his spokesman's credit took the question. Lyall Grant said Syria must comply with all aspects of the Six Point Plan, including "paragraph two which as you rightly say... including return of troops to the barracks."

  He said "some Members of the Council argued that we were setting the bar too high for a possible extension of UNSMIS, so we decided to focus that condition on the one posed a direct threat to the Security of the mission."

  Germany's Peter Wittig followed, and also took the Press question, unlike previously. He said, we had consultations this morning, so we tried our best to come together. That was a change in the spirit of compromise to get everybody behind the draft.

  Inner City Press asked China's Permanent Representative Li Baodong about the change. He said, there are a lot of new developments, we want to see Kofi Annan's mediation continue.

  When Russia's Vitaly Churkin came out, Inner City Press asked him about Thursday's statement by US President Obama's spokesman Jay Carney that the Annan plan "failed thus far, yes. And the failure of the Security Council to support this resolution means that it can't go forward."

  Churkin disagreed, saying "Kofi Annan continues his work, the key ingredient is to try to put together a dialogue between the government and the opposition."

  Churkin was told that he'd said "this extension gives Kofi Annan a chance," and was asked if "the new meeting of Friends of Syria might disrupt this process." Churkin scoffed, let's not make a rigid linkage between Kofi Annan and the monitoring mission.

Later Inner City Press asked Churkin specifically about what was deleted from the UK draft, and why. He smiled and said, "Matthew, the Security Council holds closed consultations to keep some secrets. You want us to give you all the secrets about the work of the Security Council. Then we could invite you... to answer all your questions." Well, why not?

  From the outside it seems that faced with the threat of a second day of vetoes, and with the prospect of the UN and Security Council become even more irrelevant to the Syrian crisis, the European agreed to this change, and the US went along, while calling it 30 days to pull out. So the can is kicked down the road; there will be more Security Council fights around Ban Ki-moon's 15 day report, and whether to extend further in 30 days. Watch this site.

  Here is the modified draft approved on July 20, 2012:

Commending the efforts of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS),

1.Decides to renew the mandate of UNSMIS for a final period of 30 days, taking into consideration the Secretary-Generalís recommendations to reconfigure the Mission, and taking into consideration the operational implications of the increasingly dangerous security situation in Syria;

2.Calls upon the parties to assure the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access, and stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities;

3.Expresses its willingness to renew the mandate of UNSMIS thereafter only in the event that the Secretary-General reports and the Security Council confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient to allow UNSMIS to implement its mandate;

4.Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution within 15 days;

5.Decides to remain seized of the matter.

  Dropped is the reference to "full implementation of paragraph 2 of resolution 2043."

As Ladsous Justifies Refusing Press Qs, Stonewalls on Mercenaries & DRC Killings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- Can it be legitimate for a UN official paid hundreds of thousands of dollar a year, tax free, to refuse to any and all questions from a UN accredited journalist based solely on the journalist's critical coverage?

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous have taken this position for eight weeks now. Yesterday the position was reiterated, and requested answers not provided.

  Ladsous' spokesman Kieran Dwyer on July 19 wrote that Inner City Press' written coverage of "Ladsous since he took up his position have made it impossible to have a professional engagement with Inner City Press on the substance of peacekeeping work."

  A question is, whose lack of "professionalism" was on display on June 17, when at a stakeout on UN Television Inner City Press asked Ladsous for his response to Spain cutting its troop contribution to the UN Mission in Lebanon in half, and if his Mission in the Congo had as reported killed civilians.

Ladsous refused to answer either question, and Dwyer quotes himself as saying, "we are on the record as not answering your questions due to your personal attacks." Video here, Minute 6:50.

 Ladsous began this strategy of explicitly conditioning answering or even taking question on getting positive -- and we and others posit, as yet unmerited -- coverage on May 29 in a televised press conference, and has continued it off camera since.

   Can critical coverage of the job performance of a international civil servant be called the type of "personal attack" that justifies refusing to answer questions about job (and Department) performance?

   Dwyer writes that his on-camera July 17 refusal to answer was "in line with Under-Secretary-General Ladsousís response to your noon briefing question of 29 May, when he said 'I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and spreading malicious and insulting insinuations.'"

   Again, can the publication of reviews of DPKO's performance under Ladsous, and his plans for example for the use of drones which several member states have criticized as not having enough safeguards be construed as "malicious and insulting insinuations"?

  By contrast, at the same stakeout position where Ladsous and Dwyer on July 17 refused to answer basic questions about the UNIFIL and MONUSCO missions, on July 20 Ambassadors Rice, Lyall Grant, Wittig, Li and Churkin all took and answered questions from Inner City Press.

  Diplomats employed by their own nations -- in these cases the US, UK, Germany, China and Russia, respectively -- might more easily say they can openly refuse to answer particular journalists' or media's questions.

  But Ladsous is paid by the UN, that is, by global taxpayers. He claims that he does not work for France.

   So on what basis does he refuse to do what Ambassadors Rice, Lyall Grant, Wittig, Li and Churkin do? (It might be worth noting that of all the Ambassadors who spoke at the Security Council stakeout in the past two days the only one who, through his spokesman, refused to take any question from Inner City Press was French Ambassador Gerard Araud.)

  After receiving Dwyer's justification for his and Ladsous' refusal to answer questions, which was copied to Ban Ki-moon's two top spokesmen, Inner City Press replied that it is "opposed to conditioning answering or even taking questions on the content of press coverage" and "will continue to ask questions, including about DPKO and its missions, and to report on the responses, or lack of responses."

   Inner City Press then after Thursday's Security Council meeting asked four questions of DPKO, and two of Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat, none of which have been answered or even acknowledged by mid-Friday afternoon:

I would still on Syria like a description of USG Ladsous' role in the June 15 notification to the Security Council that UNSMIS has limited its mobile operations in Syria as of 18:00 hours local that day, see

and an explanation of the steps taken since the S-G (and presumably USG Ladsous) received UNSMIS' report on Houla, where in the UN he referred it and why it has not even now been provided to the Security Council, according to several Council members.

  Also from today, I'd like an answer how SRSG Martin Kobler's stakeout statement that UNAMI does not use private military (or security) contractors other than for dogs comports with these two budget lines:

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    Training, other    $437,444    11AMI-20387    UNAMI

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    AMI/CON/2011/041    Provision of Security Awareness Induction Training Training (SAIT) for UNAMI    1-Aug-11    31-Jul-12    $1,143,682    UNAMI

  This last seems to runs through July 31, 2012 - still in force.

I am also requesting to be informed whenever MONUSCO finishes its review of the effects of its use of helicopter gunships / missiles in North Kivu. 

  And, to those you cc-ed, I'd like like answers to the two non-bomb questions I emailed in yesterday afternoon.

  Those were:

what is the UN's response to this criticism from Sierra Leone (here), and to the Staff Union's statement yesterday urging the S-G to do more on staff detentions in Myanmar and prison term in Ethiopia?

 No noon briefing questions were taken on Thursday, and there was no noon briefing at all on Friday -- the point here is that there might have been time to answer at least one of these questions. But at least as to Ladsous, there is a stated "on the record" policy of not answering Press questions. Is that legitimate? 

  As Inner City Press wrote on July 18, we'll pursue this -- and, we hope, answers to the questions Ladsous refused to answer or even take, on top of the unanswered questions about DPKO introducing cholera into Haiti, and Ban and Ladsous having as a Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations an alleged war criminal, Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva.

 Notably Ladsous did take Press questions earlier in May, and what he fastened on between then and May 29 is mysterious and / or troubling. Watch this site

July 16, 2012

At UN, Still No Answer to NYCLU on Accreditation Rules, 48 Hours Notice

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- One week ago today, the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote to UN officials asking for a public explanation of their standards for revoking media accreditation.

  NYCLU's request was explicitly triggered by Voice of America's executive editor Steve Redisch's June 20 request to the UN's Stephane Dujarric, on behalf of VoA's Margaret Besheer and unnamed "others," to "review" the accreditation status of Inner City Press. (While the Broadcast Board of Governors has sought delay, Inner City Press' Freedom of Information Act request to determine among other things the identity of these "others" is proceeding.)

  On July 6, Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for their response to NYCLU's request. In the five days since there has been no response at all.

   But on July 11, Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press, "I'm going to have another word with Stephane Dujarric about this" -- apparently because he didn't like how Inner City Press asked a question about Western Sahara.

  This shows the lack of awareness by the UN, at least by the Secretary General's lead spokesman, that there is a problem turning a disagreement about press questions or coverage into complaints to the UN's media accreditation officials.

  Now Inner City Press has become acutely aware of another sample problem of UN media accreditation, the case of a journalist covering the UN for 17 years on issues ranging from disarmament and develoment to the indigenous who has now been told, with only 48 hours notice, to either produce a new letter of accreditation or give up not only his cubicle office space but also his accreditation.

  Inner City Press interviewed the journalist at issue on Wednesday night and was shocked by the lack of notice, and by the lack of support he received from the Correspondents Association, whose president merely advised him to "get another letter."

   The reality is that other reporters at the UN, including non UNCA members, have been given far longer to regularize their status, after a former employer either disavowed them or went bankrupt. It's as the NYCLA has asked: what ARE the rules?

  If there are other unstated reasons for this "purge," some raised behind the scenes by Xinhua and the Correspondents Association's president against one of his own members, they should be disclosed and a response allowed -- that's what the NYCLU letter and applicable case law requires. Watch this site.

July 9, 2012

After NYCLU Writes to UN, UNCA Files Bogus Report With Government, "Judge" With DSS, New Lows at UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 5, updated -- Tuesday afternoon the New York Civil Liberties Union put out a press release questioning US government agency Voice of America's complaint to the UN to review the accreditation of Inner City Press.

Three hours later someone in the UN Correspondents Association filed a copy of the bogus report commissioned by UNCA President Giampaolo Piolo and his Big Media puppet masters / Hamptons house guests with government authorities to try to get them to act against Inner City Press.

The report is marked "confidential," and as announced by Pioli's Secretary Barbara Plett of BBC on Tuesday afternoon, is only for "UNCA members in good standing." So one of them is responsible for the (anonymous) retransmission to government authorities.

Was this the goal of the report all along?

In fact, Inner City Press at 4 pm on Thursday went to UNCA's office and asked how seeing the report worked. The office worker, seemingly paid by Pioli himself (as reported, he is renting out a Hamptons mansion for $90,000 a month) fumbled around and was unable to find the copy of the report she was in charge of. How to listen to the UNCA audio recording of the Executive Committee's Kafka-esque July 3 meeting was also unclear.

Inner City Press' request to see the "information available on request" cited in the report, ignored by the Board of Examination chair William M. Reilly and the two remaining Examiners, was conveyed to Pioli through his Secretary, so far without response.

Simultaneously, one of Pioli's three "Board of Examination" members, Ali Barada of An-Nahar,  filed a complaint against Inner City Press with the "Special Investigations Unit" of the UN Department of Safety and Security.

  The only basis? What Inner City Press said when Barada bragged that he immediately deleted without opening Inner City Press' email requesting to see the "information available on request" listed in the report Barada signed off on - and which was then sent anonymously to the government against Inner City Press.

  In fact, while all Inner City Press responded with was a run of the mill host country insult, Barada cited his involvement with a "terrorist" group, as a reason Inner City Press shouldn't express its opinion.

Update: And on Friday, July 6, Inner City Press had to spend two and a half hours with UN Security responding to Barada's frivolous and pretextual complaint. Then at noon Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesman had no response to the NYCLU's request.

