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March 30, 2015

On Yemen, State Dept in Contact with Benomar, Who's Engaged With Houthis, IMF Postpones First Review (and No Answer on Haiti)

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON DC, March 27 -- Amid continued airstrikes in Yemen, Inner City Press on March 27 asked State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke if the US has been in contact with the UN's Jamal Benomar:

"On Yemen, has the U.S. had any contact with Jamal Benomar, the special advisor who’s supposed to be mediating?  And how do you think that the – what’s the process from bombing to getting the Houthis back to the table?  Is anyone actually reaching out to them?"

  Rathke said he didn't have such information in front of him. But later a State Department official told Inner City Press on background:

"We remain in regular contact with UN Special Advisor Jamal Benomar.  We understand that Benomar remains engaged with political representatives from all parties, including the Houthis.  While we have not had direct contact with the Houthis, we have passed messages to them.
 
"The path for political dialogue will come when the Houthis and former regime elements halt their destabilizing military actions and realize that the only viable path forward is through peaceful negotiations."

  On civilian casualties in Sana'a, Rathke said "we’ve always been clear that in every conflict, all sides should avoid civilian casualties.  I don’t – I’m not able to corroborate those reports that you’ve mentioned, but clearly, we think it’s important to act in a targeted way in any kind of military conflict." Here is Amnesty International's report.

 Inner City Press also asked Rathke about the Maldives government threatening migrant workers with deportation for demonstrating about abusive conditions, and the 11 year sentence imposed on former defense minister Nazid. Rathke said he may revert with some comments. Here is the State Department's March 13 comment on the Maldives, here.

  And later the State Department issued a "Question Taken" about the Maldives, including press freedom, here.

 On March 26 Inner City Press asked Rathke if the US thinks former President Saleh could play any role going forward, and for its position on Sudan participating in the "Saudi coalition" the US supports.

  Rathke replied about the US Treasury Department sanctions imposed on Saleh on November 10, 2014, and reiterated previous US criticism. From the State Department transcript (video here from Minute 26:49)

QUESTION:  Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press.  I wanted to know what the U.S. thinks of the role of former President Saleh, and do you think that he has any role to play in the negotiations that are trying to be had?  And also, you said repeatedly that the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and it’s said that Sudan is one of the partners and that they’ve offered three air force planes.  And I wanted to know, would the U.S. support Sudanese participation in bombing Yemen?

MR. RATHKE:  So I’ll take the second one first.  We are aware that the Government of Sudan has announced that it is taking part in the actions organized by the Saudis.  We’re not in a position to confirm the details of or the nature of their participation.  Again, this is a Saudi-organized and Saudi-led coalition, so I don’t have more to say on that aspect.

You asked about former President Saleh.  And so we have long made clear our concerns about the obstructive role that former President Saleh plays in Yemen.  He has consistently sought to undermine Yemen’s political transition.  This is widely recognized by the international community, which, in fact, sanctioned former President Saleh under UN Security Council Resolution 2140 just a few months ago.  That was in November 2014.  And the reason was for his obstruction of the political transition and undermining the government.

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned former President Saleh on November 10th, 2014 for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen.  So our position on him and his role, I think, is quite clear.

  On Inner City Press' question on Sudan, note this is the same Sudanese air force bombing civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

   Inner City Press also asked Rathke about the US restricting Cuban diplomats to within 25 miles of Columbus Circle in New York -- Rathke said this is being negotiated, along with the US' desire for free movement in Cuba -- and if the US will be replacing Russ Feingold as Special Envoy on the Great Lakes.

  I have no personnel announcements, Rathke said, twice.

  Earlier in the day reporters complained about the lack of answers from the International Monetary Fund. Rathke at least kept fielding questions, and had a surprising number of if-asked statements in his binder.

   Inner City Press at the International Monetary Fund briefing on March 26 asked again about the status of the IMF program in Yemen.  From the IMF transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Yemen. I asked online actually a couple of times ago, and you had said it wasn’t helpful but there would be a review in the spring. Now, with these air strikes by Saudi Arabia and Houthi’s moving on Aden, what is the status of the IMF’s program, and what is the thinking, how are you going to review it?

MR. MURRAY: Thanks for that question. Well, obviously, we are watching the rapidly evolving situation in Yemen carefully and closely at the moment. Given a host of uncertainties surrounding Yemen at this moment, the first review under the Fund supported program is postponed until the situation clarifies.

When it will clarify? Can’t say. Certainly, the review mission is postponed. One of our biggest concerns about Yemen is the impact on the poorest there, and the economic reverberations of events. Way too soon to say what those will be, but we are just going to have to keep an eye on the situation.

Inner City Press: Has the IMF had any kind contact with the Houthi’s since they have been in contact --

MR. MURRAY: I’m not aware of any recent contact with the Houthi’s, certainly not in recent days. I really don’t have any recent guidance on that.

   Back on January 22, Murray had answered Inner City Press that while events in Yemen were not helpful, the review was not until Spring. Now it is postponed indefinitely.

  Inner City Press also asked Murray to confirm that the IMF may declined to proceed with Haiti if it continues to subsidize electricity. Murray said he would get an answer to the question and that it would be circulated and inserted into the transcript. Watch this site.

March 23, 2015

On Yemen, Emergency UNSC Meeting After 5 Weeks & Bombings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21, updated -- Five weeks after the last Yemen resolution of the UN Security Council was adopted on Sunday, February 15, now on Sunday March 22 the Council will hold another emergency meeting on Yemen. Much as changed, most recently airstrikes on Hadi's headquarters in Aden and more deadly bombing of largely Houthi mosques in Sana'a.

  With less than 24 hours notice on March 21 the new emergency Security Council meeting was reported by the UN Spokesperson, Inner City Press, Lithuania, Jordan which requested the meeting, and France the Council's president for March.

  Hadi requested the meeting; some speculated he wants the "Houthi coup" language that was dropped from the February 15 resolution revived, or at least some statement protecting him in Aden.

   But with the Houthis themselves targeted, how would this play? And if a first round of sanctions didn't stop these developments, would a second round?

Update: Sources tell Inner City Press that UN envoy Jamal Benomar abruptly left Yemen, and that Hadi's goal is to get (more) UN Security Council authorization for military action against the Houthis "and Saleh." But he could already claim to be authorized for that. A Presidential Statement doesn't mean victory on the ground, though...

Update II: Seems the conclusion of the draft Presidential Statement is for the Security Council to say it reaffirms its readiness to take further measures against any party in case of non-implementation - but no reference to coup...

Update III: a question, of course, is how all this UN Security Council action relates to its P5+1 talks with Iran on the nuclear file. Seems the draft PRST would call on "all member States to refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability and instead to support the political transition." ALL member states? Including Saudi Arabia and Qatar? Or only Iran?

  And while in February Saudi Arabia took the lead, as it were, now Qatar is poised to. But will they answer on other issues, where they are less aligned with the government(s)?

  On a cold Sunday in New York, the UN Security Council scheduled a 5 pm vote on a resolution on Yemen. Diplomats rushed in. The Gulf Cooperation Council had submitted a draft with the word "Houthi coup" in it, but the phrase did not survive.

  After the watered down resolution was adopted 15-0, Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative about the threat of new sanctions, given how little previous sanctions on Ali Saleh and two Houthi leaders accomplished - and, does he think the Houthis are working with Saleh? (Video here and embedded below.)

  He replied that both are spoilers, they could work together directly or indirectly. The Gulf Cooperation Council will be continuing to push the Security Council, for example on the house arrest of Hadi and others.

  Jordan's Permanent Representative added that come members did not want the word coup.

 Inner City Press notes that while Hadi consented to US drone strikes, a coup would leave such consent "up in the air."

 After the diplomats left, two different Arabic language channels described what had occurred in entirely different terms: one as a "strong message," the other as "weak."  And so it goes.

March 16, 2015

UN Tells Peacekeepers CAR Is Not Dangerous, To Limit Their Pay

By Matthew Russell Lee, Scoop

UNITED NATIONS, March 13 -- When the UN Security Council visited the Central African Republic earlier this week, the issue of the UN underpaying the peacekeepers there was not raised, publicly or at all.

  But back in UN headquarters in the C-34 Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, discontent with DPKO as run by Herve Ladsous was mounting. On CAR, one issue about which C-34 exclusively told Inner City Press was Ladsous' DPKO's refusal to comply with the recommendations of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations to pay a risk premium to peacekeepers in the dangerous missions.

   Under Ladsous, DPKO tells Troop Contributing Countries with their soldier in CAR that it is not dangerous there -- while saying quite the opposite elsewhere. Several delegates called this rank hypocrisy.

   Some thanked Inner City Press for publishing the Office of Internal Oversight Services report, here, on how positions in the UN missions in Haiti and the DR Congo were sold by Cote d'Ivoire's Deputy Permanent Representative Ouattara.

 Now DPR Ouattara has become the charge d'affaires since Permanent Representative Bamba, who was not involved the corruption, has been ousted, alleged due to a speech on his watch calling Western Sahara the last colony in Africa (this was, but is not longer, Cote d'Ivoire's position).

  Ladsous, as shown by multiple videos including this and this and this Vine, refuses to answer Press questions.

   The UN Security Council creates peacekeeping operations -- so what is their role in ensuring that DPKO pay the peacekeepers fairly, including in accordance with the Special Advisory Group's report and related General Assembly resolution? What is the Security Council's oversight role, for example on the report of demonstrators in Gao in Northern Mali being shot?

  This month's Security Council president, the French Mission, told Inner City Press that whether or not the Security Council will get any information from the Gao report is entirely up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. How can that be? And what of Ladsous, and ultimately Ban, claiming CAR is not dangerous, in order to underpay the peacekeepers, as described to Inner City Press by C-34 delegates? We'll have more on this.

   In the UN's first sub-basement on March 13, some delegates suggested that the C-34's forthcoming - or not - report would be “the worst ever.” Watch this site.

March 9, 2015

As Bangladesh Cancels Press Accreditations, UN Does Nothing, Not Involved

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 -- Amid the violence in Bangladesh, Inner City Press has five times asked the UN how it reviews whether the military personnel it uses from Bangladesh have not been involved in human rights violations. February 5 videoUN's February 20 transcript; February 23 transcript, video here.

  Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have also asked about freedom of expression in Bangladesh - and relatedly at the UN, when a journalist asking questions at the UN had his media blocked back in Bangladesh.

  While the UN Spokesman replied that he had spoken with the journalist in questions -- which was not the point -- from elsewhere in the UN to the request for action, no response. Now the journalist and four colleagues have had their accreditations pulled.

 Inner City Press on March 5 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any involvement in a statement urging de-escalation issued by a group of Ambassadors in Dhaka. I am not aware that we have any involvement in that, the UN Spokesman replied. Video here. Why not?

  Why didn't UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, who spent days in Myanmar then Sri Lanka, make a push to visit Bangladesh at this time? Did he? His office has not answered questions about his Sri Lanka trip, but Dujarric says he will answer questions on March 6. Only about Ukraine? Watch this site.

  The UN makes many vague and grandiose statements about its commitment to freedom of the press. But when a journalist who asked questions at its noon briefing about Bangladesh had his family's house in Dhaka visited by the authorities, and his media's website blocked, what did the UN do?

  Not much, it seems. After asking the UN Spokesperson and others in the UN in writing, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what he or the UN had done. Video here.

  All that Dujarric would say is that he had spoken with the journalist. But what does that accomplish? Anything said publicly? Or (next story) to the country? Apparently not.

  On February 28 Inner City Press for FUNCA asked the Spokesperson:

1) [The journalist] who has been asking questions about Bangladesh at the noon briefing of late and about whom Inner City Press asked on February 27 now says that his media has now been blocked in Bangladesh, and he fears for the safety of his spouse and two children there.

On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, any UN comment? Or action?

2) please explain the correction today by your office, changing “saddened” to “condemn” -- was any complain received by the UN about the failure to condemn? Was the initial (or second) statement prepared by the Department of Political Affairs?