This gang gets more and more anonymous, just as the supposedly "for UNCA members only" June 14 letter got posted as an anonymous "Mundo111" comment on a story about UNCA anti-Press campaign on the

Barada's complaint is similar to one by Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, copied to Pioli, his Treasurer Margaret Besheer of the aforementioned VOA and AFP's Tim Witcher, claiming that Inner City Press saying "you disgust me" when Charbonneau tried to organize a session to oust Inner City Press without informing it the WORST thing Charbonneau has seen in 20 years of reporting.


  Charbonneau's complaint was to the Department of Public Information, but now the NYCLU has written there. So Barada's complaint, also only about speech, is directed to the Department of Safety and Security. Once out on First Avenue and west, the NYPD would laugh at a complaint about such speech.

  But ironically, while the First Amendment stops on First Avenue, pathetic attempts to file complaints about mere speech and get the Press ejected are even entertained here east of First Avenue, in the Alice in Wonderland that Ban Ki-moon's UN has become. Watch this site.

July 2, 2012

On Syria, As Clinton Claims Text Ousts Assad, Lavrov Laughs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- When six hours late Kofi Annan emerged from the Action Group on Syria to speak, his key line to the press when asked if Bashar Assad will end 2012 in power or at the International Criminal court was that he'd left his crystal ball at home.

  The real news was in the back to back press conferences of Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov. Clinton, who took only two questions, claimed that despite agreeing to significant Russia demanded changes to Kofi Annan's draft, Assad still couldn't remain in power under the "mutual consent" clause. She then took questions from AP and Saudi-funded Al Arabiya and moved on.

  Lavrov came out and mocked those who'd claimed they wouldn't agree to change "even a comma," noting the major changes Russia got.

  The draft would have "exclude[d] from government those whose continued presence and participation would undermine of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation." Russia got this removed.

He focused on those funding the opposition who want a spiraling of violence, and chided those - Hillary - who blocked the presence at the Action Group of Iran.

  In the crowd was General Robert Mood, who as Inner City Press exclusively reported yesterday should be leaving on July 20, as the UN Secretariat has proposed to downshift UNSMIS to a political mission.

  There were a lot of UN alumni in the crowd: former Deputy Permanent Representatives of China and of the UK (Karen Pierce), as well as former UK political coordinator David Quarrey. Click here for that, and watch this site.

After Voice of America & UNCA Seek to Oust ICP from UN, Legal Notification

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- The five Big Media representatives on the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee who started a "Board of Examination" probe of Inner City Press a month ago claimed that was not to oust the Press from the UN.

  But on June 20 the executive editor of one of the Five, Voice of America, filed a complaint with the UN seeking just that: a review of the status of Inner City Press' accreditation to the UN, based entirely on things the Press has written. Click here for full text of VOA complaint to the UN.

  Eight days later, the UNCA Executive Committee & Board of Examination have received a legal letter notifying them of violations of free speech, free press and due process: click here to view.

  Precipitating this letter was word that this Board of Examination would issue its report, without even having informed Inner City Press of the charges against it, on Friday, June 29, unless Inner City Press agreed to blanket apologies and even a censorship commitment not to ever write about other media organizations.

  On June 21 Inner City Press told the four remaining members of the Board of Examination that this VOA complaint and challenge to its livelihood made it nearly impossible to continue discussions with UN Correspondents Association president Giampaolo Pioli about how to "clarify" the fact that he rented his apartment to Palitha Kohona, then a UN official, now Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN.

  Pioli in September 2011 granted Kohona's request to screen inside the UN a Sri Lankan government propaganda film called "Lies Agreed To," which purports to rebut a UK Channel 4 documentary that was NOT screened inside the UN.

  On the podium were only Kohona, Pioli, and alleged war criminal Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, who subsequently became an adviser to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on peacekeeping operations.

   These are facts; the UNCA Executive Committee on June 14 issued a letter "for UNCA members only" which is now their response to the media and which claims Inner City Press never objected to the "Lies Agreed To" screening.

That is false.

  Inner City Press has shown the Executive Committee and now the Board of Examination that "before the screening, Inner City Press wrote to Pioli, Charbonneau, Voice of America's Margaret Besheer and others about 'the UNCA screening of the Sri Lankan government's rebuttal to Channel 4's "Killing Fields": -- I don't remember any email asking if that screening should happen in the UN auditorium, given that the underlying Channel 4 film not not shown in the UN.'"

   The circulation of an "UNCA members only" letter, with this falsehood, and the failures to explain or act on the VOA / UNCA attempt disaccredit me and deny me my livelihood, have come to the fore.

   And so here is the UNCA Board of Examination's June 25 inquiry, and Inner City Press' response:

Dear Matthew, A few days ago, as chair of the Board of Examination of the UN Correspondents Association's Executive Committee I asked if you had any submission's for the panel. There was no response.

June 21 you responded to a verbal invitation from other board members and you met with the remaining four of us.

At the end of the 2.5 hour session you said you would give us a proposal on ending the confrontation between the Executive Committee and you. The board members left with the understanding there would be a cooling off period marked with an absence of charges and counter charges by both sides. That apparently was not the case. Are you going to submit anything more to us?


William M. Reilly, Chair
Board of Examination, UNCA

cc: board members

   Inner City Press immediately responded and asked questions that have yet to be answered:

I am surprised by this message. First, on June 21 you said that given the Voice of America / Margaret Besheer written request to the UN that it review my accreditation, you understood that addressing that threat to my livelihood, which I ascribe to the UNCA Executive Committee and this process that you continue to chair, came first.

What can you tell me has been done in that regard?

I was told on Thursday to draft (or even just "think") about possible clarifications, and that I have done. I was told it was understandable I would just not submit such drafts in writing -- as I told you, a reporter was misled by the UNCA Executive Committee, based on a prior draft submission I made, that I had signed an apology.

Speaking of reporters, and VOA, I wish to bring this to your attention, and I paste it below:

You say that before June 21 you asked if I "had any submission's for the panel. There was no response."

When and how are you saying your request was made? While the membership in the Board of Examination has repeatedly shifted, I have made a number of submissions, of questions that I contend must be examined, and of my right to be informed of the charges and witnesses against me, before the 10 day period can begin.

What are the charges? Who are the witnesses? And who will rule on the conflicts of interest and disqualifying pre-judgments that I have identified?

I am covering the current Security Council debate on the Protection of Civilians, at which among others Sri Lanka (which I cover) is about to speak... I request your responses in writing; I made a similar request to the UNCA Executive Committee, to which they have not responded at all.  I ask that you respond in writing to the points above. Thank you in advance.

Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press

And so, the legal letter has been filed. Watch this site.

June 25, 2012

Voice of America Complaint to Get ICP Out of UN Violates 1st Amendment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21, updated -- After five Big Media members of the UN Correspondents Association on May 25 started a "Board of Examination" to investigate Inner City Press with an eye toward expelling it from UNCA, they claimed there was no intention to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN itself.

  But on June 20, the executive editor of Voice of America, one of the Big Five along with Reuters, Bloomberg News, Al-Arabiya and Agence France Presse, wrote to the UN's Stephane Dujarric, supervisor of the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, asking him to "review Mr. Lee's status as an accredited U.N. correspondent."

  It is now apparent that the UNCA "Board of Examination" process has been a set-up.

  Inner City Press' participation in the meetings they summoned it to, its e-mail responses to questions they sent, its urging Voice of America to comply with the First Amendment to the US Constitution, are all now being used against it, to ask the UN to review its accreditation.

In the letter, editor Steve Redisch claims VOA correspondent Margaret Besheer was harassed by e-mail. But Inner City Press never sent a single email to Margaret Besheer was wasn't part of the UNCA Executive Committee list, on which members as in a witch hunt were demanding answers from Inner City Press.

Redisch, who has never once spoken to Inner City Press, purports to complain on behalf not only of VOA's Besheer but "others" -- with whom he presumably HAS spoken. It may be that he conferred the UN's Dujarric before filing this complaint.

The "unprofessional and borderline harassing email correspondence" to Redisch "and to other senior VOA management" were, in fact, requests that VOA as a government funded media comply with the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Beyond freedom of speech and of the press, the First Amendment protects the right to petition the government -- including this state media Voice of America -- for redress of grievances.

Already in this time of fiscal austerity, there have been calls to defund and eliminated Voice of America. As simply one example, VOA at the UN has hardly broken any news.

Inner City Press, by contrast has broken stories about Syria, Libya, the selection of US official Jeffrey Feltman to head the UN Department of Political Affairs, 14 kilos of cocaine in the UN mail room in January 2012 (a scoop taken without credit by the Big Five and others), the fight in September 2011 between the guards of Turkish president Erdogan and UN Security, and UN corruption generally.

Particularly in these times of fiscal austerity, does it make sense -- and is it legal -- to spend US taxpayers' dollars on a campaign to oust from the UN an investigative journalist who exposes waste, fraud and abuse?

Update of 12:27 pm -- At the June 21 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press after asking questions on Sudan, Syria and the UN's plans to use drones, asked about the Voice of America complaint, citing UNCA.

In the briefing room and asking a noon briefing question, which is rare, was UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli and compatriots. Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, as prepared (video here, from Minute 16:53)

I've asked whether journalists here at the UN have a right to know when complaints are filed against them, especially by competitors. Your Office has not answered; nor has the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit nor Stephane Dujarric.

Now I've learned that Voice of America has asked Dujarric to review my accreditation at the UN, essentially for things I have written. What are my rights in this regard? What weight does the UN give to such a complaint, with no specifics, filed by a big media -- actually, at least five of them -- against a small investigative web site? What does Ban Ki-moon think of all this?

And Nesirky replied, "I don't have anything to say on this at all" and "I have nothing to say on the matter."  Video here, from Minute 17:57.

Here is the text of the complaint:

Subject: Matthew Lee
From Steve Redisch [at]
To: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Cc: Kataryna Lyson, Michael Lawrence
Date: June 20, 2012

Mr. Stephane Dujarric
Head of News &. Media Division
United Nations
300 East 42nd Street, Room 518
NY, NY, 10017

Dear Mr. Dujarric:

I am writing because it has come to my attention that a United Nations accredited journalist, Matthew Lee of the Inner City Press, has exhibited disruptive and unprofessional conduct towards Voice of America (VOA) U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer. Over the last several weeks, Mr. Lee has also sent frequent, unprofessional and borderline harassing email correspondence to Ms. Besheer, to me and to other senior VOA management regarding the United Nations Correspondents Association's internal business matters.

Although Mr. Lee has not physically threatened Ms. Besheer, I understand she and other reporters are, to be kind, uncomfortable with his behavior and feel that he lacks proper judgment and exhibits unprofessional conduct while at the U.N.

As an experienced journalist and leader of an organization dedicated to freedom of the press, it is difficult for me to make this request of you. But I would urge you to review Mr. Lee's status as an accredited U.N. correspondent. I believe his behavior is impeding the freedom VOA's correspondent and others need in order to report what they see and know from the United Nations.

I am copying VOA/BBG's Assistant General Counsel Kataryna Lyson and Director of Security Michael Lawrence so they are aware of the situation and its serious nature. Please don't hesitate to call or email to discuss further.

Best regards,

Steve Redisch
VOA Executive Editor
sredjsch [at]
June 18, 2012

UN Now Says Ready to Monitor in Syria, After Memo, Mood is Schizo?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- Two days after the UN Security Council was secretly told by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that its Mission in Syria was limiting its mobile activities, now Mission Head Robert Mood says he's ready to monitor the release of trapped civilians in Homs and elsewhere. Which is it?

The DPKO memo to the Security Council, reported and published by Inner City Press ten hours before any other media, was followed by a YouTube press statement by Mood. Now, Mood seems to have reversed course (or gone schizophrenic, as one wag put it). This was released, minutes ago:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Subject: Statement by Gen. Robert Mood, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS)
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]
Date: Sun, Jun 17, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Statement attributable to the Head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, General Robert Mood

Civilians continue to be trapped by the escalating violence in Syria. In Homs, attempts to extract civilians from the line of fire over the past week have been unsuccessful.

The Parties must reconsider their position and allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions and ensure their safety. This requires willingness on both sides to respect and protect the human life of the Syrian people.

I call on the Parties to take immediate action to ease the pain of Syrians trapped in the violence and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria stands ready to monitor their release, once the decision is taken by the Parties.

Sausan Ghosheh Spokesperson, UNSMIS

  So, again, why did Ban Ki-moon and his Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold that post, decide on June 15 to limit the mobility of the UN Mission in Syria, and to tell Security Council members but make no public announcement?

  Such Security Council documents routinely leak, predictably to the wire services affiliated with Western permanent members of the Council. But that did not happen in this case: rather, Inner City Press obtained a copy of the notification, confirmed and published it before 10 pm New York time on June 15.

  Eight hours later, still seeing no announcement by the UN or any Council member, Inner City Press asked the spokespeople for UN - Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan then for Ban Ki-moon and Ladsous to explain the notification, what lay behind it (i.e. what supposedly increased violence) and what they wanted next.

  Only Annan's Ahmad Fawzi replied, and only to say that UNSMIS and Mood would now be having an announcement.

  What explains the delay? And who made the decision?

  One working theory is that Ladsous, the head of DPKO whose notification it is, made the decision on behalf of his native France, for which he was an operative in the foreign ministry as recently as arranging Michele Aliot-Marie's flights on planes owned by cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.

  In this theory, though there was little INCREASED violence to point to, Ladsous and France wanted to raise the stakes for General Robert Mood's already scheduled visit to New York and the Security Council, to put it in the context of UNSMIS being OVER, no longer improvable.

  Otherwise, Mood should have given his public statement when the decision to limit his Mission was made, to obviate the risk of a Security Council leak on Friday.

  Such a leak did take place, but not in the most predictable way. Or, some wonder, did though Western-member aligned wire services know of the decision and not report it?

  And why, now, has Mood reversed course?

   Notably, the UN representatives of Reuters, Agence France Presse, (US) Voice of America and Bloomberg are four of five signers of a letter seeking to investigate and expel Inner City Press. We'll have more on this.

Ignoring Syria Scoops, Pioli's UNCA Tries to Pick 2 More Hanging Judges

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- As Press inquiries continued Sunday into the UN's leaked notice Friday that its Syria mission was limiting its "mobile activities," the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee and President Giapaolo Pioli was engaged in trying to replace the second resigning member of the "Board of Examination" they established to investigate Inner City Press with an eye toward expelling it.

   The first of Pioli's five Examiners to resign was unilaterally replaced on June 15. By whom? By a close friend of a disgruntedly former UN reporter who recently resurrected a complaint about Press reporting of French mission briefings by Sarkozy Permanent Representative Gerard Araud.

  His offer of testimony is implicitly connected to an attempt to get another UN reporting job and return to New York. In the Wild West, now on the far East Side of Manhattan, this is called a hanging judge.

   But, tellingly, on June 15 a second examiner resigned, concluding that a mediated solution has become unlikely. Pioli has demanded a blanket apology for Inner City Press' factual reporting that Pioli rented his apartment to Palitha Kohona, now the Sri Lankan ambassador whose request to screen a war crimes denial film Pioli granted without consulting other Executive Committee members including Inner City Press.

  In order to tone down the death threats from Sri Lankan extremists triggered by the UNCA proceeding, Inner City Press offered a balanced clarification.

  But Pioli has demanded, among other things, that Inner City Press "guarantee that [any] future coverage of the UN" not even mention "other UN correspondents" - including, of course, him. This is censorship.

  But even on Sunday, amid questions raised by Inner City Press' world exclusive of the Syria shut down notice to the Security Council by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, led by the fourth Frenchman in a row Herve Ladsous, Pioli and this five big media entourage continued to try to push forward with their Board of Examination.

   Now the second resignee is proposed to be replaced by an individual who has already expressed a view of the outcome of the case. No jury would include such a person; nor should this UNCA Board of Examination, already a charade and kangaroo court. The individual has been informed of the threats triggered by the Board Pioli's asked him to join as a hanging judge. Now what?

  If it goes forward -- and under the most basic principles of protecting journalists, which UNCA's Constitution claims it does -- then the Examiners should be journalism ethics professors. Let them judge what the problem is: truthful reporting, or a journalist renting his apartment to people he purports to cover.

  Or, as in the case of Pioli, also making campaign contributions to a politician he writes about for the Poligrafici Editoriale Group and its Quotidiano Nazionale, La Nazione, Il Resto de Carlino, Il Giorno and, yes,

   And we are still waiting for a response to formal question put to Pioli's hand-picked chairman, about conflicts and junkets, beyond his one-line answer that he worked for UPI for fifty years. Watch this site.

June 11, 2012

UN Uses UNCA to Ban Free Press, Hypocrisy Like Haiti, Astroturf like Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- The UN too often preaches one thing but does another. It preaches accountability, then covers up its proven role in introducing cholera into Haiti.

  At a different level, it criticizes governments for dictating with which groups they will negotiate -- for example these days in Syria -- while the UN in New York undermines free press by only negotiating such things as physical access and conditions for reporting with the one entity it has chosen, the UN Correspondents Association.

  The UN has "Media Guidelines," and claims these are legitimate because they were negotiated with "the media." But by "the media" the UN actually only means "UNCA."

  This is similar to the way the Sudanese government created then negotiated with the Liberty & Justice Movement in Darfur, thereby marginalize the actual opposition.

  LJM was founded and is headed, as Inner City Press exposed, by a former UN staff member who for a time was a UN-paid Darfur "rebel." LJM has been dubbed "Astroturf," a synthetic grassless sports surface: fake grassroots.

   The UN's Media Guidelines, formally the "Guidelines on Media Access at United Nations Headquarters," say they are an agreement involving the "Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General" (Ban Ki-moon) and "the United Nations Correspondents Association."

  How can the UN's media access guidelines be dictated by an agreement with UNCA, which does not represent (or defend) all journalists at the UN?

  This is particularly problematic because anyone deemed, without due process, to have violated these UNCA-agreed guidelines will face "withdrawal of their accreditation."

  As previously exposed, a stealth allegation of violation was filed with MALU by Louis Charbonneau, UNCA's First Vice President. Charbonneau is the bureau chief of Reuters which on May 21 made unauthorized uncredited use of Inner City Press' March 28 exclusive story that US official Jeffrey Feltman will come work at the UN.

  So big media can use the UN-legitimated UNCA to seek to expel smaller media which beats them on stories. Then the UN's MALU does not even inform the small media (in this case Inner City Press) that the complaint has been filed. Due process? Not at the UN.

  As simply another example, the UN / UNCA rules agreed with UNCA state that "No cameras or photographers will be allowed in the cordoned off area by the stairs." But some are allowed, and others not.

  Likewise, those on the UNCA Executive Committee have been allowed by the UN to make decisions, fraught with conflicts of interest and payback, on which media get offices, big offices, studios.

  UNCA Executive Committee members have spend much time ensuring themselves big spaces, mostly furthering their own interests and not even those of the other "general" UNCA members, much less non-UNCA members.

  Then there is the question of accreditation of bloggers, which Inner City Press has fought for since arriving to cover the UN.

  The President of UNCA Giampioli Pioli first proposed agreeing with the UN on a rule that would not include bloggers, then would confine them to a footnote, and impose on them a different standard than is applicable to other media.

  In light of the special status the UN accords to UNCA, legally, UNCA's acts can be attributable to the UN.

(An aside on law: on June 8 UNCA's Pioli announced he was "suspending" Inner City Press, an act for which there is no provision in the UNCA Constitution. But he did it, and this is the organization the UN exclusively negotiates the rights of all journalists with.)

So, for example, when the UNCA Executive Committee proceeds with a witch hunt and kangaroo court against Inner City Press, and the process is amplified and turned into threats by Sri Lankan government media and Sinhalese extremists around the world, including in New York -- all of this is attributable to Ban Ki-moon's UN.

  This is particularly true because the UN Secretariat, its Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, senior advisers to Ban and others have all seen this witch hunt developing, have formally been given copies of the Sri Lanka newspaper articles, and have done nothing.

Apparently, they like it.

  When UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli on June 8 for the upteenth time threatened to sue and bankrupt small media Inner City Press if it did not take down its reporting that Pioli accepted rent money from Palitha Kohona, the UN official who is now, through another revolving door, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN -- this too might be attributed to Ban Ki-moon's UN, if not to the Sri Lankan government.

There are other connections. When Inner City Press tried to cover the meetings of Ban Ki-moon's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations to see if alleged war criminal Sri Lankan government Shavendra Silva was still attending, Ban's MALU told Inner City Press No, citing a meeting with UNCA.

It's all very convenient. But in fact, the acts of UNCA are attributable in these ways and many others to the UN. Watch this site.

June 4, 2012

As UNCA Pushes Anti-Press Move, Sri Lanka Says ICP Faces Jail

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 3 -- As UN Correspondents Association officials Giampaolo Pioli and Lou Charbonneau of Reuters have proceeded against Inner City Press, they were told that could their campaign set anti media freedom precedents.

  Now, it has. Today a major pro-government newspaper in Sri Lanka, the Sunday Observer, quotes with approval the indictment drafted by Reuters' Charbonneau against Inner City Press.

  The newspaper says that "if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him. If the harassment charges are proven he could face a jail term of up to six years." Click here to view the full article.

   Pioli, assisted by Reuters' Charbonneau and other corporate media which have used without credit Inner City Press' exclusive stories about the UN then retaliated when Inner City Press complained, has pursued a public witch hunt against Inner City Press. Click here for sample UNCA minutes released only tonight from behind Reuters' firewall.

   This has included mass e-mailing out the "charge letter" quoted by the pro-government Sunday Observer. The letter was signed by Charbonneau, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia, Margaret Besheer of Voice of America and Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse.

   Witcher, at the behest of the French Mission to the UN, began the push against Inner City Press for its reporting on French UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who has accepted Sri Lankan general (and alleged war criminal) Shavendra Silva as a Senior Adviser.

   Despite France's claim to support press freedom, not only has its Mission to UN sought to eject Inner City Press and even (unsuccessfully) to have it temporarily arrested. Now, the campaign they have pushed has created an environment in which political enemies can call for the Press to be jailed for six full years.

   Al-Arabiya is funded and controlled by Saudi Arabia, so its increasing involvement in this anti free Press campaign is perhaps not surprising. But that Voice of America, using US taxpayer dollars, would be one of five leaders of an anti Press campaign triggering such a threat is, we hear, becoming a matter of concern to some on Capitol Hill.

   Matthew Winkler of Bloomberg News has yet to respond to submitted questions the propriety of his UN bureau chief's involvement. As noted, there has been no response to two rounds of e-mails to Reuters "Ethics & Training" chief Greg McCune, Top News Editor Walden Siew, deputy editor Paul Ingrassia and big cheese Stephen J. Adler.

  The only Reuters response on this has been Reuters UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau saying on June 1, before he voted to investigate Inner City Press and sent out the selective minutes, "you are a bad person."

  At Voice of America, before this executives David Ensor, Sonja Pace, David Jones and Steve Redisch were all told of the attacks and were asked to stop them, or least formally disassociate VoA UN bureau chief Margaret Besheer from these efforts resulting in governmental gloating about the possibility of jailing the Press.