Finally, where are the Sri Lanka read-outs requested by Inner City Press and seemingly promised on Friday, Feb 27? This is an ongoing request.

 And only this answer came: "the statement resissue was due clerical error on our part. Nothing more. On the rest we"ll revert."

 But there was no reversion. By March 2, nothing on it. Nor from elsewhere in the UN system where it and more was sent.  So the question was asked at the March 2 UN noon briefing. We'll have more on this.

 On February 27 Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: Press freedom question, both in Bangladesh and about Bangladesh here.  One, there was a pretty high-profile hacking to death of a blogger in Bangladesh named Avijit Roy, and I'm wondering whether the UN system, CPJ and others have denounced it for obvious reasons.  What does the UN say about that?  And also our colleague who's asked a number of questions here about Bangladesh, I tried to ask MALU yesterday whether it was true as reported in Bangladesh that the Government of Bangladesh or mission made some inquiry with the UN trying to essentially question his accreditation or make it so he couldn't ask questions here.  And I wanted to know, what's the position of the UN on such inquiries?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The UN's position is if somebody meets the accreditation criteria, they are welcome in this room and they are welcome to ask any questions.  I may cut them off if the preamble to their question is too long, but that's just my chair's prerogative.

Inner City Press:  Is it appropriate for Member States to try to essentially, like, cherry pick what journalists get to ask questions?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The point is that once they're in this room, they're allowed to ask whatever they want.  Okay?  On the attack of the blogger, we spoke to our human rights colleagues who obviously condemned the attack and expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice through the due process of law, and they've added that it's obviously very important that the space for freedom of expression in civil society be upheld in Bangladesh.

   After the briefing, Inner City Press and FUNCA were informed that the referenced journalist -- not the murdered blogger -- had his media's website blocked in Bangladesh, where there have been arrests for carrying placards, and threats against the Daily Star for publishing photographs of posters. We'll have more on this.

March 2, 2015

On Bangladesh, ICP Asks UN of Murdered Blogger Avijit Roy, UN-free Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- Amid the violence in Bangladesh, Inner City Press has five times asked the UN how it reviews whether the military personnel it uses from Bangladesh have not been involved in human rights violations. February 5 videoUN's February 20 transcript; February 23 transcript, video here.

  Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have also asked about freedom of expression in Bangladesh, which has taken an even more tragic turn. On February 27 Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: Press freedom question, both in Bangladesh and about Bangladesh here.  One, there was a pretty high-profile hacking to death of a blogger in Bangladesh named Avijit Roy, and I'm wondering whether the UN system, CPJ and others have denounced it for obvious reasons.  What does the UN say about that?  And also our colleague who's asked a number of questions here about Bangladesh, I tried to ask MALU yesterday whether it was true as reported in Bangladesh that the Government of Bangladesh or mission made some inquiry with the UN trying to essentially question his accreditation or make it so he couldn't ask questions here.  And I wanted to know, what's the position of the UN on such inquiries?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The UN's position is if somebody meets the accreditation criteria, they are welcome in this room and they are welcome to ask any questions.  I may cut them off if the preamble to their question is too long, but that's just my chair's prerogative.

Inner City Press:  Is it appropriate for Member States to try to essentially, like, cherry pick what journalists get to ask questions?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The point is that once they're in this room, they're allowed to ask whatever they want.  Okay?  On the attack of the blogger, we spoke to our human rights colleagues who obviously condemned the attack and expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice through the due process of law, and they've added that it's obviously very important that the space for freedom of expression in civil society be upheld in Bangladesh.

   After the briefing, Inner City Press and FUNCA were informed that the referenced journalist -- not the murdered blogger -- had his media's website blocked in Bangladesh, where there have been arrests for carrying placards, and threats against the Daily Star for publishing photographs of posters. We'll have more on this.

  On February 25, amid push-back at the questions, Inner City Press asked with even greater specificity:

February 23, 2015

On Bangladesh, ICP Asks UN How Reviews Peacekeepers, If Meet Zia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 20-- Amid the violence in Bangladesh, UN official Oscar Fernandez Taranco appeared on the schedule of US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal on February 11, to meet at 3:45 pm. Inner City Press surmised, since Taranco was previously sent to Dhaka for the UN, that it was about Bangladesh.

 Now on February 20, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's meeting with Bangladesh's foreign minister, and how UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous reviews the human rights records of those the country sends to UN mission, on which we will have more. From the UN's February 20 transcript:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you on Bangladesh, I saw the readout of the Secretary-General's discussion with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, urging, instruct, to engage constructively with the opposition.  Because there's some, either confusion I've seen in the Bangladeshi press, is there, does this mean to meet with former Prime Minister Zia and to withdraw terrorism and other charges against her?  And also, I wanted to ask this again because there's now a very specific list of Bangladesh military figures who are accused of abuses now and back in May 2013 who are now serving in missions, i.e., there's a list of people serving in a variety of UN peacekeeping missions.  So I wanted to know, either now or later today, can Peacekeeping describe what review it’s made of Bangladesh military figures given the concerns…

Spokesman Dujarric: I don't have any information on the peacekeeping aspect.  I think what the Secretary-General has been calling in his meeting with the Foreign Minister, in the letters that were sent, is encouraging the Government to seek concrete ways to de-escalate the situation and to engage constructively with the opposition for the long-term benefit and development of the country.

Inner City Press:  And that usually means meeting.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Engaging in the opposition to me, the general definition of opposition are people who are not in power.

   As noted, we'll have more on Herve Ladsous' failure to vet Bangladesh's "peacekeepers," now as his DPKO won't answer this basic question.

 This comes after it emerged that Ban Ki-moon sent January 30 letter(s) to the country, even though the government there says they only got the letter much later. What explains the delay? On February 18, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Duajrric:

Inner City Press: I asked about Bangladesh yesterday and there was some response.  Now, it's been confirmed by the Government there that they received a letter from the Secretary-General.  They said they received it two days ago, but in other accounts, it was dated 30 January, and the Government there is saying they're asking the UN Resident Representative why it was lost in the mail for two weeks.  But one, can you confirm the letter?  Can you say a little bit what's… what you can, what's in it?  And also is it true that it took two weeks for Ban Ki-moon's letter to reach Sheikh Hasina?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I can check on the letter and see what we can tell you about the letter.  The standard procedure for these letters is, if there was such a letter, is that the letter is transmitted through the Permanent Mission here and then the Permanent Mission transmits it back to capital.

Inner City Press:  Right. They quote from the letter that the Secretary-General is thanking Sheikh Hasina for the country's contributions for peacekeeping.  Some people think it puts the UN kind of in a tough spot.  Like, what's the balance between thanking for much-needed peacekeepers and also trying to hold somebody accountable for violence in the streets?

Spokesman:  Well, I think you could do both, but I will look at the letter for you. 

   Twenty three hours later, no answer. Back on February 17, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: there was a report that Mr. [Oscar Fernández-]Taranco is going there on a visit, and this was denied by the Permanent Mission here, Ambassador [Abdul] Momen, who said he has not spoken to him.  Can you… is Mr. Taranco seeking to go to the country, and why hasn't he spoken with the Permanent Representative here in New York?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, right now on the first question:  There's currently no plan at this point for Mr. Fernández-Taranco to travel back to Bangladesh.  He has been there before.  He has been tasked by the Secretary-General to be in contact with the Government and the opposition and he will continue with those efforts.  But, at this point, like I said, there's no travel to announce.

  Back on February 12, Inner City Press asked UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman if Taranco in Washington had been addressing Bangladesh. Feltman genially replied, yes, that among other issues. Even though Taranco, as a product of the UN's so-called Five Year Rule, moved to the Peacebuilding Department, he is still the UNHQ's man on Bangladesh.

 Later at the February 12 noon briefing, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, saying he was answering Inner City Press' questions from the day before, confirmed that Taranco's meeting with the US State Department's Biswal had addressed Bangladesh. Was that so hard?

February 16, 2015

After Selling UN Jobs in DRC & Haiti, Cote d'Ivoire Deputy Still in UN

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- In UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, positions in missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti were corruptly put up for sale, a 49-page “Strictly Confidential” UN investigative report obtained and exclusively published by Inner City Press on February 7 show.

  On February 12, despite the UN investigative report depicting in detail Cote d'Ivoire's Deputy Permanent Representative Bafetegue Ouattara soliciting and taking bribes to sell posts in Ladsous' MONUSCO and MINUSTAH missions, Inner City Press ran into Bafetegue Ouattara in the basement of the UN, by the garage. After an exchange of words, including a demand to know who leaked the report to Inner City Press (demand rejected), at noon Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: the corruption one is as follows:  It has to do with that OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report that was leaked showing the payment of bribes for peacekeeping posts.  I’d asked Farhan, but I wanted to ask you more because, this morning, I actually ran into the named deputy representative of Côte d’Ivoire, Bafetegue Ouattara, in the building, and since this report, which began in 2013 and was finalized in 2014, has banking records proof of the payment of bribes for peacekeeping posts, I just wondered what does the UN do?  I understand that the peacekeepers have been asked to return home, but the person who solicited and took bribes… does the UN have no recourse at all?

Spokesman Dujarric:  You know, as you well know… As you well know, diplomats are sent here by their Governments.  We have no authority over them.  It is up to national Governments to take action against these, against individuals.

Inner City Press: Is there nothing that a diplomat could do even inside this building that the UN would take action on?  This was soliciting bribes for UN posts.

Spokesman:  As I said, this person works for the Government of the Côte d’Ivoire, it would be up to them to take appropriate action.

  So again - there is NOTHING that a diplomat couldn't do at the UN? It cannot be said that this UN has zero tolerance for corruption - far from it. Later on February 12, UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous, who refuses to answer any Press questions, was hobnobbing with diplomats in the Delegates' Entrance to the UN General Assembly. We'll have more on this.

 On February 10 there was a partial answer, video here; transcript here, including

Inner City Press:  Do you think that this… the panel on peacekeeping operations under [José] Ramos-Horta, is this the type of obviously kind of hole in the system that was exploited for personal gain that should be reviewed?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  This is a clear-cut case of corruption which was found by our Office for Internal Oversight Services, and we're following up on that.  Clearly, quite a good measure of the follow-up also needs to be handled by the Member State involved.

   But there are many unresolved questions; watch this site.

 Two days after that exclusive, on February 9 Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq for the response of UN Peacekeeping, whose chief Herve Ladsous since Inner City Press raised corruption has refused all Press questions, specifically what Ladsous has done in the ten months he has been on notice of this corruption, as shown by the leaked documents. February 9 video here.

 On February 10, UN deputy spokesperson Haq came to the noon briefing with a prepared answer, which he read out. February 10 video here. He said that further recruitment of UN Police for Cote d'Ivoire has been suspended pending that country taking action.

 Inner City Press asked if all ten police described as paying bribes have been repatriated, for the status of the Deputy Permanent Representative Ouattara shown taking bribes, and if inquiries have been made with other countries which send soldiers or police to the UN.
 
  Haq said that the ten have left or are in the process of leaving. Six months after the final report? "In the process of leaving"?

 Worse, Haq said it is up to Cote d'Ivoire if the Deputy Permanent Representative remains in his post at and in the UN. Isn't collective bribes for UN posts a crime? And not only in Cote d'Ivoire?

 Inner City Press asked Haq if this obvious loophole allowing corruption will be reviewed by Ban Ki-moon's panel of Peace Operations, to which Inner City Press has already forwarded the OIOS report. Video here.

 Another question that has been raised to Inner City Press by diplomats after reading the exclusive is whether Ladsous had a duty, at least before the UN Security Council's trip to Haiti last month led by Chile and the US to tell Council members that bribes had been collected for positions in the MINUSTAH mission there.

 Inner City Press has raised the question to MINUSTAH's chief and spokesperson, as to DR Congo mission MONUSCO's chief Martin Kobler, separate story here (as Kobler runs to be Ladsous' peer atop UN aid agency OCHA.)