   Before the publication of the pro government Sunday Observer's report about exclusion from the UN and jail time, Inner City Press asked the UNCA Executive Committee to desist or at least slow down, because it has "been the subject of extremely negative, unfair, entirely unfounded coverage in for example the Sri Lankan press." 

  But the UNCA Executive Committee has doggedly proceeded, going more and more public even with material they wree told in advance, and acknoweledged, was incomplete if not outright inaccurate.

  Since the origin of these disputes, UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli has repeatedly demanded that Inner City Press remove from the Internet its factual report that Pioli accepted money for rent from Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN.

  Pioli in an angry telephone call threatened to have Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, an ejection now positively viewed by pro government media in Sri Lanka.

   This calls into question not only the negligent management of Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, Al-Arabiya and Voice of America, but also WHO is the source of the threats cited in the pro Sri Lanka government Sunday Observer.

    If the Pioli proposed UNCA Board of Examination goes forward even now, it should investigate all of UNCA officials' communications with Palitha Kohona and other alleged war criminal. Watch this site.

May 28, 2012

At UN, Charges Against Investigative Press Undisclosed, Scoop Stolen by Reuters

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- It seems that at the UN the publication of articles critical of powerful officials, countries or media organization can be construed as "harassment" and used as the basis to seek to expel the offending journalist.

  This takes place in the context of an Inner City Press investigative scoop, that US official Jeffrey Feltman will come work at the UN being stolen without credit by Reuters (unlike Foreign Policy's The Cable which did give credit), and a stealth complaint of harassment filed by the bylined Reuters correspondent Louis Charbonneau, using his position as Vice President of the UN Correspondents Association.

Reuters' Charbonneau's complaint has been put online here.

  After being informed in writing Friday afternoon that five UNCA Executive Committee members had referred "charges of harassment" against Inner City Press seeking to form a "board of examination" to "expel or impeach" Inner City Press, UNCA's President Giampaulo Pioli has three times refused to disclose who complained, what definition of harassment will be used, and what beyond written articles and the single verbal word "disgust" Inner City Press is charged with.

  Already some other reporters, readers and also diplomats have expressed surprise that a purported correspondents' association would try to censor a member journalist or define critical articles as harassment.

  By this definition, Inner City Press "harasses" Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and for example his head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous every day: it's called investigative journalism.

   One UN Correspondent, who will for now be nameless to avoid retaliation or charges against him, said

No excuse to steal an exclusive... I think UNCA should have a 'law that "expulsion" is "outlawed". There is not "expulsion" in journalism, we are not Stalin's CPSU...I find great help in reading your blog when I'm not at the UN. Especially I think our job is not "policing" other journalists but watching the UN, especially when they are not doing their job. Something that I think you are doing better than anybody else in all the press corps. I just reported two days ago your questions, crediting that you / is a must read for all the UN permanent missions.

  This correspondent, like others, credits Inner City Press when using its exclusives. But Reuters' Lou Charbonneau says he has a POLICY of not crediting Inner City Press. It is unclear how this could be consistent with a Reuters-wide policy.

  But despite five days of requests, in the United States and then its headquarters in London, Reuters has yet to provide its policy on crediting -- or on its reporters using their positions in correspondents' associations to seek to have competitors dis-accredited.

  Inner City Press wrote to UNCA President Pioli:

This is a formal request to be informed who are the five people requesting to urgently "examine" me. I am also asking to to be informed immediately of the definition you are using of "harassment" and of any and all alleged acts of "harassment" I am charged with, particularly since the last UNCA meeting on this topic in April, other than material that I have written and published as is my right under freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

  After Pioli reiterated by voice mail his position that the empaneling of a "board of examination" -- which is supposed to be impartial -- will proceed the next day the UN is open, May 29, Inner City Press asked again:

Hi, at least for now I'm just requesting (and believe I have a right to) the names of those who have referred these charges of harassment against me... For your information, the complaint Lou filed with MALU and Dujarric I found outrageous; it was baseless, should not have been filed, and I should have been informed. While he says I am somehow making it hard for him and unnamed others to do their work, he was in essence trying to STOP me from doing my work, as well in my view stealing my work without credit. Please provide the requested information, thanks.

  Pioli this time did reply in writing, but without providing any of the information or charges. And so a third request:

Hi. I am asking that you send me the information -- names of accusers, definitions and description of charges -- in writing by email, in part because Lou's complaint to MALU and Dujarric, cc-ed to you, appears entirely based on something I said to him. You should understand I don't want to subject myself to any more such charges, however spurious. So I ask again: send it to me in writing the names of accusers, definitions and description of charges. Past deadline.

   Still, even the identities of those UNCA Executive Committee filing changes to expel Inner City Press have not been disclosed.  Here's the online list of Executive Committee members. Watch this site.

May 21, 2012

Amid Syria Failure, UN Demands Deletion of its Official's Name, Questions Sources

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- Amid charges from all sides that the UN's and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's activities in Syria are a failure, the UN's response on Thursday was to seek to censor press coverage of differing description of an upcoming UN trip to Damascus, then to question its sources.

  As Inner City Press reported yesterday -- and modifies at the UN's request in this version -- on May 16 a Security Council Permanent Representative told the press that

"in the coming days Jean-Marie 'Guehenno and DPKO,' the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, will go to Damascus, on the political track, with it was hoped Kofi Annan to follow. Later on May 16, Inner City Press was informed that the request was made [deleted at UN's request] on the issue of the observers, not the political track."

More than 12 hours later came this from DPKO's spokesman, copying Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Date: Thu, May 17, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I have become aware of you[r] web article and tweets naming [individual's name included in DPKO's email, but deleted here] as planning to travel to syria along with dpko colleaugues. Your decision to publish this information in advance of a trip has created a potentially serious security situation for un personnel. I ask that you remove all such references from the inner city press website without delay, for the sake of the safety and security of un peacekeeping personnel.

  For the UN to request post-publication removal from the Internet of information, stated on the record by a Security Council's Permanent Representative, seems to implicate freedom of the press issues which seem not to be the UN's priority under Ban Ki-moon.

  But within minutes of receiving the above, Inner City Press modified the story, removing the name and an included critique of the individual specified in DPKO's removal request, then replied that the Permanent Representative

"yesterday morning on the record stated that Jean Marie Guehenno and DPKO were going to Damascus. Subsequent reporting found that the request was for Mr. Ladsous plus three. If you have a problem with names, you need to speak to Permanent Representatives, including among the Permanent Five members of the Security Council... I'm still waiting for the promised answer beyond Entebbe of DPKO's use of private military and security firms, and for the UN casualty estimate at Pibor. Please advise. I have immediately removed references in this article to Mr. Ladsous, which seems to be your major concern."

   Significantly, DPKO did not request the deletion of Jean-Marie Guehenno's name. The name it requested delation of it gave, obviously, to the Syrian government. So from where does the claimed danger come?

    Even with this change, the UN Peacekeeping spokesman persisted, now inquiring into what Inner City Press' "subsequent reporting" consisted of:

"Thank you for removing the name. However much of the damage has in fact been done already. I am very concerned that Inner City Press seems to wash its hands of responsibility for what it chooses to publish. By Inner City Press's own reporting, [the] Ambassador [misnamed by DPKO] did not appear to have named DPKO names. I do not know what you mean by 'subsequent reporting,' and given the lack of other reports I can only assume you mean your own decision to publish Mr [X's] name. The problem that I have is with the ramifications for UN peacekeeping personnel safety and security, and with Inner City Press's decision to publish in complete disregard for these matters. Your response below indicates a continued blithe recklessness with regard to the safety and security of UN personnel operating in highly volatile circumstances."

  In fact, while Inner City Press immediately made the deletions requested by DPKO despite their seeming basis in removing a single individual from the public eye, DPKO has for six months promised to sign a Status of Forces Agreement for the peacekeepers in Abyei, four of whom bled out and died due to slow med-evac due to the lack of a SOFA. No explanation has been provided, including after another request on Thursday.

  At Thursday's noon briefing, while deliberately as requested not using any individual's name, even that provided on the record by a Security Council Permanent Representative, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon spokesman Martin Nesirky to clarify if this visit to Damascus is about the political track, or only about observers.

  Nesirky refused to answer this, cloaking the entire question in an invocation of safety and accusing the previous publication as being "unacceptable." Inner City Press said it disagrees 100% with the attempt at censorship of information stated on the record by UN member states' Permanent Representatives, then asked on the issue of actual safety the question of why despite the public statement six months ago still no SOFA was in place for the peacekeepers in Abyei. Nesirky said when he has something he will say.

  Notably, under Nesirky the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General was thrown out of the Security Council and lost previous access. Perhaps this is why they cannot control what Council Permanent Representatives say on the record, but then seek to censor the subsequent press coverage.

  The response to censorship is, in this case, a description of the attempt at censorship, while accomodating the stated but not explained pretext for the attempt at censorship. Watch this site.

May 14, 2012

On Libya Sanctions, 5 UN SC Members Fail to File Reports, P5 Threatens S5

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 10 -- When Libya sanctions were adopted by the UN Security Council, all 193 member states were given until June 26, 2011 to file reports on their implementation.

  Now more than ten months after the deadline, it seems that only 57 countries have filed reports. At least five current Security Council members are not listed among those who have filed reports: Azerbaijan, Guatemala, India, Morocco and Pakistan.

Resolution 1970 provided:

"25. Calls upon all Member States to report to the Committee within 120 days of the adoption of this resolution on the steps they have taken with a view to implementing effectively paragraphs 9, 10, 15 and 17 above [of resolution 1970 (2011)]."

And so all member states have been reminded:

"Accordingly, States that have not yet reported to the Committee on the steps they have taken with a view to implementing effectively the paragraphs cited above, which set out the arms embargo, the travel ban and the assets freeze, are reminded to do so no later than 26 June 2011."

 And still -- five Council members are not listed as filing. The Permanent Representative of one of the N or Non-compliant Five sheepishly told Inner City Press that reporting is not that important. Another said he would go and find out. A Deputy Permanent Representative said "we have better things to do."

  Some wonder how the Security Council members can ask other states to follow its mandates if they themselves do not practice what they preach. Another said "as long as the Permanent Five members file, that's what's important."

   Outside the Council's session on Libya on Thursday afternoon, Inner City Press asked a number of non-filers who are not on the Security Council to explain themselves.

  The Permanent Representatives of a sample European nation, asking that he and it not be identified, said his country is waiting for greater Council transparency on sanctions before filing reports. The reform proposals of the so-called Small Five, which Inner City Press has covered, were cited among the reasons.

  Sanctions and due process are listed in Paragraph 9 of the Small Five's resolution's annex.

  Inner City Press' previous report, that the resolution will be put to a vote this month, appears to remain true. Sources say that the Permanent Five members of the Council have told the Small Five that if they go forward with the resolution, the P5 will still negotiating with them.

  A G4, meanwhile, loves this, and says it is "ready for the kill shot" once this happens. United for Consensus members shake their heads, bemoaning the Small Five's failure to take the time to get two-thirds support of member states, or to wait for a wider reform proposal. Watch this site.

May 7, 2012

In Myanmar, Ban Ki-Moon Praised & Partnered with Spying Company

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- While in Myanmar, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held an event with businesses, praising them for their Burmese engagements.

   Inner City Press asked Ban's Spokesperson, twice, which businesses were in attendance to receive Ban's thanks. After the second request a list was provided, and the delay perhaps became more understandable.

  Invited and thanked was a company which has sold surveillance and spying equipment, including to Gaddafi's Libya: ZTE Corporation. See this link and Wall Street Journal of August 30, 2011.

  With this company in attendance, Ban Ki-moon concluded on the 1st of May, "I wish you strength and success in your important efforts, and I very much welcome your partnership with the United Nations."