 Haq told Inner City Press that "this was corruption found by our own internal oversight." But the report says the UN's OIOS "received" information about these possibly corrupt practices on July 24, 2013. We'll have more on this.

February 9, 2015

Exclusive: UN Jobs Sold By Ivorian Mission in Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping, Leaks Show

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- In UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, position in missions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Haiti was corruptly put up for sale, a 49-page “Strictly Confidential” UN investigative report obtained and exclusively published by Inner City Press show.

   The report, by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, is an “Investigation into Corrupt Practices in the Selection and Recruitment of Members of UN Police for UN Peacekeeping Operations,” #353/13. Referred to is “Le Departement des operations de maintien de la paix et son SGA M. Herve Ladsous.”

   The documents show that Ladsous was formally informed of the corrupt recruitment practices in his Department by Cote d'Ivoire all the way back on April 22, 2014. But, whistle-blowing sources tell Inner City Press, little to nothing has been done. “It's a cover up,” one source complained to Inner City Press. Hence this publication.

   Inner City Press, prior to this exclusive publication, has raised its contents to two members of the Cote d'Ivoire Permanent Mission to the UN, referred to throughout. Ladsous, once questions of corruption was raised, has refused all Inner City Press questions, for example here.

   Under Ladsous, the Cote d'Ivoire mission, in particular its Deputy Permanent Representative Bafetigue Ouattara, was allowed to charge money to choose and promote UN Peacekeeping personnel. One witness said it was like Bafetigue Ouattara “had  your career in his hands.”

  (While Inner City Press is informed that Bafetigue Ouattara is no relation to the Ivorian president, others say he let people believe that he was, and that despite the exposure of his role to Ladsous since at least April 22, 2014, Permanent Representative Youssoufou Bamba has suffering more repercussions.

  In a January 5, 2015 letter, Bamba states that he told Ladsous of the racket (“practique de racket”) in UN Peacekeeping missions.. On January 22, 2015, Ladsous refused to answer any Inner City Press question, saying “I do not respond to you, Mister.” Video here.

  The corruption was first discovered in Ladsous' mission in the DR Congo, MONUSCO.  Bafetigue Ouattara was copied on correspondence and thereupon wrote to all Ivorian officers in MONUSCO coaching them on what to say and not say. Hubertine Foue, part of the corruption in MONUSCO, was by then in Ladsous' mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

 But Ivorian authorities in Abidjan -- in the Ouattara government -- were said to ban Ms. Foue from traveling to the UN in New York to be interviewed.

  The “strictly confidential” UN report says that Bafetigue Ouattara charged $4,000 to arrange placements in Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping missions. Paragraph 39. Several of the payments were made via the Trust Merchant Bank account of Hubertine Foue as an intermediary. Paragraphs 40 and 43.

   After detailing sample cases of payments for jobs in Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping mission, the report detailed the transfer of the payments from Hubertine Foue to  Bafetigue Ouattara, for example 10 million CFA Francs put into the ABRI Housing Project. Paragraph 221, Figure 6.

ICP Exclusive: Cote d'Ivoire Mission Sold Jobs in Herve Ladsous' MONUSCO and MINUSTAH by Matthew Russell Lee

  Another part of the payment was to buy Bafetigue Ouattara, then living in West Orange, New Jersey, a car, a Honda Pilot. To procure jobs in Ladsous' DRC mission MONUSCO,  Hubertine Foue transfered to Bafetigue Ouattara bank account in Cote d'Ivoire $18,834, then $13,000.

    But what has been done? Why has this been covered up? Who should be held accountable? How will the ongoing review panel into UN Peace Operations, chaired by Jose Ramos Horta, deal with this, and Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping? We'll have more in this exclusive series. Watch this site.

January 30, 2015

For UN on Middle East, Mladenov to Replace Serry, More Coming

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- The UN's new Middle East coordinator will be Nickolay Mladenov, Inner City Press can now report.

  Earlier, Inner City Press reported that Mladenov was leaving his post as UN envoy to Iraq; before that, Inner City Press asked Robert Serry how he was remaining in the Middle East post past Ban Ki-moon's stated five year rule, and despite PNG (persona non grata) threats from Israel. Now, the switch is being made.

  The hint, as to Iraq, was as Inner City Press exclusively reported, the UK's attempt to pick Mladenov's successor. That was opposed, and rejected. Now, after a “rude” call from UK Prime Minister Cameron to Ban Ki-moon, sources say rather than Cameron's first pick Andrew Lansley, UK candidate Caroline Spelman is in the lead.

  Picking Mladenov's successor in Iraq is in its final stages, and we will have more on that soon. Watch this site.

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January 26, 2015

On Ukraine, NZ Wants More “Purposeful” UNSC Engagement, Including Behind Closed Doors

By Matthew Russell Lee, Country by Country

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- Three weeks into a two year UN Security Council term, New Zealand's Permanent Representative Jim McLay on Wednesday offered a criticism, however diplomatic, to the Council's work on Ukraine.

   After speeches by his US counterpart Samantha Power and Russia's Vitaly Churkin, among others, McLay said that “we believe the Security Council must live up to its responsibility under the UN Charter. This Council met in 2014 no fewer than 27 times to discuss the situation in the Ukraine. So far we've seen very little impact from all this high level attention.”

   “And so it is,” McLay continued, “that at this meeting number 28, New Zealand affirms that this Council is properly seized of this matter and it calls for a more purposeful Council engagement with a real focus upon supporting efforts for negotiation a solution to this conflict. Only then we will see tangible outcomes for those most affected, the people of Eastern Ukraine.”

    When Ambassador McLay left the Security Council chamber, this reporter asked him what he meant about this “more purposeful Council engagement” on a topic which has devolved into little but accusatory speeches.

  McLay stopped and replied, “I'd prefer to leave that until we have some closed consultations.” He added of the day's Council meeting on Ukraine, “It was going to be in private, then some said it's going to be in public. We didn't object to that, but as you and I both know...” His voice trailed off.

   In the open meeting, Russia's Churkin said that “at the beginning of today's meeting we were supposed to have closed consultations to actually take a look at whether or not the Security Council could makes it contribution to settling the Ukrainian crisis. However the delegation of the United States waved its hand and, no.”

   Could taking at least part of the Security Council's meetings about Ukraine behind closed doors, where negotiation or at least more direct talk is possible, be a New Zealand contribution to the Council's work? Watch this site.

January 19, 2015

For OCHA Race, Outside Input Banned As UAE Joins Germany, Italy, UK 3

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Follow Up

UNITED NATIONS, January 17, Video I here -- Minutes after the UN announced on November 26  the departure of Humanitarian Affairs chief Baroness Valerie Amos, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq if the vacancy would be advertised for candidates from all countries, or if it is set aside for Amos' United Kingdom. And, Inner City Press asked on January 16, will the aid group OCHA works with play any role in the review? Video II here.

  On January 9, Inner City Press exclusively reported that the UK after first submitting only the name of Andrew Lansley has added too more, scarcely more qualified.

   And, significantly, the Italy had nominated Emma Bonino, sources exclusively told Inner City Press, and Germany nominated Martin Kobler, currently the head of the UN's Mission in the Congo.

  On January 14, Inner City Press was informed by sources of another candidate, a minister from the United Arab Emirates, Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, a member of the ruling family of Sharjah. The UAE has, it is noted,, the "Humanitarian City." And the UAE did give $1 million to OCHA's CERF last month.

   Bonino is well regarded in international circles -- one source said she is "too strong a character" for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to choose, another notes, sadly, health concerns -- and Kobler after Iraq has his experience in the Congo, for better and worse. Either is more experience than the UK troika.

  Beyond Lansley, whose qualification is a brief visit to UN health conferences, the other UK candidates sources tell Inner City Press are Caroline Spelman and Stephen O'Brien. 

  On January 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On the OCHA recruitment process to find the new person, I've been informed that the UK has submitted two additional names to make a total of three, that Italy, Germany and UAE have also put forward names and I'm sure others.  So, is it a wide open process?  Have other countries submitted more than one?  Is it still a matter of looking, giving in the first instance a look to the UK of those three names? What of the request by a number of highly respected humanitarian NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that the inter-agency standing committee, i.e. these NGOs that are outside of the UN system, be given some role in the review process?  And I wanted to know what’s the response of the Secretary to that request.

Spokesman Dujarric: Obviously, the recruitment process has been to get the best possible person.  Not for the first time, you seem to have more information than I do.  I have to say, we will not go into the details of the recruitment process.  As we said earlier, a call went out for names, for candidates.  A recruitment process is ongoing but the Secretary-General is solely responsible and it is being done under his authority.

Inner City Press:  In previous cases, even when there's no short list given out, there's a review panel, and I guess the request… since it's been made semi-publicly in a petition, especially for a job that involves providing aid in conjunction with NGOs all over the world--

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the Secretary-General and his senior staff are well aware of what the job implies.  And one could argue that every senior job in the UN involves working with outside partners.  The recruitment is being handled by the Secretary-General and his staff.
 
  So... no.

  Could the UK really lose this Under Secretary General post? It's looking more likely. If Kobler were chosen, would fellow German Angela Kane have to leave? We'll have more on this. 

January 12, 2015

Jailing of Journalists in Myanmar & Saudi Flogging Blogger Raised at UN by FUNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 8 -- Amid attacks on journalists and freedom of expression in countries all over the world, the United Nations under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is no sanctuary, nor champion, the Free UN Coalition for Access has found.

  Beyond stealth attempts to get the Press thrown out of the UN, there is often little but platitudes about attacks elsewhere.  FUNCA is Pressing the issue.

  On January 8, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Myanmar jailing at least 10 journalists, and Saudi Arabia preparing to flog a blogger, video here:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: I have two “freedom of the press” questions.  One is about Myanmar. The UN country team there. I saw that the Deputy Secretary-General’s meeting with the UN resident coordinator from Myanmar today.  In light of “Je Suis Charlie," I wanted to ask you the following:  Myanmar is listed as one of the top 10 jailers of journalists.  At least 10 journalists are in jail for having criticized the Government.  And I wanted to know, is it possible to know now or perhaps to hear from this resident coordinator, is this among the issues that the UN raises to Myanmar and what does the UN think of Myanmar’s record for locking up journalists for what they write?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the meeting is an internal meeting, as there are many between the Secretary-General… between the Deputy Secretary-General and the resident coordinator.  It’s a routine meeting.  As a principle and as I’ve said here repeatedly over the last few days, the Secretary-General has always reiterated his call for full freedom of the press.  He has spoken out when journalists have been jailed and that’s a consistent position of the United Nations.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  How about flogged?

Spokesman Dujarric: Oh, go ahead.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  it seems like the timing is just right, if he’s ready to speak out.  There’s a blogger in Saudi Arabia called Raif Badawi, he’s been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his blogs.  And according to Amnesty International, he’s going to be receiving 50 flogs a week for the next 20 weeks and it begins Friday.  So I wanted to know… this seems pretty extreme.

Spokesman:  Listen, I have… I have not seen that report.  I will take look at it.

  Seven hours later, nothing, even as others have commented on the impending flogging of this blogger.

  On January 6, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about attacks by Turkey on Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink whose home in Diyarbakir was searched amid dark self-serving of terrorism.

  UN Spokesman Dujarric replied he hadn't heard of the case. Video here.

  Also on January 6, FUNCA asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about Kuwait sentencing to one year and eight months in jail Saqr Al-Hashash for insulting - Tweeting against -- the Emir. The UN's response was a platitude. But FUNCA will continue.


 
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January 5, 2015

After ICC Papers In, Palestine Tells ICP Retroactive to Gaza, Nigeria Excused?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 2, more here -- Days after the UN Security Council rejected Palestine's draft resolution, Mahmoud Abbas on December 31 signed the Rome State to join the International Criminal Court. Inner City Press had asked Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour about just this move back on December 11, here.