  Success for this company, it seems, is selling surveillance equipment, as for example France's Amesys / Bull SA. But a spy company partnering with the UN?

Already Ban's had of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the job, has proposed the UN using surveillance drones. But wiretapping?

  Also in attendance and praised by Ban were, among others, SK Telecom, PTT International, Mitsubishi, GE, Total and Alcatel - Lucent.

In Tripoli as reported by the WSJ,

"on the ground floor of a six-story building here, agents working for Moammar Gadhafi sat in an open room, spying on emails and chat messages with the help of technology Libya acquired from the West. The recently abandoned room is lined with posters and English-language training manuals stamped with the name Amesys, a unit of French technology firm Bull SA, which installed the monitoring center. A warning by the door bears the Amesys logo. The sign reads: 'Help keep our classified business secret. Don't discuss classified information out of the HQ.'"

   This is more than a little ironic, given that outgoing French president Nicolas Sarkozy is now threatening to sue Mediapart for publishing Moussa Koussa's letter to Bachir Saleh. A documentary on the subject, including Sarkozy adviser Jean-David Levitte, is scheduled for broadcast on May 8, two days after Sarkozy's then  expected (and now confirmed) electoral loss despite his plea to National Front supporters.

  This has led to questions of whether not only Alain Juppe but at least some in the French Mission to the UN will also be replaced, by Fabius, Aubrey or whoever.  Watch this site.

From the UN's noon briefing transcript of May 1:

Inner City Press: On Myanmar, Ban Ki-moon gave a speech with the, promoting the Global Compact. But, is there a way to get a list of the businesses he cited? He said, I am here with these businesses, many people think that most of the businesses in the country are affiliated with the, you called it a dictatorship. But, the former military Government. You may not have it, but is it possible to get a list of the businesses in attendance or certainly the ones that he was citing as, you know, the future of a non-military Myanmar?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Weíll have to check on that, Matthew.

From the UN's noon briefing transcript of May 2:

Inner City Press: were you able to get the businesses that he was referring to when he introduced the Global Compact in Myanmar. Ban's speech definitely says "the businesses here," referring to particular businesses.

Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, weíll get that for you.

April 30, 2012

UN Admits Cluster Bombs in Sri Lanka, But Still Spin for Silva, Ban Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- With news that the UN Development Program in Sri Lanka has found and confirmed via a leaked e-mail cluster sub-munitions, General Shavendra Silva as a UN Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping takes on an even more sinister hue.

  As reported, Allan Poston, the technical adviser for UNDP's mine action group in Sri Lanka, wrote that "after reviewing additional photographs from the investigation teams, I have determined that there are cluster sub-munitions in the area where the children were collecting scrap metal and in the house where the accident [the death of a child] occurred. This is the first time that there has been confirmed unexploded sub-munitions found in Sri Lanka."

  Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Shavendra Silva, during this conflict commanded the 58th Division, depicted in Ban Ki-moon's report as engaged in war crimes. Now, cluster munition. Still, Ban Ki-moon's position remains that Silva being Ban's adviser is "up to member states."

  The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense -- and Urban Development -- on the same day as the cluster bomb revelation breathlessly reported that all 54 nations in the Asia and Pacific Group support Silva's continued service. To Inner City Press' knowledge this was not true even prior to the cluster bomb confirmation, and should be even less true now.

  Earlier this month, the Permanent Representative of an Asia Group member told Inner City Press, of Silva,

"the gentleman's appearance is not welcome. They have chosen to escalate, sending public letters, casting doubt on Frechette's integrity. It becomes a big story, and member states in the end will say it's unacceptable... No one knew who Shavendra Silva was. Once you began to publish the stories, we came to know. If we had known from the beginning of course it would never have happened. If they continue to push it, there would be enough delegates in the Asia group to say 'enough.'"

Ban Ki-moon's acquiescence in accepting an alleged war criminal as his adviser becomes ever more troubling. Now Ban is on his way to Myanmar, where he and his adviser Vijay Nambiar have already given their full blessing to the still military dominated government, even as Kachin people weren't allowed to vote and face repression. What will Ban do? Watch this site.

April 23, 2012

Assad's Shabeeha Urged by Annan to Disarm & "Work With UN," More Mood?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 22 -- Kofi Annan's call to lay down weapons and "work with the UN" extends not only to Syrian governmental and opposition forces, but also to the pro-Assad shabeeha militias, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Inner City Press on Sunday.

  Earlier in the day Annan issued a statement that "I urge all forces whether governmental, opposition or others to put down their weapons and work with the United Nations monitors."

  Inner City Press wondered, and asked Fawzi, what forces with weapons are these "others," neither governmental or opposition?

Some hours later, Fawzi replied answer this (and three other question), starting that

"There are armed groups close to the government (shabeeha). Opposition and uniformed government forces do not have a monopoly on weapons."

The answer is appreciated. Still, it seems strange to also call on these militia mercenaries to "work with the UN monitors." How?

In terms of the now-approved monitoring mission's work, Inner City Press asked Fawzi, "on air assets, is the ideal / idea to use UN system aircraft from other missions?"

Fawzi replied, "The UN prefers to use its own chartered aircraft if and when possible."

Inner City Press also asked Fawzi, "what's the process for (and status of) choosing the force commander?"

Sources in Norway told Inner City Press that Robert Mood, the General who abruptly left Damascus leading Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin to call him unprofessional, appeared on Norwegian TV to say he is awaiting word from the UN and would return to Syria. What would Churkin and Russia say?

Here is what Fawzi said, in response to Inner City Press: "Force Commanders are, I believe, nominated by Member States via DPKO, and appointed by the Secretary General."

So will Norway nominate Mood? Watch this site

Here is Fawzi's response:

From: Ahmad Fawzi
Date: Sun, Apr 22, 2012 at 5:14 PM
Subject: Re: Hi, Press Qs on "other" forces in corrected statement, Friday patrols, aircraft, thanks
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]


1) There are armed groups close to the government (shabeeha). Opposition and uniformed government forces do not have a monopoly on weapons.

2) I put the following clarification out on Friday:

"Comments by UN Observer Team Leader Col. Himmiche today were taken out of context. There is no policy not to 'work' Fridays.

Today the UN Observers were regrouping, dealing with administrative and logistical issues, liaising with the UN country team and planning for their patrol (to Homs) tomorrow."

3) Force Commanders are, I believe, nominated by Member States via DPKO, and appointed by the SG.

4) The UN prefers to use its own chartered aircraft if and when possible.



On April 20 Inner City Press asked US State Department Spokeperson Victoria Nuland:

Inner City Press: The Moroccan colonel whoís leading the UN team there now has been quoted that heís not going to take his team out on Fridays. He doesnít want to be used politically. Thereís a quote to that effect. And Iím just wondering, since it seems that one of the purposes of the observer mission is to allow people to protest, and thatís a big day they want to protest, what would the U.S. think of that?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I havenít seen the comments of the Moroccan lead. As I said, all of the modalities for these peacekeepers are being reviewed based on the experience of the initial group, and they have to be worked out through a new Security Council resolution, and obviously, we have to see how it goes on the ground.

  Transcript here. More has been written since, about the Colonel's comments. So Inner City Press has asked Fawzi:

"do you have a comment or gloss on the Moroccan colonel saying the observers would go out on Fridays, to not be used? On Friday I asked the US State Department, particularly in light of Friday being a/the big protest day, but they hadn't yet seen the quote. Can you comment or explain the Colonel's statement?"

  The question was asked answered, and immediately published here. Watch this site.

April 16, 2012

On Syria, Mysteries of Mood, UK on Transition, Morocco Asked of Free Movement

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 14, updated with transcripts -- After the modified resolution on sending advance monitors passed the UN Security Council 15-0, Inner City Press put questions to the Permanent Representatives of the UK, United States, Morocco, Russia and Syria.

  Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Rice, this month's Council president, about need the approval of the Syrian government for the full observer mission. She said that "consultations" with Syria are required.

 (Inner City Press also asked about South Sudan not pulling out of Heglig; Rice answered that the Council also called on Sudan to stop aerial bombing and that neither side has complied.)

  When UK Ambassador Lyall Grant came to the stakeout, he used the phrase "political transition." Inner City Press asked him if this meant Bashar al-Assad stepping down, if the UK could imagine a political transition in which Assad remains.

  Lyall Grant said that would be hard to imagine, that under the Kofi Annan six point plan Assad is supposed to appoint someone else for political transition talks.

  The resolution speaks of freedom of movement for the advance monitors. So Inner City Press asked Morocco's Permanent Representative Loulichki to square this with the recent UN reports that in Western Sahara, the MINURSO peacekeepers do not have freedom of movement, are monitored and their communications with people impaired.

  Loulichki said this was entirely different, that he would address it after Syria questions. But he left the stakeout without answer the question. The Council meets about Western Sahara and MINURSO on April 17.

  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, at the stakeout, hearkened back to Inner City Press' question to Ambassador Rice about Syrian government consent, saying that of course this is required for a mission under UN Charter Chapter Six.

  He chided UK Ambassador Lyall Grant for saying he couldn't imagine Assad staying in power, saying that this is dictating or trying to dictate from outside.

  Inner City Press asked Churkin about Kofi Annan's General Mood, who reportedly left Damascus while the Syrian foreign minister and first deputy were briefly away.

  Churkin said this happened and, stranger still, when a Russian diplomat inquired at Kofi Annan's office in Geneva when Mood would return to Syria, he was told that Mood's return "should not be anticipated." Churkin went on to say that professionalism is required and that "there are other people."

  Kofi Annan's spokesman has been asked to confirm this and to explain, as well as the outstanding questions about the Kofi Annan Foundation. We will have more on this, and publish responses on receipt.

   Finally, Inner City Press asked Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari about Mood. He insisted that Syria wants Mood back, and slammed the European Union for imposing unilateral sanctions on Syria's electricity minister. By 1:50 the Security Council stakeout was empty, the advance monitors on their way. Watch this site.

Update: From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: In terms of the second resolution and sending the full team, this idea that it requires the consent of the Syrian government-at least that's what both Churkin said and that's what Syria said and under Chapter 6, it would seem to require that-how do you think that that's going to go? How do you think that-what will that mean in terms of the ability of the Syrian government to either dictate terms or block deployment?

Ambassador Rice: Well, what the resolution says is that the full monitoring mission will come after three things. One, a report by the Secretary-General; two, a sustained cessation of violence; and three, after consultation with the government of Syria. That would be the normal practice for a mission under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter. But the resolution also outlines the conditions that must be precedent for the advance team as well as the monitoring mission to effectively carry out its operations, and those are described in paragraph six.

So it will be important that the advance team get on the ground and then be able to report back as to whether that initial tranche is in effect able to operate freely and move as it must with the freedom to communicate internally as well as with the Syrian people, sufficient to fulfill its mandate. If that is indeed the case, that will provide the necessary assurances to members of the Security Council who must take a decision on authorization of the full mission.

From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: When you say political transition, is this to be interpreted as meaning Bashar al-Assad leaving power? Is there a political transition you can envision where he remains in power in Syria?
Amb. Lyall Grant: Kofi Annanís plan makes clear that there needs to be the start of a political dialogue that leads to a political transition and the introduction of a democratic, plural political system in Syria. Frankly, it looks to us, the British government, most unlikely that that is going to be possible with President Assad still in office. But the Kofi Annan plan does not call for the president to stand down, it calls on him to appoint an interlocutor to start that political dialogue. So, by definition, that interlocutor would not be Mr Assad.

On Syria, Annan Spokesman Tells ICP Mood Is Out of Game, Colonel In

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 -- After the UN Security Council authorized an advance team of observers for Syria in a rare Saturday meeting, Inner City Press asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin about envoy Kofi Annan's General Robert Mood, who reportedly left Damascus while the Syrian foreign minister and first deputy were briefly away.