  On January 2 just after the UN accepted Palestine's papers to join the ICC, Inner City Press asked Mansour if the decision has been made to ask for action on Israel at the ICC, and about the CRomnibus appropriations bill provision to cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does so. Video here and embedded below.

  Mansour said Palestine has already asked the ICC Registrar for retroactivity to cover the last Gaza war in 2014, and that he would met with a representative of the ICC Registrar, who happened to be in New York, in an hour's time.

  On the threatened funding cut, which Senator Chuck Schumer issued a press release about, Mansour said it was strange to punish the Palestinians for seeking justice.

  Inner City Press also asked Mansour if Nigeria's absention on the Palestine resolution surprised him. He said to focus on the larger power, and that Nigeria's Explanation of Vote sounded like they had voted Yes.

 So what happened?

December 29, 2014

UN Gave Its Staff's Dollars to Sudan, Falsely Blamed on US Sanctions

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, December 27, more here – With the UN belatedly moving to stand up to pressure from the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir, who has ordered UN officials Yvonne Helle and Ali Al-Za'tari to leave the country, Inner City Press has learned of a particularly shameful way in which the UN and Al-Za'tari tried to placate the Sudanese government, to the extend of giving it the U.S. dollars of UN national staff in Sudan.

   Last week Inner City Press exclusively reported on the UN Federal Credit Union abruptly telling UN national staff in Sudan that their accounts were being frozen and the dollars in them transferred to the Bank of Khartoum. Inner City Press has asked the UN, including UNDP, OCHA and UNFPA, to explain this.

   Today Inner City Press exclusively publishes a complaint filed with Ali Al-Za'tari about the change, here. Inner City Press notes that the decision to give the UN national staff's dollars to the Bank of Khartoum flies in the face, in fact, of the sanctions.  The complaint to Al-Za'tari states that

“UNFCU closed checking and savings accounts of national staff without prior notification and consultation and unilaterally transferred all funds of staff members' accounts to local saving accounts to be paid in SDG by Bank of Khartoum... Based on the long years of established provision of the UNFCU service, majority of national staff have made long term financial arrangements taking into account UNFCU deposits facilities which provided solutions to many of their problems such as medical treatments and education to them and their families.”

  UNFCU's President and CEO William Predmore told national staff in Sudan that that “as you may be aware, UNFCU is subject to U.S. Regulations (including those promulgated by the Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC)). In order to ensure compliance with those regulations, checking account services and debit card services were terminated for local staff.”

   (Many were stranded with AMT cards that didn't work, while their dollars were transferred to the Bank of Khartoum.)

  Contrary to what UNFCU's Predmore told staff in writing, the US OFAC has told UN staff that sanctions law and regulation does NOT require what the UN has done, citing 31 CFR 538.531.

  Tellingly, Predmore's letter to staff also says that the switch was made pursuant to UNDP's rules. What rules?

  Now the UN Security Council is set to meet on December 30 about Sudan's order to Ali Al-Za'tari and Yvonne Helle to leave; the Council will say they are in support of UN staff. What will they do about UN staff members' dollars having been given to the Sudanese authorities?

  In essence, UNDP and its Resident Coordinator Ali Al-Za'tari gave Khartoum the U.S. dollars of UN national staff, without notice. Even that wasn't enough to keep him in the country. But it is reminiscent of another UN scam Inner City Press exclusive uncovered, the overpayment of Myanmar by inflated foreign exchange rate in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.

  That was covered and credited – will this be? Or does the scam here extend to covering up the complicity of UN officials like not only Herve Ladsous but even, yes, Ali Al-Za'tari, who remained silent when UNFPA's country director was thrown out of Sudan in April, and as Inner City Press asked the UN on December 24, gave in quickly to the ouster of Yvonne Helle? Watch this site.

December 22, 2014

On Sri Lanka, Silva Memories In Front of Ball of UNCA, Run by Kohona's Ex-Landlord

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Earlier this week Inner City Press learned that the Sri Lankan military figure the government sent to the UN, where he became one of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's and Herve Ladsous' senior advisers on peacekeeping, was now leaving New York.

   Seeking confirmation and comment, including from Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona, Inner City Press staked-out (sample video here) the $100 ball of the UN Correspondents Association, whose past and future president Giampaolo Pioli previously rented one of his Manhattan apartment to Kohona -- when Kohona was a UN official, we point out due to Pioli's defensiveness and more (see below).

  There and elsewhere since, Inner City Press did indeed receive confirmation that Shavendra Silva is leaving New York. Some put on a positive gloss, that Shavendra Silva is returning to Sri Lanka at this time to help on Mahindra Rajapaksa's re-election campaign. Others said that as a military figure, Silva cannot do so.

  While in New York, beyond being put on Ban's and Ladsous's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations -- Ban said it was entirely up to member states -- Silva has been a man about town.

  See, for example, this tweeted photograph of him, in "Times Square Gossip," ironically at the Wounded Warriors Project gala in the Edison Ballroom, with Wije Kottahachchi and Rita Cosby.  (By contrast, UNCA has blocked Inner City Press from its moribund Twitter feed, despite Ban's Office of the Spokesman claiming that UNCA gets information out to all correspondents who cover the UN. To boot, UNCA's website is now restricted to those with a password. Some "journalists" organization.)

   At Shavendra Silva's farewell banquet, he praised other military figures and even sang a song about Sri Lanka. Kohona spoke about their different paths; another said that it was cricket that led Shavendra Silva to do what he did.

  And what was that?

  Back on December 9 when the UN's Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng took questions, Inner City Press asked him if he considered what happened in Sri Lanka in 2009 (and before and after) to be genocide, and of the work of and reaction to the UN panel, see below.

  Dieng said what happened in 2009 was a failure of the international community, with the killing of thousands "under our eyes." Video here.

  Dieng cited the UN's Petrie report, and then Ban Ki-moon (who'd gone on a Rajapaksa sponsored victory tour of northern Sri Lanka in mid 2009) later establishing a "Rights Up Front" program.

  (As Inner City Press points out, Ban has tellingly disconnected Rights Up Front from its roots of failure in Sri Lanka.)

December 15, 2014

From Haiti, 2d Video of UN Shooting Protesters, Threatening Media, Censors Award

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 13 -- UN Peacekeepers in Haiti have fired pistols and tear gas into crowds of people protesting the failure to hold elections. Video here; a second video is here. Now who will be help accountable?

   With questions unanswered, UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous had the gall on the afternoon of December 13 to rebroadcast MINUSTAH self-congratulations that ignored its filmed shooting at protesters and threatening media. Inner City Press initially asked the UN Spokesman:

"What were the rules of engagement? Who gave the order to use pistol(s) and, separately, tear gas? What is the UN's understanding of injuries caused? What was the role, and is the comment, of the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous?"

  Inner City Press twice, in two media, asked for an explanation or comment from the UN Spokesman, and Saturday afternoon received this:

"The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, (MINUSTAH), has been informed of an alleged excessive use of force, while responding to violent demonstrators targeting law enforcement personnel supporting the Haitian National Police (HNP) and causing injuries and destruction of property, during the demonstration in Port-au-Prince today. The Mission takes this allegation very seriously and immediately opened an investigation to establish the facts."

  Artfully, or inartfully, the MINUSTAH statement does not state that it is the UN's own alleged (filmed) excessive use of force - so is the UN investigating itself? We've asked the UN Spokesperson and weekend duty officer this:

Because the MINUSTAH statement leaves it unclear, can you confirm that it is the UN's own “alleged excessive use of force” that the UN is now investigating?

What is the time frame for the investigation?

Who is doing the investigation? MINUSTAH's human rights unit?

Can to state now that the results of the investigation will be made public?

Since the MINUSTAH statement expresses conclusions about the demonstrators (“violent,” “and causing injuries and destruction of property”) please provide similar preliminary findings as to UN Peacekeepers' action shown on this video:http://youtu.be/38owUZrNHzA

   Hours later, no answer, even as the second video emerged. Others in the UN system have been asked; we'll have more on that.

   Inner City Press has also sought comment from prospective UN-related awardee Andrea Bocelli, slated to accept without reference to the UN bringing cholera or now shooting into crowds there an award from the UN's Censorship Alliance next week -- and continues to await response.

December 8, 2014

At UN, 2d Sovereign Debt Restructuring Resolution Passes 128-16-34

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- The issue of sovereign debt restructuring was taken up against at the UN on December 5, with a resolution on modalities for negotiation sponsored by Bolivia for the Group of 77 and China put to a vote in the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly.

  The US spoke against the resolution and in favor of dealing with it through the International Monetary Fund -- note that the US is blocking IMF reform -- and was one of 16 countries to vote "no."  34 countries abstained and fully 128 countries voted yes.
 
  Afterward Bolovia's Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti and his counterpart from Argentina Maria Cristina Perceval held a press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room.

  Inner City Press thanked the duo for the Free UN Coalition for Access -- tellingly, the old UN Correspondents Association wasn't there, though the UN Secretariat insists on setting aside question for what's become its UN Censorship Alliance -- and asked about the IMF, and a growing investors in Argentina's debt.

  Llorenti emphasized the greater legitimacy of the UN General Assembly -- one country, one vote -- over the pay to play environment of the IMF. He contrasted the 16 "no" voting countries as a percentage of those in the GA, versus their power in the IMF.

  Perceval joined and expanded in this comments, and declined to comment on the company Inner City Press had asked about, Highland Capital. She said this is not about Argentina's problem but the multilateral process. She said that Argentina took a lead on the issue of the disappeared, though it was too late to help Argentina.

  While understandable, there's nothing wrong with a particular country's problems being an engine for raising an issue of wider import. This is how things get changed, if they do, says the Free UN Coalition for Access. We'll have more on this.

December 1, 2014

On Police Brutality, UNCAT Speaks on Chicago, Silent on Mike Brown, Ferguson

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 28 -- The UN in Geneva for days refused to release to US-based media without paid correspondents in Switzerland the UN Committee on Torture's concluding remarks on the US.

  Now they've gone online - and on police brutality they discuss Chicago but not Ferguson, Missouri, from which the family and supporters of Michael Brown, killed by police officer Darren Wilson, even traveled to Geneva. The report as belatedly put online says:

Excessive use of force and police brutality

26. The Committee is concerned about numerous reports of police brutality and
excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBTI individuals, racial profiling by police and immigration offices and growing militarization of policing activities. The Committee is particularly concerned at the reported current police violence in Chicago, especially against African-American and Latino young people who are allegedly being consistently profiled, harassed and subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers. It also expresses its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent
police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals. In this regard, the Committee notes the alleged difficulties to hold police officers and their employers
accountable for abuses. While noting the information provided by the delegation that over
the past five years 20 investigations were opened into allegations of systematic police
department violations, and over 330 police officers were criminally prosecuted, the
Committee regrets the lack of statistical data available on allegations of police brutality and
the lack of information on the result of the investigations undertaken in respect of those
allegations. With regard to the acts of torture committed by CPD Commander Jon Burge
and others under his command between 1972 and 1991, the Committee notes the
information provided by the State party that a federal rights investigation did not develop
sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that prosecutable constitutional
violations occurred, However, it remains concerned that, despite the fact that Jon Burge
was convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, no Chicago police officer has been
convicted for these acts of torture for reasons including the statute of limitations expiring.
While noting that several victims were ultimately exonerated of the underlying crimes, the
vast majority of those tortured –most of them African Americans–, have received no
compensation for the extensive injuries suffered (arts. 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16).
The State party should:
(a) Ensure that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by
law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an
independent mechanism with no institutional or hierarchical connection between the
investigators and the alleged perpetrators;
(b) Prosecute persons suspected of torture or ill-treatment and, if found
guilty, ensure that they are punished in accordance with the gravity of their acts;
(c) Provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims;
(d) Provide redress for CPD torture survivors by supporting the passage of
the Ordinance entitled Reparations for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors.

 The words Ferguson, Missouri and Brown appear nowhere in the report. In a Geneva press conference which was not on UN webcast or even the Treaty Bodies website, one UNCAT member was quoted by CNN. So it goes with the UN. We'll have more on this.

   The day after St. Louis Country prosecutor Bob McCulloch blandly read out a justification of the non-indictment of Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 25 in New York a protest march came by the United Nations, taking over First Avenue with non-violent chants of "Hands up, don't shoot!"

  The UN locked its gates, and New York City sent Corrections Department busses to park in front of the UN compound. Inner City Press joined the march, headed to Times Square, video here and see below.

  On November 28 at the UN in Geneva reports including one on Torture and police brutality in the United States will be released. On November 24 the UN said it was restricting embargoed copies of this report to its "UNOG-based press corps" - that is, media that can afford to have a correspondent in Switzerland.

  How many of the media that have consistently covered the murder of Mike Brown can afford that?

  Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access immediately challenged this restricted distribution. First Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman in New York, and now the UN in Geneva have refused to lift the restriction, without substantive explanation. On November 27, Inner City Press and FUNCA asked:

"Now on the eve of the press conference, reiterating the request below, that embargoed copies not be needlessly restricted only to "UNOG-based" press -
there is as much or more interest by US-based media in the report on US torture and police brutality as by media based in Geneva.  But US-based media that have reporters based in UNOG are larger, more corporate media. So that particular embargoed report should be released to all UN system accredited media, not only those with reporters based at UNOG. The Free UN Coalition for Access says that should go the other way, too -- embargoed UN reports should not be restricted to NY / UNHQ based media either."

On November 27, the UN in Geneva via Liz Throssell Media Officer for the UN Treaty Bodies, replied:

"Dear Matthew, The six-hour time difference is very much in your favour, and unlike the journalists here you will have an entire working day to report on the Committee against Torture's "Concluding Observations" on the eight countries they have been reviewing this session. These will be posted online at around 8:00 a.m. New York Time -- you will be able to find whichever ones that interest you by scrolling down through the countries listed here."

 But this is not responsive. As Inner City Press and FUNCA have replied, "the request is that you not arbitrarily limit embargoed copies only to “UNOG-based journalists.” They will be able to publish stories at the embargo time, while despite your message, others will not."

  Why limited pre-distribution of this report to the media which can afford to have a Switzerland-based correspondent? What is wrong with the UN? Click here for Inner City Press and FUNCA's coverage of the opaque race to head the UN Department of Public Information, here. The UN must do better.

  Back on November 25 in Times Square, amid the neon glitz, there were chants of "we do this for Mike Brown" and light-up signs for Justice. Seventh Avenue was shut down, peacefully. "All Lives Matter" -- video here. But where is it headed?

November 24, 2014

UN Rights Chief Zeid Faces Staff Protests, Lack of Transparency in NY, Leaks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 21 -- Protesting layoffs and lack of transparency, staff at the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights are petitioning new High Commissioner Prince Zeid for due process and accountability. Inner City Press has obtained the petition and is exclusively putting it online here.

In it, the OHCHR staff call for “transparent and comprehensive information on prospective cuts and restructuring, detailing their impact on savings and OHCHR’s overall financial situation... tangible accountability measures by attributing responsibility for the present crisis and taking the requisite action to prevent another financial crisis of this magnitude in the future and a meaningful dialogue and truly consultative decision-making on ongoing financial including putting decisions on hold.”

The staff complain to Zeid that “the lack of transparency, consultation and information on who, where or how, not to mention why, some of us are affected is deplorable and unacceptable.”

The lack of transparency in the current OHCHR extends from Geneva to New York, where the Office anonymously spun its Ukraine report to hand-picked scribes then refused when asked to explain the basis.

 Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked at the November 20 UN noon briefing that the New York representative of Prince Zeid hold a press availability about the report, including incongruities in report on labor issues such as the cut-off of pensions, click here for that.

  On accountability, the staff complain that the “senior management level evidently bears much more responsibility. Yet, it is other individuals at lower levels who are paying the price for this mismanagement.”

Also on accountability at the OHCHR, as Inner City Press has twice reported, document leaks from inside the UN have identified improper service of Morocco, on the question of Western Sahara, by a current staffer at the OHCHR, Anders Kompass, and by another who has recently left.

 Prince Zeid has yet to publicly address this scandal, though Inner City Press understands that no only is their an investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, but also inquiry from member states such as Sweden. Inquiry on them was not permitted at Zeid's one press availability this week in New York. Zeid's spokesman has indicated there will be no comment at all until OIOS' "investigation is completed." Since the OIOS process is far from transparent, this is the way the UN system tries to make issues go away, but it is even less appropriate at the UN's human rights office.

   Zeid should address this scandal - and his Office's staff. Watch this site.


 
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November 17, 2014

On Ebola, IMF Tells ICP Epidemic into 2d Half of 2015, More Funds Needed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13, updated with transcript -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 13, Inner City Press again asked about Ebola, including new World Bank estimates of budget shortfalls in Liberia.

 Inner City Press on November 13 asked, "On Ebola, what is the IMF's response to the US call for debt forgiveness for three countries? The World Bank has indicated that Liberia's revised 2014-15 budget has an unmet financing gap of more than half of the budget deficit projected at over $300 million. What can or will the IMF do about this?"

  IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray replied that given the flare up of Ebola cases in unexpected areas, "the IMF staff's previously projections were assuming the epidemic would be brought under control in the first quarter of 2015. However it now appears that it could be well into the second half of 2015 before the Ebola epidemic is brought under control in these three countries." Full transcript below.

 Murray said, "further support, preferably in grants form, will be needed." He replied similarly on debt relief, that the IMF would reach out to donors; he said that Executive Board involvement will be needed.

  From the IMF's subsequently released transcript:

IMF's William Murray: This is from Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On Ebola, if not answered, what is the IMF's response to the U.S. call for debt forgiveness for three countries, and given the World Bank's estimate of budget shortfalls in Liberia, what is the IMF going -- IMF doing, or will it do? Well Matthew I think I answered that question earlier. I mean, we have -- we've been closely and carefully following developments in West Africa and working actively with the authorities there. One thing I wanted to underline, is that you know, the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remains precarious. The international effort underway, together with behavioral changes on the part of populations, is making progress in controlling the disease. However, although the incidents in new cases has declined in parts of Liberia, there have been recent flare-ups in previously little affected towns. The IMF staffs' previous projections -- we're assuming that the epidemic would be brought under control by the first quarter of 2015. However it now appears that it could be well into the second half of 2015 before the Ebola outbreak is brought under control in the three affected countries. As a result, the economic outlook for these countries is now worse than it is at the time of the recent additional IMF support, and significant financing gaps are emerging for 2015. Further budget supports through bilateral and multilateral donors, preferably in grant form will be needed. And just to underscore, should the current outbreak be more protracted or spread to more countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, it would have larger spillovers, undermining confidence, investment decisions and trade activities. So the bottom line is we're closely monitoring the situation in the neighboring countries as they step up Ebola preparedness measures and address other fallouts of the epidemic.

  At the UN on November 12 when the UN Security Council met, Liberia's Ambassador Marjon Kamara spoke not of the IMF but of the World Bank, saying "the World Bank recently gave a gloomy depiction of the economic effects of the disease on the three most affected countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone."

     Per Thoresson, Deputy Ambassador of Sweden which chairs the UN Peacebuilding configuration on Liberia, specified that “according to the World Bank, the two-year regional financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015. The World Bank also indicated that Liberia's revised 2014-15 budget has an unmet financing gap of more than half of the budget deficit projected at over $300 million.”

  So where's the money going to come from?

November 10, 2014

As Sierra Leone President Jails Journalist for Ebola Reporting, What Will UN Do?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 5 -- After the President of Sierra Leone jailed a journalist for his reporting on Ebola, as well as for daring to question President Ernest Bai Koroma's performance, what has the UN done?

  The UN had a peacekeeping mission in the country, has a Country Team and now the UN Mission on Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER. So at the UN's November 5 noon briefing Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: In Sierra Leone a journalist, David Tam-Baryoh, has been put in jail, maximum security prison, for his reporting on Ebola under a law that says that it is a crime to undermine Government efforts to fight the epidemic. He's also questioned the third term for the Presiden Koroma. So, I wanted to know what is the UN system, given its involvement through UNMEER and otherwise, what do they say about this case? Also, it seems does UNMEER have any human rights mandate or component to it? I thought all kind of UN entities had some overarching or inherent Rights Up Front…

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: There's a country office in all three countries. Human Rights Up Front does apply to all UN staff and missions. What is… I don't have the particulars of this case, but it is clear that journalists need to be allowed to do their work free of intimidation and fear.

Inner City Press: What about a law that says, obviously, it's important to fight Ebola, but should a journalist be, should a law exist in which you clearly could be arrested for…?

Spokesman: I think, clearly, the media has a very important role to play in fighting… in part of our response against Ebola, whether it's fighting stigmatization or other issues.

Those are generalities, but what is the UN doing? What does Ban Ki-moon's "Rights Up Front," born of his failure in Sri Lanka in 2009, really mean? Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have been told that UN inquiries are being made. We'll have more on this.


 
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November 3, 2014

In Burkina Faso, US Warns Army Against Taking Advantage, UN UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee


UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- After the ouster in Burkina Faso of Blaise Compaore's 27-year rule, the US State Department Spokesperson on the evening of October 31, Halloween, said:

"The United States is concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso.  We regret the violence and the loss of life in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence.  We reiterate our call for all parties to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power and holding of democratic elections following the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore.  We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people’s support for the democratic process."

 Minutes later the US State Department issued a travel alert on "the risks of travel to or residing in Burkina Faso and recommends U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel.  This Travel Alert will expire on January 29, 2015. On October 31, Burkina Faso’s President Compaore resigned.  The status of a transitional government remains unclear.  There are incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country."

   For days the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been vaguely calling for calm. On October 31 at noon Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: the UN seems to in peace processes work pretty closely with Burkina Faso.  So I wonder when, if you can maybe say, when the President began to talk about changing term limits and going beyond his current 27 years of rule, did anyone in the UN system say, maybe it's a bad idea, maybe it's time… maybe your Government is too strong, maybe it's time for somebody else?  Or was it hands off?  What was the view of that?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think it's… first of all, I doubt that there were any consultations by the President and the UN on what his decisions were, what the parliament's decision was going to be, you know, so I think we're trying to imagine conversations that were not had.

Inner City Press: What I'm saying is, the UN has actively asked the Burkina authorities to play a role in a variety of regional conflicts; it seems like there are kind of discussions, and also by making that request, they're saying that this 27-year person is a…

Spokesman:  I think, you know, Burkina Faso has a role to play in the regional… in keeping regional peace.  I think every country in any region has that role to play.

Inner City Press:  What's Mr. Chambas doing there?

Spokesman:  He was sent by the Secretary-General.  He'll be meeting with key stakeholders.  He arrived this morning.  Obviously, the situation is changing at a very rapid clip, and he will be talking with key stakeholders. 

   Ah, the UN.

  Why did the US - and the UN Secretariat -- support his 27 year rule, while criticizing others?

 Twenty seven years ago, Thomas Sankara was overthrown and killed in a coup led by Blaise Compaore.

  It was under Sankara that the country's name change from "Upper Volta" to Burkina Faso, land of the upright. History records two meetings of Sankara and France's Francois Mitterand. At the Vittel conference, Mitterand stared stony-faced ahead as Sankara spoke of seeking foreign relations with countries beyond France.

  And later, after South African apartheid leader Pieter Botha had visited France, Sankara criticized Mitterand to his face in Ouagadougou, after Mitterand drove through the streets waving at the crowd. Soon the Compaore coup would kill Sankara, and France and Boigny would congratulate Compaore. The rest is history.

 And new colonies, too: France has laid claim to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, controlling the Security Council's pen and most recent trip there, down to which media could go on the "UN" plane.

  France for over sixteen years has controlled UN Peacekeeping, now through Herve Ladsous, twice spurned, who refuses to answer or even take Press questions.