  Churkin said this happened and, stranger still, when a Russian diplomat inquired at Kofi Annan's office in Geneva when Mood would return to Syria, he was told that Mood's return "should not be anticipated." Churkin went on to say that professionalism is required and that "there are other people."

  Inner City Press immediately wrote to Kofi Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi to ask "Why did Mood leave when he did, and more importantly, why has he not gone back since? Is he going back? When? Is he going to be replaced?"

  Now, this answer has been received from Fawzi:

From: Ahmad Fawzi
Date: Sat, Apr 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM
Subject: Qs on Gen. Mood, list of 50 violations, & still Kofi Annan Foundation
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Its really very simple. Major-General Mood completed his assessment mission and came back to Geneva to report to the JSE, before returning to Norway, mission accomplished. There was never any intention of him going back. The advance team of observers is being led by a Colonel.

The choice of Force Commander for the full observer mission will be made by the Secretary General, once the Security Council passes a resolution authorizing it.

  This will be news to Syria, whose Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told Inner City Press his government wants Mood to come back and keep negotiating "the protocol." Other diplomats at the UN on Saturday told Inner City Press that Mood was miffed that he wasn't accorded more pomp by the Syrian government; note that now the advance team is being led by a lower level Colonel (not named by Fawzi).

  Fawzi also answered Inner City Press' question on the "fifty violations" mentioned by Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari, and again didn't answer the questions about the Kofi Annan Foundation:

"50 Violations: there will violations by both sides. This is not unusual in this situation, both sides will be testing each other. We hope the arrival of UN observers will encourage the parties to exercise restraint and embark on the political process envisioned in the 6-point plan.

"Fund-raising by the KA Foundation: again, I don't speak for the Foundation. UN activities are funded either through the regular budget, or through extra-budgetary sources. For information on the latter please go to the Controller."

  But the Kofi Annan Foundation referred all questions to Fawzi. This is called a run around. But it is more responsive than the spokesperson team of Ban Ki-moon. Watch this site.

April 2, 2012

At UN, Quotes of Peacekeepers to Syria Point to DPKO Chief & His Country's PR?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 -- Amid complaints that Kofi Annan's mission to the Syria is meant to keep Assad in power, the UN has repeatedly refused to answer Press questions about who is part of Annan's team or whether the UN has any role in selecting or vetting them.

  Now there are quotes from a self-described senior Western Security Council diplomat that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is sending an advance team to Syria, with an eye to shifting some 250 observers from its UN Peacekeeping Missions UNIFIL in Lebanon and UNDOF in the Golan.

  Because this seems a strange way for the UN to be communicating, Inner City Press on March 30 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey to confirm these DPKO moves, and to state whether the chief of DPKO is sharing such information with all 15 Security Council members or other the Permanent Representative of his own country, which has appointed the last four Under Secretaries General for Peacekeeping in a row.

  Del Buey paused and then told Inner City Press to ask the Kofi Annan team: "There are reports that are coming from leaks or reported leaks from the Council... I believe that Mr. Annan is coordinating the efforts in Syria and I would leave it to his spokesman to comment on that. "

  While Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi has for example been willing to confirm that Annan recently gave a six month UN contract to Martin Griffiths, who resigned from his last job in Geneva amid an embezzlement scandal, this is a question about UN DPKO and its chief, Herve "The Drone" Ladsous, so named because he had proposed the use of drones and even the interception of communications, without specifying if the information collected would go to all member states or only his own.

  Ladsous pointedly refuses to answer questions about his drone proposal, or other questions about peacekeeping, in Haiti and South Sudan.

  As first reported by Inner City Press, when Annan conducted meetings at the UN with diplomats from among others Syria, China and Iran, he then met with Ladsous, the only one of the meetings the Press was not allowed to photograph.

  Friday Inner City Press asked Del Buey, what is Ban Ki-moon's role in all this? Has Ban, as reported, lost control?

  Del Buey said that Ban and the Arab League appointed Annan, but Annan takes it from there: "Mr Kofi Annan is managing, is directing, is responsible for the peace process in Syria."

   Pro-Assad media, it should be noted, describe Annan as the "UN" envoy, and as Inner City Press first reported, Annan's Arab League selected deputy Nassar El-Kidwa has not been allow into Syria.

  El-Kidwa is in Istanbul, meeting with the opposition and Friends of Syria. Kofi Annan, not surprisingly, has not gone: his moves are not favorably viewed by the opposition.

  Intrigue and secrecy in mediation is one thing. But from a UN peacekeeping chief and his country's Permanent Representative, they may be quite another. Watch this site.

March 26, 2012

As UN Proposes Peacekeeping Surveillance, Opposition to DPKO's "Spymaster" Ladsous and His "Drones"

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 -- In a recent closed door meeting of the UN's Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, the UN's top peacekeeper Herve Ladsous made proposals on "surveillance" that have stirred opposition.

  The opponents say Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to be put atop the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, is moving "to use drones and communications interception," as one well-placed Troop Contributing Country's representative complained to Inner City Press.

  "He can't even handle keeping South Sudan covered by helicopters," the representative said derisively. "And now he wants drones? What commercial interest is being this? And how could we be sure the information collected would stay with the UN?"

  These and other C-34 members' comments reflected a distrust of Ladsous, who last year replaced fellow French bureaucrat Alain Le Roy. Under the two men, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in former French colony Cote d'Ivoire helped turn out and then arrest anti imperialist Ivorian leader Laurent Ggabgo.

  Unlike Le Roy, however, Ladsous refuses to answer even the simplest of questions, such as whether his DPKO now belatedly has military helicopters flying in South Sudan, or why his mission in Haiti has no standing claims commission to handle the complaint it introduced cholera to the island.

   "Who would decide who they would spy on," the skeptic asked, "and who would get the information?"

   Another opined that this would be a way for "Western intelligence services" to drape themselves in UN blue - and immunity. A Secretariat staffer complained of a proposal for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to have his own intelligence service.

  There was opposition from within DPKO itself. One staff member said, "Ladsous already said he is not a visionary, fine. But now he wants to be a spymaster?"

  More sympathetic sources describe DPKO's first drone idea as being in the Congo but failing due to heavy jungle cover, with Ladsous' focus now shifting to where he has been under fire in South Sudan, particularly Jonglei.

  There are other issues slowing down the C-34 process, as Inner City Press reported last Friday. (Since then, Inner City Press has been inquiring into and being contacted about the surveillance issue).

  What's being called "Ladsous' drone" proposal is among the C-34 sticking points. It is not going anywhere soon -- but some wish Ladsous were, for the good of the UN. Watch this site.

March 19, 2012

As Annan Briefs UN SC, Syria's Six Point Response Put Online by ICP: Discussion in Damascus Sunday

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 16, updated -- Syria asked Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy of the UN and Arab League  to get guarantees from neighboring states not to arm the opposition, accoring to a translation of Syria's answer obtained by Inner City Press. Only after that could there be monitoring.

  Inner City Press obtained a copy of the "unofficial translation" of the "non-paper answer of the Syrian government," which ICP is now exclusively putting online here.

Update: Inner City Press asked Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari about the "non-paper." He said that this "Syrian answer" is in the nature of an "aide memoire," informal, and will all be discussed as a "comprehensive political process," not as preconditions, "on the technical level" beginning Sunday in Damascus. He did not answer if Arab League selected Deputy Nasser al Kidwa can go. Video here, from Minute 3:10.

  In Point 2 Syria stated:

"it is requested from the Special Envoy to provide guarantees to the Syrian government that the armed groups will cease all armed aggressions and give up their weapons to the dedicated authorities in exchange for a full pardon.

"It is also demanded from the Special Envoy that the neighboring countries take necessary measures to control the traffic of armaments through their borders.

"It will be requested from the Special Envoy that the countries who have called publicly to finance and provide weapons to the armed groups to stop from doing so.

"When the Special Envoy could provide the above-mentioned guarantees, the Syrian government can discuss with him the idea of putting in place a neutral monitoring system. Hence it seems at this stage too premature to discuss this mechanism."

  The answer does express a willingness to arrange another visit of the central prison in Allepo.

  Before Kofi Annan briefed the Security Council on Friday morning, German Permanent Representative Peter Wittig stopped and told the press of increased defections of Syrian soldiers who will not kill "for a ruling family."

An Annan press conference which had been expected for Thursday in Geneva was canceled, replaced by selective quotes from former UN communications official Ahmed Fawzi.

Update: When the Security Council session ended Friday morning, Inner City Press asked Council president Mark Lyall Grant about the non-paper answer. He would not comment on it. From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: this non-paper answer of Syria to Kofi Annan. It says that he will have to get guarantees from neighbouring states that the the opposition wouldnít be armed before they could even discuss monitoring. I just want to ask you: one, have you seen the document, and two: is that your understanding of what theyíve said to Kofi Annan?

Amb. Lyall Grant: Iím not going to comment on any details, you can ask Mr Annan that question.

 But no one in Geneva did ask Kofi the question. In New York, another Permanent Representative told Inner City Press that the Council members got nothing in writing.

Sources told Inner City Press that Annan had not directly conveyed to Council members Assad's first answer, but rather asked Russia to help with persuading Assad. Inner City Press obtained a copy of the "unofficial translation" of the "non-paper answer of the Syrian governemnt," which ICP is now exclusively putting online here.

March 12, 2012

UN's Pascoe Admits Failure on #Kony2012, Joins Ocampo in Praise, Ban Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his spokespeople have had nothing to say about the #Kony2012 phenomenon, except to belatedly direct Inner City Press to a months-old report, on Friday Ban's outgoing Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe praised the video and initiative.

  Inner City Press asked Pascoe to respond to critiques of the 29 minute film including that it misrepresents the conflict in Uganda and now Central Africa. Video here, from Minute 13.

  But Pascoe said that the attention the video is getting will be helpful, after less than successful UN mediation with President Chissano, and ostensible coordination between UN Peacekeeping mission which as Inner City Press reports can barely do their current jobs in South Sudan and the Congo.

Pascoe said, "I watched it, I was impressed with the work that was done. I believe that one of our biggest problems with the LRA has been getting attention to it.... We've been working closely with the African Union, without great success. These are ferocious crimes that need to be finalized."

Also outgoing International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has also praised the film -- not surprisingly, perhaps, since he is in it. What does his successor think? Watch this site.

Footnote: Pascoe's comments came at a press conference on UN guidelines for mediators on sexual violence. Inner City Press asked why the UN team to Syria includes no women, but includes Congo envoy retread Alan Doss. "He may go in," Pascoe said, while playing up women's essentially back-office role.

  The third panelest Ould Abdullah did not answer, but off camera told Inner City Press of his recent work on the Sahel. The UN's sexual violence in conflict expert Margot Wallstrom spoke more directly, saying that the UN must do better. With this, we agree.

March 5, 2012

As UK Lyall Grant Regrets UN Envoy Banned from Sierra Leone, Of Meece's Meekness, Frechette in Breeze

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon capitulated to the government of Sierra Leone and abruptly removed UN envoy Michael von der Schulenburg from the country, some UN officials close to Ban complained to Inner City Press about "the S-G's weakness."

  "What kind of message does it send," a senior Secretariat official asked Inner City Press, "when Ban sells out his own appointees at at the drop of a hat?"

  On Friday, Inner City Press asked the Security Council president for March Mark Lyall Grant of the UK about Schulenburg's removal. Speaking in his national capacity because the Council won't discuss it until March 22, Lyall Grant did not directly criticize Ban, but said "the ERSG was put in a difficult position by the government of Sierra Leone.... We regret that, he left earlier than originally planned." Video here, from Minute 28:45.