  What would Thomas Sankara say? On this day, and going forward, we must ask. Watch this site.


 
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October 27, 2014

On Haiti Cholera, UN Confirms Hearing, Briefing Privatized, Lang Lang No Update

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24, with a song -- On the UN having brought cholera to Haiti, the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon didn't even "appear" at the October 23 court hearing. Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq again on October 24. Haq replied, "I can confirm there was a hearing yesterday. In light of its immunity, the UN did not appear in court. The US asserted the position that [the UN] officials are immune." Video here (October 24) and here (October 23).

  Inner City Press asked Haq about U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain arguing to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken that the case could unleash a huge set of claim against the UN. Why, Inner City Press asked, doesn't Ban Ki-moon just waive immunity in this case, while maintaining it in others? No answer.

  Twenty minutes later when pianist Lang Lang appeared in the UN Press Briefing Room as a UN Messenger of Peace promoting the evening's UN Day concert, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked him and asked what he thought of the UN's impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, and if he would think of any other ways the UN should improve.

  Lang Lang apologized, saying he hadn't heard of the case.

  That the UN Secretariat tries to downplay it, with UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refusing Press questions about it is one thing. But earlier on October 24 the so-called UN Correspondents Association took a briefing that would and should have been in the same webcast UN Press Briefing Room as Lang Lang appeared it and put it, without webcast, into the clubhouse the UN give to what has become its UN Censorship Alliance.

   UNCA, this UN Censorship Alliance, angled to privatize this event after itself promoting, protecting and having provided photo ops to Ban Ki-moon, and seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN.

  One continues to wonders why those involved in this event and broadcasters' film didn't go to the UN's Press Briefing Room, sponsored by a member state like St. Vincents which spoke on the issue, as covered here by Inner City Press. That way it would have been promoted to and have included all journalists at the UN, not just that subset which pays money to UNCA. Also, that way it would have been in UNTV webcast, viewable around the world including in Haiti. As noted, an important documentary and panel, but the means are the end: today's UNCA gives Ban Ki-moon's UN more impunity. We'll have more on this.

October 20, 2014

For UNSC Turkey Loses with 60, Spain 132, NZ 145, Venezuela, Angola, Malaysia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 16, more here -- As the UN General Assembly Hall filled for the annual election of UN Security Council members, the largest entourage passing the GA stakeout was that of Turkey, photo here, for its face-off with Spain and New Zealand for two seats.

  But when the voting was over, in the third round, Turkey got only 60 votes, bested by Spain with 132. In the first round New Zealand won a seat with 145, joining Angola with 190, Malaysia with 187 and Venezuela with 181 and eight abstaining - including the US?

  In the middle of all this voting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon insisted on holding a "travelogue" stakeout, as one diplomat called it, about his trip to Israel and Palestine. 

  After receiving numerous complaints from diplomats, Inner City Press ran and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Ban didn't agree that the General Assembly is the highest organ of the UN, with all 193 member states represented - and all 193 present on October 16 for voting.

  Dujarric replied that this was the only time that Ban could speak. Really? Inner City Press put the same question to the spokesman for General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, Jean Victor Nkolo, who said diplomatically that the vote took place in the GA Hall, presided over by the PGA.

  Afterward diplomats told Inner City Press that Turkey's policies, most recently on Kobane, hurt it, that even some Arab League states that "had" to vote for Turkey told their Asian colleagues not to. One diplomat asked, perhaps, if Turkey will now give up the "Turkish Lounge" area it branded in front of the Security Council -- and from which the Free UN Coalition for Access notes the press has been banned. Another asked if the 3:30 pm photo op of Ban and Turkey's foreign minister will be canceled. We'll have more on this.

   Inner City Press polled diplomats about their votes -- there were more laughs than candid answers -- then headed up to the photographers' booth over the GA floor. All was well until the President of the GA said to not take photos as countries cast their ballots. So they can tell you what to photograph?

  On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press challenged the policy, tweeting a photograph of the desks below, complete with New Zealand's swag bag.

  UN Media Accreditation and Liaison came in and told Inner City Press to leave the booth, it was only for "wire services." But MALU has no definition of wire service, as another FUNCA member has long pointed out. And the spot Inner City Press was ousted from was given to the UN's in-house photo service. This is today's UN.

  On the eve of the vote at the UN to elect five new members to the Security Council, one of the candidates in the contested race, Turkey, held a reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

  Numerous diplomats milling around the Starlight Roof Ballroom marveled to Inner City Press at Turkey's bombing of the PKK while across the border Kobane is under siege. But even most of these predicted that Turkey would win a seat, citing the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its 57 votes.

  Introduced by Turkish Ambassador Halit Cevik, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked those in attendance, singling out his Spanish counterpart, then gave a short speech. He said, "Peace at home, peace in the world," which some found ironic.

More here.

October 13, 2014

Somalia & Eritrea Monitor Resigns, Exposed Using UN to Press Regime Change

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up to Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, October 8 -- On October 7 Inner City Press exclusively reported that a member of the UN's Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group Dinesh Mahtani used UN SEMG time and letterhead for unrelated advocacy regarding Eritrea. Mahtani's letter was exclusively put online here by Inner City Press.

On October 8, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Mahtani's letter and if it was appropriate behavior for a sanctions monitor.  No, Dujarric said, adding that the letter was shown “shown” to Dinesh Mahtani, who has resigned. Video here.

 Sources had told Inner City Press that Dinesh Mahtani, the finance expert on SEMG and previously on the DR Congo Sanctions group, was found requesting favors from a member state, to which the SEMG reports. Here is a document:

a letter from Dinesh Mahtani, ostensibly in his SEMG role, saying that former Eritrean official Ali Abdu "has great potential to play a stabilizing role in Eritrea with the country possibly headed to an uncertain period in its history."

This is hardly the first controversy in the SEMG -- but usually the members wait until they are off or on their way off the Monitor Group to “let it all hang out,” as one source put it of previous SEMG chair Matt Bryden.

  The current chair, Jarat Chopra, has faced complaints from Somalia, also exclusively reported by Inner City Press.

  Bryden's departure was telegraphed in remarks to, and a report by, Inner City Press on July 24, 2012 when Security Council members from three countries gave Inner City Press exclusive and negative reviews of Bryden's performance.

  "He's leaving," one of them said dismissively and definitely of Bryden. There was snarky speculation Bryden may have been angling for a book deal, or a post with a group like HRW.

  With Bryden the questions were larger of leaking, of micro-managing the Eritrean air force and more. Those about Mahtani, the sources tell Inner City Press, are "bigger... regime change on UN letterhead." Now Mahtani has resigned. We'll have more on this.

October 6, 2014

After French DefMin Met UN's Ban & Ladsous, No Read-Out, Used CAR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 -- More than twenty four hours after French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian came to the UN on October 3 and met the UN's Ban Ki-moon and former French diplomat Herve Ladsous, the UN had provided no read-out.

  Earlier on October 3 Le Drian had met with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Hagel said they discussed if France will join the US in airstrikes in Syria. Did Le Drian discuss this with Ban and Ladsous as well?

 Even France 24 reported what Hagel said. To extrapolate to the UN is not a stretch - except, apparently, for big wigs or grands fromages in the UN press corps. At NPR, Michele Kelemen interviewed Le Drian who said France is very "transparent" about its positions on Syria. So why no read-out?

 There emerges a photo of Le Drian and Ladsous, marking some agreement, here. Ostensibly it's for the French troops in Sangaris to cooperate with Ladsous' MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic. But with reports of French troops killing in CAR, most recently in Bambari, would UN Peacekeeping under former French diplomat Herve Ladsous really look into this? He does not answer Press questions.

   As regards Syria, Ladsous most recently ordered peacekeepers from Fiji and the Philippines to surrender to the Jabhat al Nusra rebels, or terrorists, in the Golan Heights.

  When Inner City Press tried to asked Ladsous questions on September 26, Ladsous refused to answer. On September 27, as Inner City Press filmed from the entirely legal UN General Assembly stakeout area, Ladsous came over and blocked Inner City Press' camera and demanded, what do you want with this?

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has been asked twice about what Ladsous did, for the Free UN Coalition for Access, but has yet to respond. Dujarric previously told FUNCA that then French Ambassador Gerard Araud should have accorded a UN correspondent from Lebanon (more) respect rather than telling the correspondents, “You are not a journalist, you are an agent.” But Dujarric declined to instruct the French mission to this effect. Of Araud's replacement Francois Delattre the Press so far knows little but retains an open mind.

  We repeat, now also on behalf of FUNCA:

  For a meeting like Ban's with Le Drian, there should be a a read-out. Watch this site.


 
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September 27, 2014

Ladsous Demands Press Stop Filming at Stakeout, Walks Off with Scribes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27, video here -- When UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous arrived at the General Assembly stakeout to try to do his question and answer on Mali early as he did on South Sudan, without the Press present, it didn't work.

  Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu had booked the stakeout, and Inner City Press was there. As Ladsous stood at the stakeout, Inner City Press filmed as it did on September 26 when Ladsous refused to answer basic Press questions about his missions in Central African Republic and Golan.

  Ladsous demanded, What are you going to do with this? He and a staffer tried to block the filming with file folders. Then he got UN Media Accreditation to ask Inner City Press to put down the camera and stop filming. But this is the stakeout. The Free UN Coalition for Access defends the rights to cover the UN. (The old UN Correspondents Association has partnered with Ladsous, first along with Agence France Presse and then further.)

   Ladsous and one of his "publicity" staffers tried to block the filming with file folders. Video here. Finally Ladsous walked away with his team including the Reuters correspondent who has himself engaged in censorship, telling Google to remove from Search his "for the record" complaint to UN Media Accreditation, claiming it is copyrighted. It is a strange position from a media that claims exclusive leaks.

   After Ladsous stormed off, two of his staffers returned to say that the stakeout still might happen. But at 2:42 pm, an hour and forty-two minutes after it was supposed to happen, the UN said it was canceled - but not why.

   Before UN Peacekeeping held its September 26 meeting about the Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Uganda deciding not to send its troops as peacekeepers to the MINUSCA mission, under Herve Ladsous.

Dujarric said he would try to get an answer, but none was sent six hours later. So when Herve Ladsous, the fourth French chief of UN Peacekeeping in a row, came to the General Assembly stakeout past 6 pm on September 26, Inner City Press several times put the question to him: What about the Ugandans? Video here.

  Ladsous made his opening statement only in French, then ignored the Press question in English about Uganda pulling out of his peacekeeping mission, at the same time that the Philippines is pulling out of Ladsous' mission in the Golan Heights after he ordered their troops to surrender to the Al Nursa Front extremist group, which still has their UN Peacekeeping vehicles, weapons and uniforms.

Instead, Ladsous pointed at Agence France Presse, which previously on Ladsous' behalf filed complaints against Inner City Press, including through UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  The first time was when Inner City Press reported that Ladsous was by no means the first choice to replace Alain Le Roy atop peacekeeping, but was deposited into the job after the UN decided that the first choice, Jerome Bonnafont, was too flashy. So they got Ladsous.

Ladsous on September 26 proceeded to brag about new countries coming into UN Peacekeeping, singling out Sweden. Inner City Press once again asked, what about Uganda pulling out of the CAR mission, and added, what about the Filipinos pulling out of his mission in the Golan? Video here.

Ladsous as has become his practice - compilation here, UK coverage here - refused to answer and walked away with two of his aides.

September 22, 2014

UN Blames Its Lack of Freedom of Info on Unnamed States, FUNCA Presses

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- The UN's lack of accountability, from bringing cholera to Haiti to using as “peacekeepers” armies under investigation for war crimes like those of the DR Congo and Sri Lanka, is enabled by the lack of even a basic Freedom of Information Act covering the UN.

Inner City Press, which has litigated FOIA cases all the way to the US Supreme Court and submitted FOI request to dozens of countries, has long pushed for a UN Freedom of Information Act.

   As reported on September 15 by the Columbia Journalism Review, “Inner City Press... reported that Burnham’s successor, Alicia Barcena, said it would be in place by the end of 2007. But the General Assembly never agreed on the scheme, and it was quietly shelved. “There were differing views among Member States about what constituted openness,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in an email.”

  (Inner City Press asked Dujarric about the quote at the September 15, 2014, noon briefing, video here and embedded below.)

  What leadership -- citing “differing views,” the UN Secretariat gave up before it even began. CJR also quotes a rights group which won't disclose what issues it raises to Ban, and correspondents happy to get leaks and text from their Western sources. This same organization, beyond its Executive Committee trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, withheld its Q&A with Ban Ki-moon even from its own members, here.

  In order to pursue more access to information -- and the protection of the rights of investigative journalists against such insider approaches -- Inner City Press co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access.

  FUNCA says it is absurd for the UN Secretariat to blame member states for its own refusal to be transparent with its own financial information. Furthermore, how can Ban's UN make claims about “we the peoples” while blaming unnamed governments for banning accountability to the peoples?

September 15, 2014

In CAR, UN to Use Copters of Sri Lanka, Under UN Probe for 2009 War Crimes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 11, more here -- With UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous set to take over the mission in Central African Republic on September 15, the UN's desperation and / or lack of standards has come too the fore.

   Ladsous decided to "re-hat" to UN Blue the DR Congo Army, which is on the UN's own list of child soldier recruiters.

   Sri Lanka's Army, being investigated by a panel formed by vote by the UN Human Rights Council for abuses in 2009, when tens of thousands of civilians were killed, has been accepted by Ladsous to provide helicopters to his mission in former French colony CAR.

  Tellingly, Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions (video compilation here, UK coverage here); the UN's Censorship Alliance threatened the Press not only to stop covering connections from Sri Lanka and its war crimes but also Ladsous.  This is what the UN is becoming; the new Free UN Coalition for Access opposes it.

   Last month after French "peacekeepers" reported shot and killed five people in the PK5 neighborhood of Bangui in the Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about it on August 21, video here. Dujarric essentially said Inner City Press should have asked the UN's chief in CAR about the shootings... before they happened. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in the Central African Republic there are reports of fighting between the residents of PK-5 neighbourhood of Bangui and the French peacekeepers or soldiers, five killed, 40 injured, and I’m wondering, does the mission there, are they monitoring that, are they looking into how it happened?  What…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I’m trying to get some information from the mission.  As soon as I have it, I will share it with you.

Inner City Press:  And also, the reason, if you could ask them because there have been previous, I’m not saying that is the case in this case but there have been previous encounters which residents said that they were shot and the aggressors were the, “peacekeepers”, and each time it was said that the mission would be looking into this.  But I have yet to hear any kind of report on those, I can name the incidents or you can go back and there has been at least three and whatever happened to those?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Did you have a chance to ask General Gaye?

Inner City Press:  No.  I asked him about DRC soldiers.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Great.  I will get the Under-Secretary-General

   When Gaye took questions -- to his credit, unlike his boss Herve Ladsous -- these PK5 killings by the French soldiers hadn't yet taken place. To be fair, perhaps Dujarric was referring not to the new killings, but the older ones. But nine hours after the briefing, no further information had been provided. It may be that the problem is not (only) with the Office of the Spokesperson, but more fundamentally with UN Peacekeeping as Ladsous has been allowed to run it.

  The "DRC soldiers" question was why UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous would accept into the forthcoming UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, the DRC Army which is still listed on the UN's child soldier recruitment list and provided impunity for 130 rapes by its soldiers in Minova, Eastern Congo in November 2012, conviction only two. Click here for that.

September 8, 2014

Amid Darfur Qs, UN Slated to Move Chambas to Djinnit's Dakar Post

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 4, more here -- In Darfur, the head of the peacekeeping mission Mohamed ibn Chambas was quoted last month that the UN “cannot stop Government forces from entering camps for the displaced,” despite a supposed protection of civilians mandate.

   Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it on August 22 and he said “we will check with the Mission to verify the quotes and see what actually they have been doing.” But in the two weeks since, nothing.

   Now Inner City Press has exclusively learned from multiple sources that Chambas is set to be rewarded, or moved, to the Dakar, Senegal UN Office on West Africa post vacated by Said Djinnit.

   This would be classic UN: amid a scandal about UNAMID under Chambas covering up the murder and abuse of civilians, a promotion, in a game of musical chairs.

September 1, 2014

In Golan, UNSC Cites "SC-Designated" & Armed Groups, Here's Quneitra Names

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, but with the UN still refusing to say who was detaining and restricting them, the UN Security Council at 5:21 pm on August 30 put out this Press Statement which while vague narrowed it down:

"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights.  They reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council-designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers."

   The UN Security Council cites "SC-designated terrorist groups" soon after their resolution on ISIL and Al Nusra. Here's a page with photos and rationale.

 And the "non-state armed actors"? A previous grabbing of Golan peacekeepers, not followed up by UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous, involved the Al-Yarmouk Brigades. Now it's time to name names, something that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has for too long refused to do.

   And so we note the reporting, here in Al-Monitor, that "Jabhat al-Nusra, along with Fallujah-Houran Brigade, Syria Revolutionaries Front, Saraya al-Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis and Ahrar al-Sham, began a battle called 'the real promise' to seize control of the devastated city of Quneitra and the crossing connecting it with the Golan Heights."

  So there are some names. Kidnapped for their own good has also been a line UN Peacekeeping has used. Now some are under fire - but UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous won't say by whom.

 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.

   Soon Inner City Press reported with on the record sourcing that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?

The UN confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.


 
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August 25, 2014

In CAR French Soldiers Kill Five, In NY UN Has No Info, Ladsous Redux

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 21, more here -- After French "peacekeepers" reported shot and killed five people in the PK5 neighborhood of Bangui in the Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it on August 21, video here. Dujarric essentially said Inner City Press should have asked the UN's chief in CAR about the shootings... before they happened. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in the Central African Republic there are reports of fighting between the residents of PK-5 neighbourhood of Bangui and the French peacekeepers or soldiers, five killed, 40 injured, and I’m wondering, does the mission there, are they monitoring that, are they looking into how it happened?  What…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I’m trying to get some information from the mission.  As soon as I have it, I will share it with you.

Inner City Press:  And also, the reason, if you could ask them because there have been previous, I’m not saying that is the case in this case but there have been previous encounters which residents said that they were shot and the aggressors were the, “peacekeepers”, and each time it was said that the mission would be looking into this.  But I have yet to hear any kind of report on those, I can name the incidents or you can go back and there has been at least three and whatever happened to those?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Did you have a chance to ask General Gaye?

Inner City Press:  No.  I asked him about DRC soldiers.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Great.  I will get the Under-Secretary-General

   When Gaye took questions -- to his credit, unlike his boss Herve Ladsous -- these PK5 killings by the French soldiers hadn't yet taken place. To be fair, perhaps Dujarric was referring not to the new killings, but the older ones. But nine hours after the briefing, no further information had been provided. It may be that the problem is not (only) with the Office of the Spokesperson, but more fundamentally with UN Peacekeeping as Ladsous has been allowed to run it.

  The "DRC soldiers" question was why UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous would accept into the forthcoming UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, the DRC Army which is still listed on the UN's child soldier recruitment list and provided impunity for 130 rapes by its soldiers in Minova, Eastern Congo in November 2012, conviction only two. Click here for that.

August 18, 2014

In Iraq, Turning from Sinjar to Anbar or Accepting Islamic State?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 14 -- US President Barack Obama's dual rationale for the campaign of airstrikes in Iraq has been the plight of the Yazikis on Mount Sinjar and the protection of US personnel in Erbil.

  Now with the US saying it has broken the siege of Mount Sinjar, whither the campaign?

 On August 14 the UN had at its noon briefing a call-in the spokesperson of its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Kieran Dwyer. Inner City Press asked Dwyer if airdrops now promised by Australia and Germany are still needed -- and about a UN map showing humanitarian problems and lack of access in Ninewa and Anbar provinces. Click here to view.

   Dwyer replied that bilateral requests are up to Iraqi authorities, and said, yes, there are problems and lack of access in Anbar and Ninewa (where ISIL held Mosul is).

  At the US State Department briefing less than an hour later, the Department's deputy spokesperson Marie Harf was asked if the US might now provided airstrikes or "assistance" in Anbar, and if this would be covered by the last War Powers notice Obama gave to Congress.

  I am not a lawyer, Harf said, adding in essence that the US acts when it can be useful with its "unique capabilities." She was asked why the US did not use military force to protect civilians in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Central African Republic -- Sri Lanka could be added -- and called each case unique.

  The line-of-the-briefing at the State Department was that seven airstrikes to prevent a genocide is not a bad deal. Indeed.

   Smaller gauge, Inner City Press is still asking how exactly the UN is "coordinating" aid, for example could he say why the UK had aborted an airdrop of aid as reported by BBC?

 OCHA's Dwyer on August 11 made various claims about coordinating then couldn't or wouldn't explain the UK's abortive aid delivery, telling Inner City Press to ask the UK or BBC. What kind of coordination is this?

August 11, 2014

On Iraq, Obama Set to "Play Some Offense," ICP on Who Else May Play

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 9 -- After the US on August 8 announced completion of its second air-drop of aid to Sinjar Mountain in Iraq, President Barack Obama on August 9 said “I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks."

   Obama said that the Iraq military when far from Baghdad did not have the commitment to hold ground against an aggressive adversary: that is, ISIL.  So, Obama said, would move to "play some offense."

  So, the question arises, who else is going to play?

 On August 9 Inner City Press was reliably and for then exclusively informed that Iraq had written to the UN Security Council invite any and all UN member states to deliver aid to areas controlled by Islamic State, with Iraq's agreement. [On August 9, the UK mission confirmed this to Inner City Press, below.]

  And so the question arises -- what about aid from Iran? From Russia? From China -- which has told the Press of $4.9 million in medical supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for ebola?

  At the US State Department's briefing on August 8, much as made of Iraq inviting the US, and only the US, in . But now, would others including Iran be welcome? Shouldn't they be?

  Aid is needed, and not only in Sinjar.

Update of 10:18 am: Ten hours after publication of the above, Inner City Press asked the UK Mission, president of the Security Council for August, to confirm receipt of Iraq's letter. By email the Mission to its credit quickly responded, "Matthew, I can confirm the UNSC received a letter from the Perm Rep of Iraq that attached a resolution passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Iraq on 7 August, which calls on the UN and hum'n organisations to provide relief to refugees."

  We'll have more on this.

 Back on August 7 US President Barack Obama announced authorization for airstrikes on Iraq. Then three of his Senior Administration Officials (SAOs) held a 50 minute conference call with the press.

First, Inner City Press has reliably been informed that Iraq has only requested such military support from the US. This seem to leave France, which called for the Thursday evening meeting of the UN Security Council and said military action is indeed needed, out in the cold. (We note that France got invited to intervene in Mali, and the Central African Republic -- so there's that.)

On the White House background call, a SAO cited ISIL's “swift” moves Saturday, its “military proficiency,” and said the US coordinated with the Peshmerga. A SAO cited ISIL putting heads on spikes and enslaving women and said that on Sinjar mountain it's 120 degree F, in the day time.

A SAO said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on August 7 with the foreign ministers of France, the UAE, Turkey and Jordan -- and cited the August 7 UN Security Council meeting (requested by France), see below.

On the military front, a SAO said that during the airdrop, planes were over the area for only 15 minutes, at low altitude (this was later formalized in a Department of Defense statement.)

A SAO confirms no airstrikes yet, but said the US stands ready. A SAO said this is authorized by the US Constitution, to protect US citizens for example in Erbil, also citing a “potential act of genocide”

(Given the numbers cited on Sinjar mountain, Inner City Press couldn't help wondering about 2009 when 40,000 people were cornered & killed in Sri Lanka.)