  Lyall Grant went on to list other recent controversies about "host country consent," for example the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, he said, the government threatened that the UN Mission should leave. He added that was "resolved." But how?

  In DRC, Ban's envoy Roger Meece said almost nothing amid Joseph Kabila electoral controversy -- the blocking of opposition candidates, the torching of polling stations. While such meekness may be Meece's personality, Ban is sending the message that this is how to succeed in his UN.

  Notably, Ban has refused to support in any way his own appointee as chair of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations, Louise Frechette, when she belatedly rule inappropriate the participation of Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, whose 58th Division is depicted in Ban's own Panel of Experts report as engaged in war crimes.

  While other Permanent Representatives of Permanent Five members of the Security Council make excuses for Ban, intent only on securing top UN management positions from him, Lyall Grant has shown himself willing to speak some truth. Watch this site.

February 27, 2012

In Asia Group, Sri Lanka Says Stands Behind Silva, Group Letter Not Agreed To

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- Two days after Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva was ruled "inappropriate" to participate as the Asia-Pacific Group's representative on the UN Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations, the Asia Group met Friday behind closed doors about the controversy.

For four weeks, Inner City Press has questioned the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon and diplomats from Asian countries how they could accept Silva as adviser on peacekeeping, given how he appears in Ban's own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka, as commander of the 58th Division shelling hospitals and killing people trying to surrender.

And so on Friday afternoon Inner City Press stood outside UN Conference Room 4, posing questions to the Ambassadors who went in and out of the meeting. Then and afterward, a picture of the meeting emerged and is exclusively reported here.

  Sri Lanka, represented in the meeting by Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva and other staff, wanted the Asia Group to write a letter to SAG chairperson Louise Frechette as well as to Ban Ki-moon. (Sri Lanka may also want to write to another on-the-record UN official; many have off the record condemned Silva's nomination, and Ban Ki-moon's silence.)

  Kohona reportedly said, you have to draw a line or only the small and weak will be targeted. Then he said that he had told "the capital" -- Colombo, the Rajapaksa government -- and the capital determined to stand behind Ambassador Silva.

  Kohona was chided for having "made representations" about solving the embarrassing standoff. But now he said that while those representations had been made, they weren't valid, only the Group could change its endorsement.

  Inner City Press has already reported that there was no vote on Silva, after Sri Lanka talked Saudi Arabia and Nepal, and now some say Fiji, into withdrawing their candidacy.

  Now, Inner City Press has learned that it was "Sri Lanka" that was "endorsed by the Group" on January 19, to participate in the first meeting of the SAG, held January 19 and 20, 2012 -- this according to the Asia Group's own minutes.

  Kohona has argued publicly that it was Silva who was endorsed, personally. Strangely, it was Deputy Permanent Representative Silva who negotiated with the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia on January 9 and 18. Still, after that, "Sri Lanka" -- not Silva -- "was endorsed by the Group."

  In the closed door meeting, Inner City Press has learned, Kohona asked for a decision that the Asia Group send a letter to Frechette and Ban Ki-moon.

  This was not agreed to. Rather, the chair of the Group for February, Maldives, said that there was no consensus on a letter, calling the situation a "minefield to maneuver."

Fiji, which has itself chafed when former Secretary General Kofi Annan said it might not be able to keep getting paid for sending UN peacekeepers after the coup d'etat there, spoke up for Sri Lanka, saying that there should be consultations including about sending a letter.

Kohona then shifted back and said there was no rush, there were "two months." Leaving the meeting room he told Inner City Press, "three months."

  Silva left the meeting room talking with Fiji's representative, with whom Inner City Press not infrequently converses. Silva, too, used to speak.

  As Inner City Press has told a Sri Lankan paper which has asked, it was nominating Silva to the SAG which stirred up the recent news here. Inner City Press is reliably told that External Affairs minister G.L Peiris was not in favor of Silva's nomination, but people above him were. Thus we can say: it is the Rajapaksa brothers themselves who have of late put civilians deaths in Sri Lanka back in the news, and brought Sri Lanka into some disrepute, now going back on representations and seeking support playing the "small and weak" card.

  Already, Maldives -- which suffering what is arguably its own coup d'etat during all this and was represented as chair by a junior diplomat who refused to summarize the meeting at its conclusion -- is preparing to "hand off" the issue to the Group's chair for March, the Marshall Islands. The "small and weak" indeed.

   So what of the other states in the Asia Group? We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

Footnote: numerous diplomats told Inner City Press it was "outrageous," as one of them put it, that the Sri Lankan Mission had asked and gotten UN Security to prohibit the Press from covering the February 22 meeting in 380 Madison Avenue as it covered Friday's meeting in the UN North Lawn building.

  The same Sri Lankan mission personnel were present Friday but did not try. (There were no other media organization staking out the meeting, despite some belated and opportunistic pick-ups.)

  Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesman inserted into Thursday briefing transcript a kneejerk defense of the exclusion of the Press, then abuptly ended the briefing. This is Ban's UN. Click here for Inner City Press' February 24 interview with Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar -- and consider how the UN has come to this.

February 20, 2012

On Silva, Ambassadors Meet With UN Peacekeeping, Rice Says Concerned, Immunity Letter from USUN Surfaces

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 17, updated -- Three weeks ago Inner City Press began asking the UN and then the US Mission to the UN how they could accept as a UN "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations" General Shavendra Silva, whose Division 58 is repeatedly named in connection with war crimes in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka.

  On February 14, Bangledesh's Permanent Representative told Inner City Press he, India and Pakistan were telling Sri Lanka to "fix it."

  On February 16, Pakistan's Permanent Representative confirmed this and said there was a meeting on February 17 on the topic. That meeting, of ambassadors with the two Under Secretaries General for peacekeeping, Inner City Press understands, took place Friday at 9:45 am.

At 10:30 am Friday, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice about a letter it found that that Russell F. Graham, Minister Counselor for Host Country Affairs at the US Mission to the UN, provided to Silva's lawyers to tell a US Federal Court that Silva, as Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative, has diplomatic immunity. On that basis, this case against Silva was dismissed.

  Inner City Press is putting the letter online, here.

Ambassador Rice took the question, some from Inner City Press on Sudan, and said, "These are two different things. The State Department has to respond on immunity. He unfortunately or fortunately is an accredited diplomat."

Then, more generally on Silva, Rice told Inner City Press, "it's very concerning that someone with his background would be selected to serve on this advisory group. We have conveyed this to member states, as well as to the Secretariat. There are a lot of efforts underway to address [this], probably best not to be discussed publicly."

Moments later, another Security Council Permanent Representative approached Inner City Press and said, "on the Sri Lankan, you have done well." Inner City Press has sent questions to USGs Malcorra and Ladsous:

"Hello. Asking for an answer before noon: I understand that on the matter of Shavendra Silva, who is named in the S-G's Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka as in charge of Division 48 which is described engaged in war crimes, ambassadors met with UN Peacekeeping today. I am asking you directly to confirm this, and to state the status of Mr. Silva on the Senior Advisory Group, and at this stage, your view."  

  At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked again, and Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesman Eduardo Del Buey said he had no information, to "ask DPKO's spokesman."

Update of 6:34 pm: DPKO's spokesman has written in to note that in response to the request for a confirmation before the noon briefing, he "visited" and sent a text message. Noted. But the request was clear: confirm, which could be done even in a 160 character text message. The problem here is substantive: a UN Secretary General and Under Secretaries General who "have nothing to say" about an alleged war criminal -- or a commander of a division accused of war crimes - advising them.

  Inner City Press reiterated, it is a question for Ban and his spokespeople, including because Ban's own High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote him on this topic - as she told Inner City Press at the General Assembly stakeout on February 13 -- and because Silva is in Ban's own report.  We are still awaiting an on the record response, which has been re-requested from Ban's office as well as from USG Malcorra and her spokesman.

Update of 2:20 pm, Feb 17: Inner City Press has been sent this by the DPKO spokesman:

"I can confirm that DPKO-DFS leadership today facilitated a meeting with some Member States. As the spokesperson's office has previously said, the selection for this position on the Special Advisory Group is for the Member States. Since the selection has become known to the Secretariat, we have actively facilitated Member States in their discussions to consider this matter. We have nothing to say at this stage on our views of the membership of the Special Advisory Group."

   What does it say about Ban's UN that it "has nothing to say" about the nomination as a "Senior Adviser" on Peacekeeping of a military commander named in Ban's own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka as engaged in the shelling of hospitals and presumptive execution of those seeking to surrender?

  Prior to these developments, the Sri Lankan Mission's action was to send a letter of complaint to Inner City Press, sending a copy to Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky as well as to some in the UN press corps.

Inner City Press in less than 24 hours published and responded to the letter, citing only some of the many references to Silva's Division 58 in the report.

Watch this site.

February 13, 2012
As Lanka Missive Blurs Silva Role in Ban's Experts Report, UN Omits to Check

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- For two weeks Inner City Press has covered the selection to the UN "Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations" of Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, whose Division 58 is named in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel of Experts' report on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

  Late on February 9, after Inner City Press published brief questions and answers with Silva, Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and Ban himself, the Sri Lankan Mission sent a letter to Inner City Press, with copies to Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky and the President of the UN Correspondents' Association.

  These cc's may be as interesting as the letter itself. We publish the letter in full, here, and respond to it below.

   The Sri Lankan mission takes issue with Inner City Press' citation to Ban's Panel of Experts report, writing that

"Ambassador Shavendra Silva pointed out during UNCA's screening of 'Lies agreed upon,' that the POE report had inaccurately represented the facts with regard to the Divisions involved. Nowhere in paragraph 73 and 90 of the Report does it make any reference to his own Division being responsible for shelling the No Zones or the PTK hospital."

  The simplest rebuttal is simply to example the Panel of Experts report itself, online, which we will now quote from:

 In Paragraph 62, Silva appears: "six major battalions were active in the final stages of the war, including... the 58th Division (commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva)." That is Silva's Division.

  Here's from Paragraphs 90 through 92 of Ban's Panel of Experts report:

90. Fighting in the area intensified as part of the expressed efforts by the 55th and 58th Divisions to capture PTK by 4 February... in the week between 29 January and 4 February, PTK hospital was hit every day by MBRLs and other artillery, taking at least nine direct hits. A number of patients inside the hospital, most of them already injured, were killed, as were several staff members. Even the operating theatre was hit. Two ICRC international delegates were in the hospital when it was shelled on 4 February 2009. The shelling was coming from SLA positions.

92. The GPS coordinates of PTK hospital were well known to the SLA, and the hospital was clearly marked with emblems easily visible to UAVs. On 1 February 2009, the ICRC issued a public statement emphasizing that "[w]ounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked."

  That is a war crime, and it is attributed in Ban's Panel of Experts report to Silva's 58th Division, as well as the 55th. That, it seems, is the Sri Lankan mission's defense: that war crimes were committed by other Divisions (too). Fine, then: the reference to Paragraph 90 should be to 90-92, with 62 as the intro to Silva.

  Likewise, the Sri Lankan mission crows that a lawsuit against Silva was dismissed without stating that it was strictly on grounds of diplomatic immunity: that Silva is now an Ambassador to the UN. The decision by Judge Oetken concludes:

"Notwithstanding the gravity of the allegations made by the plaintiffs in this case, the diplomatic immunity mandated by 22 U.S.C. ß 254d precludes this Court from considering the merits of their claims against Silva, at least while he is cloaked with immunity as a United Nations representative."

  On the killing of surrenderees, the Sri Lankan mission takes issue with the inference Ban's Panel of Experts draws:

2. The ďWhite FlagĒ incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependants were executed when they surrendered to the SLA.[81] In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat, Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate a surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa. Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009, Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

  The (false) assurances "conveyed by intermediaries" were conveyed through Ban Ki-moon's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who has declined numerous requests from the Press to answer questions about his role. Kohona, too, the head of Sri Lanka's mission, is named in the paragraphs above.

  (Inner City Press was already the first to report that the reference to "Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa" was an error by the UN.)

   Now it must be stated, with all due respect but to provide context to the cc's, that it is not disputed that Kohona had a prior financial relationship with the President of UNCA; and that Ban Ki-moon's own chief of staff is at least a witness to the above-described war crime.

  What's strange is that Inner City Press has previously, including in the Q&A after UNCA screened in UN, without the normal approval process the government's "Lies Agreed To" as a rebuttal to a documentary that was NOT screened inside the UN, asked Silva about war crimes, and published all his answers.

   But only now does the Sri Lankan mission, by Waruna Sri Dhanapala the "Counselor to Permanent Representative" Palitha Kohona, write to Ban's spokesman and UNCA, not only the President with whom PR Kohona has a previously financial relationship, but also other UNCA members, who in turn forwarded it more widely.  Is the heat on?

On February 10, after received the above-quoted letter at 11 pm the night before, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about letters received, as partially recorded in the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: I wish I had been able to follow this up with Mr. Ladsous when asked about this selection of Shavendra Silva, who is inthe Secretary-Generalís report on Sri Lanka as the head of a division, said that 'the matter is being considered further.' I wasnít clear what that meant by the Secretariat, or by the Asia Group or by Sri Lanka. I wanted to know if you can find out what that is, and also I have been at least CCed on a number of letters that have been addressed to the Secretary-General about this issue, of taking what people seem to see as an alleged war criminal and making him an adviser, or selecting him or allowing him to be selected, and I wanted to know how many letters have you received and is it being reconsidered, where does this stand?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Secretary-General himself told you, as you know, that this is a decision by Member States. At this point, that is the end of the story, okay.

Inner City Press: So there is no effort by the Secretariat, in any way, to speak to the Asia Group or to the country of Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I also heard what Mr. Ladsous said, the Under-Secretary-General, as I was sitting right next to him..

  Then, on camera, Nesirky said he would inquire into what this meant, saying clearly "and I'll check if there's anything further on that." But that is not in the UN's transcript. Watch video, here at Minute 15:58, and watch this site.

February 6, 2012

Amid Move to Switch From Criminal Silva, Ban Dismisses Predecessor Criticism

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- For a week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office has been questioned about accepting alleged war criminal Shavendra Silva as one of Ban's Senior Advisers on Peacekeeping Operations.

  While Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky has insisted that Ban is powerless to stop what several member states describe as a travesty or a "new low," some states asked by Inner City Press say they are pushing Sri Lanka to pull Silva back, even if only to replace him with Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, who also played a role in the White Flag killing of prospective surrenderees, along with Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

 Acts of Shavendra Silva's battalion in 2009 are described in the UN's own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka -- for example in paragraphs 73, 90 and 171, shelling hospitals and the killing those seeking to surrender, in which both Kohona and Nambiar played a role -- and lawsuits have been filed against Silva for war crimes. In September 2011, Inner City Press asked Silva about them, click here for that story.

  Nesirky told Inner City Press to "ask the Asia group" about their vote; Inner City Press did, and found that there was no vote, Sri Lanka convinced Saudi Arabia and Nepal to stand down.

  Nesirky told Inner City Press to look at the General Assembly resolution, and Inner City Press has, finding that nothing in the text says that Ban has to take whomever is referred to him, whatever their record.

 In fact, Susana Malcorra Ban's head of Field Support, and prospectively his new deputy replacing Asha Rose Migiro, met with member states and laid down criteria like "senior" status.

   Why didn't she and Ban say, don't nominate alleged war criminals?

On February 3, after trying to let the issue settle for a bit, Inner City Press again asked Nesirky:

Inner City Press: it has to do with, again, Shavendra Silva, but also something new. There has been an open letter by Edward Mortimer, who used to be the Communications Director for Kofi Annan, saying and stating as a fact that the UN investigating itself under Thoraya Obaid has been disbanded, did not proceed. I wanted you to confirm if thatís true.

Also, the organization that Mr. Mortimer is the chair of, called the Sri Lanka Campaign, has given a quote about Silva saying that it's very surprising that the Secretary-General would accept Mr. Silva given the allegations against him of war crimes in a Secretary-Generalís report that hasnít been acted on. [Response?] You said various things before. I have actually looked at the GA resolution; it doesnít seem to on its face say that the Secretary-General has to accept it. So I want to ask you again, given that former UN officials are saying itís a black mark for the UN to have an alleged war criminal as an adviser on peacekeeping, whatís the thinking in the Secretariat? Is there any attempt being made to defuse this, to seek another individual from Sri Lanka, or are you simply saying we have no power, we accept it whatever the consequences?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Matthew, it is not a question of accepting or not accepting. It is a question of the Member States deciding. It is a question for the Asia group among the Member States to decide ó and that was their decision. And I suggest that you take it up with them.

Inner City Press: I have, and there was no election in the Asian group, and the reason I think itís legitimate to ask you is this is that a former UN official is saying it is surprising that Ban Ki-moon accepts this, i.e. he thinks, having had experience in the UN system, that clearly the Secretary-General, he can make calls, he can attempt... I just wanted to know, if in fact there is a switch, which may take place to Mr. Kohona, is the Secretary-General in any way involved in that or entirely [powerless]?

Spokesperson: Well, with great respect to Edward Mortimer, whom I know, he is not in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General any more. And so he cannot be privy to what may or may not take place there, at all.

   So, under Ban the Office of the Secretary-General has gotten so much weaker? That was the question, and this so far is the answer. We will have more on this, and on the Campaign.

Here are on the record quote provided on this to Inner City Press by the director of the Sri Lanka Campaign Fred Carver:

"There are very serious allegations of war crimes leveled against Silva, allegations that the Secretary-General's expert panel has recommended be investigated - something that has not yet happened. There are also incredibly serious allegations leveled against Sri Lankan members of UN peacekeeping forces - over whom Silva would have oversight. This appointment therefore does not speak well for the UN's commitment to investigating atrocities, even when the perpetrators wear blue helmets."

And, after some back and forth, by Edward Mortimer, former Annan communications director:

ďItís disgraceful that someone against whom there are strong and credible charges of war crimes should serve as Deputy Permanent Representative of his country at the UN, and even more disgraceful that the Asian Group has elected him to serve on the Secretary-Generalís Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations Ė disgraceful, and insulting to the Secretary-General. Iím surprised that he puts up with it.Ē

That is giving Ban (too much) benefit of the doubt, and still it raises questions. Watch this site.

January 30, 2012

In Addis, Ban Spins "Negligence" in S. Sudan As UN Stonewalls, Migiro Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- After charges of UN negligence in not ensuring that its Mission in South Sudan had military helicopters from mid November until the bloodshed in Pibor in Jonglei State, Ban Ki-moon on Sunday again put his spin on the issue.

  He told the AU Summit in Addis Ababa

"South Sudan is twice the size of Germany, with less than 100 kilometers of paved roads. Our peacekeepers are doing all they can ó with what they have. Despite severe logistical constraints, particularly air transport, the mission succeeded in saving many lives during the recent crisis in Jonglei. Yet clearly: without air assets such as helicopters, we cannot do all that we must do to protect people. Today, I appeal once again to you and to all Member States."

  Meanwhile Ban's spokesman in New York Martin Nesirky after twice refusing to say when Ban knew that UNMISS had no military helicopters and when what Ban's called his "begging" belatedly began on Friday referred Inner City Press on this to UN Peacekeeping, "DPKO and DFS" which he said would provide "the details."

  And so Inner City Press wrote to chiefs Herve Ladsous and Susana Malcorra and agency spokespeople, asking

1) when was the UN told that the Russian helicopters would not fly in South Sudan?

2) if different, when was Ban Ki-moon told that the Russian helicopters would not fly in South Sudan?

3) when did Ban Ki-moon start "begging," in his words, for helicopters, before the events in Pibor?

4) what does the UN say was the impact on its ability to protect civilians in Pibor of not having military helicopters?

Separately, in her January 23 video briefing, SRSG Hilde Johnson said after being told that Russian helicopters wouldn't fly, she was "subsequently" told that they would. I asked what date, she said she didn't have it with her but it would be provided. It hasn't been; I've asked about it at the UN noon briefing: can that date now be provided?

  But rather than answer these questions, including for information that was already promised to the UN, DPKO's Kieran Dwyer provided more spin, entirely dodging the questions on which Ban's spokesman had publicly referring Inner City Press. Dwyer wrote:

Susana Malcorra has forwarded your email to me (copy below). I have spoken with her; she was on her way to the airport for official travel when she received it. I believe that her briefing to you on the topic of the helicopters earlier in January covered most of these issues.

  Not only wass there still no date provided -- it's that after Malcorra in a "briefing" that she asked be mostly off the record, Ban gave a speech entirely passing the buck, and the UN has since refused to provide the basis of what Ban is saying: what did Ban know, and when did he know it?

  Significantly, the UN didn't even mention its failure to get military helicopters to Pibor until it was exposed, by Inner City Press, in a January 11 story. Then, rather than make disclosure and say how this would be avoided in the future, the spinning and stonewalling began, and has spread.

  So less than an hour after DPKO's Dwyer's response, Inner City Press asked him, Ladsous, Malcorra and Johnson again:

This is not responsive to the questions asked, nor does it provide the information that Hilde Johnson said at the end of her January 23 video briefing would be provided.

-- WHEN did Ban Ki-moon start "begging," in his words, for helicopters, before the events in Pibor?

-- when was Ban Ki-moon told that the Russian helicopters would not fly in South Sudan?

  In the more than 36 hours and counting since these reiterated questions were sent to DPKO, Ladsous, Malcorra and Johnson, not one of the questions has been answered.

  Meanwhile Ban to the AU in Addis said, "our peacekeepers are doing all they can... Today, I appeal once again to you and to all Member States."

  Ban also said "I have made Africa a priority from day one" - less than a week after he belated confirmed that he is dropping Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania as his Deputy Secretary General, as Inner City Press first reported, likely for the aforementioned Susana Malcorra of Argentine.

  Nor despite repeated public requests from the African Group has Ban appoined, as required, a full time Special Adviser on Africa.

  But the claims in Addis, amid continued refusal to take and answer the simple questions about presumptive negligence in South Sudan, is becoming outrageous, and will continue to be pursued. Watch this site.

January 23, 2012

UN's Ban Knew Had No Copters in South Sudan for 6 Weeks, Now Passes the Buck

By Matthew Russell Lee, Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- When the bloodbath in Pibor in South Sudan began, local people blamed the UN for not arriving fast enough, and not acting to try to stop the attackers.

  On January 18, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "at the critical moment, I was reduced to begging for replacements from neighboring countries and missions. With limited resources, we tried our best."

  Is this a rare candid statement, or a passing of the buck?

  After asking questions and writing about the UN's slow response in Pibor as early as January 2, Inner City Press on January 11 reported that the UN had known since mid November that the Russian helicopters would not fly anymore in South Sudan.

  Immediately UN officials pushed back, saying that it is customary for helicopters to fly for the UN even after the UN has, as here, allowed the Letter of Assist to expire. But the UN had been told that the Russian helicopters would not fly.

  Inner City Press repeated asked Ban's Office of the Spokesperson about this; lead spokesman Martin Nesirky claimed that the UN would not be discussing its negotiations about helicopters.

  The representative of another large troop contributing