Finally, the SAOs were asked if President Obama is going to postpone his trip to Martha's Vineyard. A the UN one might ask if the UNSC still going to Belgium? The US SAO wouldn't answer on Martha's Vineyard, said Obama's day started early today with Ambassador Susan Rice, and later including John Kerry by video from Afghanistan -- this could be done on Martha's Vineyard. But what's the technology on the UN Security Council's planned trip? We hope to have more on this - watch this site.

Earlier on August 7 after 6:30 pm, Council president for August Mark Lyall Grant emerged to read a press statement, followed by question and answer stakeouts by French deputy Alexis Lamek and Iraqi Permanent Representative Alhakim.

  Inner City Press asked Lamek if France will take military action. While we'll await the French mission's transcript, Lamek eventually said "that needs to be done indeed."

August 4, 2014

UNGA Schedule Has Ukraine & Egypt, Mugabe & Sri Lanka, Abbas & Kiir

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- When UN General Assembly week begins on September 24, US President Barack Obama will speak second after Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, as before. But according to the scheduled Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access are today putting online here, then things get more interesting.

The head of state of Morocco, presumably the King, is scheduled for that same first morning, along with France's Francois Hollande and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner. That afternoon starts with Evo Morales of Bolivia, which has just declared Israel a terrorist state.

Thursday, September 25 has the head of state of Iran, presumbly Hassan Rouhani, and then back to back Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and President Sisi of Egypt. That afternoon has for example Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, as well as Joseph Kabila of the DRC and Erdogan of Turkey.

On Friday, September 26, the head of state of the State of Palestine, Mahmood Abbas, is on the schedule; in the afternoon there's Haiti, Venezuela, Serbia and Nepal.

Saturday, deep into the General Debate, Russia and China go back to back represented by ministers, as is Security Council member Australia. The afternoon has Salva Kiir of South Sudan but from Burundi, the Vice President.

Monday, September 29 has the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria and ministers from Thailand and Bahrain. The afternoon has Malaysia.

The final day, September 30, has the Head of Government of Israel and a minister from Sudan in the morning; in the afternoon a minister of North Korea or the Democratic People Republic of Korea as well as Myanmar. And then it's over, or should be. Watch this site.



July 28, 2014

After Ban's Qatar-Funded Plane, UN Won't Say How Got to Iraq, Last 10 Trips

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up on exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, July 24, more here -- How can it be that the UN does not disclose when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepts free travel on a private jet, and on July 24 would not tell Inner City Press how and on whose plane Ban flew to Iraq? Video here.

   This follows the UN's only belated acknowledgement, after Inner City Press asked several times, that Ban began his Gaza-related tour by flying on a Qatar-funded jet to Qatar, then Cairo.

 Bigger picture, does the UN, while claiming to abide by its own stated ethics rules, simply not have time for them and waive them?  When Inner City Press asked on July 23, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said, if you are here as a lawyer, "You're not entitled to be at the noon briefing." Video here from Minute 4:26.

 Haq has denied that there is any conflict of interest in accepting the Qatar-funded travel, but has still not said when or how an opinion was sought from the UN's Ethics Office. Video here and embedded below. Inner City Press on July 23 asked, in writing:

"This is a request for the the entire audio file of the Secretary General's press availability in Jerusalem at which the US State Department transcribed the question, “Mr. Secretary-General, do you think it’s appropriate for Qatar to be paying for your flight here” and this answer:

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN: No – ladies and gentlemen, this is the 15th day since the crisis began. We do not have much time to weigh the rules.

See, http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/07/229662.htm
[since changed on State Department website from this archived version, here]

"This is also a request to be informed if, when and how the UN Ethics Office was asked about the Secretary General accepting the gift of travel on the Qatar-funded, and the UN's estimate of the value of the gift; a statement of all rules applicable to receipt of this gift, and how much has been spent on Secretary General travel in the past two years. On deadline."

  Here was the UN's "response," with neither the audio file, nor the budget or financial information:

To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 4:59 PM

The State Department has acknowledged that its transcription was in error and has corrected the record, please see link below.

http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/07/229662.htm

The Ethics Office has agreed on the need to use the chartered plane because of the Secretary-General's need to travel to a number of locations in the Middle East at short notice, The Ethics Office notes that the Secretary-General interacts with all 193 Member States, and he is scrupulous at maintaining the independence of the UN when engaged in his political and diplomatic undertakings.

   This did not answer "when and how the UN Ethics Office was asked about the Secretary General accepting the gift of travel on the Qatar-funded, and the UN's estimate of the value of the gift; a statement of all rules applicable to receipt of this gift."

  And so at the July 24 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Haq to provide information about the last ten free trips provided to Ban or his senior staff by states or others. Haq cut the question off, belatedly providing a UN budget Secretary General travel figure -- $2,190,300 for 2014 / 2015 -- but not explaining why he hadn't simply emailed this to Inner City Press.

  Haq claimed the deadline was unclear. So that's why he held the information back?

July 21, 2014

Ban's Trip Starts in Qatar, No Gaza, UN Won't Confirm Qatari Plane

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 19, more here -- On the day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to "travel to the region" of Israel and Palestine, diplomats told Inner City Press that Ban will fly -- on a Qatari plane -- to Qatar, Ramallah (but not for now Gaza), Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.

  At 6:20 on July 19, the UN announced "The Secretary-General is traveling to the Middle East this weekend to express solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians and to help them, in coordination with regional and international actors, to end the violence and find a way forward. To that end, he will begin his travel on Sunday in Doha, Qatar. From there, he will travel onward to Kuwait City, Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman in his effort to encourage a durable cease-fire. Other stops may also be added. He will return to New York by the end of the week."

   There was no answer, yet, on the use of a Qatari plane. The diplomats who complained to Inner City Press questioned not only Ban taking free flights from a particular country, but also how the use (and landing) of a Qatari plane will play in, for example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

   Ban's spokesman has responded but not yet answered.

 Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokespeople, and the spokesperson listed as on weekend duty, the following:

"Please state whether the Secretary General is accepting free transportation from any member state or outside party for his current trip to the region concerning the Gaza crisis, and if so please explain the reason and any safeguards in place against influence or conflict of interest.

"Such disclosure should be common practice; if necessary, note that former Spokesperson Nesirky did answer such Press questions, for example concerning the Secretary General flying on a UAE plane (see sample below). On deadline, thank you in advance.

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Subject: Your questions
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com
Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.

     Later on July 19, the following was received, which we publish in full 25 minutes after receipt:

From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Date: Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 5:30 PM
Subject: Re: Press question if SG is accepting free travel from any member state or outside party, as was disclosed in 2012, on deadline, thanks
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress [dot] com
Cc: FUNCA [at] funca.info

Dear Matthew, Thanks for your question and thanks for the draft answer. The logistical details of the SG's trip, including the travel arrangements are still being worked out. Once we are in a position to confirm them, i will revert.

best

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Spokesman for the Secretary-General

  Inner City Press has thanked Dujarric and his colleagues for the interim response and asked, "both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Poroshenko's office say they have spoken with the Secretary General and give read-outs. Will a UN read-out be put out? If so, when? If not, why not?"

    For now we note that the Qatari foreign ministry has listed on its website, for example, receiving a call from Ban Ki-moon. Earlier on July 19, this came out from Jeddah:

"The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, asked the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon to visit the Gaza Strip during his current tour of the region in order to observe first hand the severe damage to innocent human lives, the destructions of homes and infrastructure caused by the unrelenting Israeli raids on Gaza, that have also claimed the lives of hundreds of mostly defenseless Palestinian elderly and children."

  On July 18 after the Gaza meeting of the UN Security Council, the Press was sent "the revised draft resolution that will be put before the Members of the Security Council by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in its capacity as the Arab representative on the Security Council."

  Inner City Press put the document online, here, explicitly comparing it to Resolution 1860 (2009), which passed because the US abstained but did not veto, as it would later do on settlements. We will stay on this.

  Meanwhile the French government has banned a demonstration planned for July 19 about the situation of Palestinians in Gaza.



July 14, 2014

UNSC Statement Issued, Palestine Says More If Israel Doesn't Stop

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, more here -- The UN Security Council just past noon on July 12 issued a press statement on Gaza, after several rounds of back and forth.

  A half dozen media were present as the Security Council president for July, Rwandan Ambassador Gasana, read out the four paragraphs that Inner City Press first published on July 11.

  Afterward, Inner City Press asked the State of Palestine's Observer Riyad Mansour of the status of the (stronger) draft resolution, and if he expects US Secretary of State John Kerry to mediate or facilitate.

  Mansour said if Israel does not stop, other steps will be taken including in the Security Council.

  As Inner City Press reported on July 11, the press statement had initially been scheduled for 9:30 pm, then after a brief delay sources attributed to the US, was circulated to other Council members at 10:20 pm, under the "silence procedure" until 9 am on July 12. This was extended to noon.

   But at that time, the Security Council presidency, the Mission of Rwanda, told Inner City Press that the silence procedure was extended until 12 noon, when Rwandan ambassador Gasana would read the statement on-camera at the Council stakeout.

  Inner City Press asked, did any Council "break silence," and raise an issue? The Rwandan UN Security Council presidency replied, "Yes, very short silence procedure. Text put into silence Friday evening at 10:20 pm to expire Saturday morning at 9 am."

   It's true: the "other thirteen" in the Security Council, beyond the US and Jordan, shouldn't be taken for granted. They too have to check with their capitals.

  Another source said the final three hours delay was so the Security Council president could read it out on-camera. Afterward, a Gulf media demanded an explanation of the three hour delay, then asked another question to Mansour and the Saudi Ambassador beside him.

  There were four paragraphs, and three questions from two media. That was it.

  On July 11 after Inner City Press specified the timing -- and the stated theory that the US gave in after an emergency session of the Arab Group at the UN moved toward a resolution that the US would have to veto -- something changed.

  This month's Security Council president's Deputy Permanent Representative stepped forward at 9:43, on Twitter, to say that "No Council member has received any draft statement on Gaza this evening."

 And a quick check by Inner City Press resulted in a response that the US then delayed putting the draft under the "silence procedure" - and the four-paragraph draft, first published by Inner City Press here:

The Security Council expresses serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides.

The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire.

Security Council members further called for respect for International Humanitarian Law, including the protection of civilians.

Security Council members also expressed their support for resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on the two-state solution.”

  Informed sources told Inner City Press that while the US, or "Washington," initially said they would accept no Security Council action at this point, once an emergency meeting of the Arab Group moved for a draft resolution, the US changed tack.

  "The US doesn't want to have to veto, so they can continue to point the finger at Russia and China on Syria," as one source put it.  So the US agreed - or was said to agree -- to a press statement calling for a ceasefire.
 
  The source went on "If Israel disregards it and continues, what will the Council do?" What, indeed.
.

  Inside the Security Council on July 10, Israel's Ron Prosor told BanKi-moon that while he had given his speech, five rockets had been fired at Israel (Prosor played a rocket warning siren on his phone, to make his point.) At the stakeout, on-camera, Prosor raised the number of rockets to six.

  While Palestine's Riyad Mansour spoke on camera, the stakeout was nearly full with journalists. But when Prosor spoke there were far fewer -- one of whom told Inner City Press, “This is a question for FUNCA,” the Free UN Coalition for Access. Again Prosor played the rocket siren warning, and used the line “From Abuja to Falluja.”

  Inner City Press asked Prosor about those who say Hamas is not formally part of the unity government; he replied, “Hamas is Hamas.”

  On Palestine joining or complaining to the International Criminal Court, Inner City Press' question which Ban Ki-moon dodged on July 9, Prosor did not answer. Yet.

 
Watch this site.


 
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July 7, 2014

On DRC, UN Misleads Then Withholds Info on Flying FDLR Leader

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 2, more here -- Amid reports that the UN flew a sanctioned militia leader of the FDLR on a UN aircraft in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujurric about it at the UN noon briefing on June 27:

Inner City Press: why did MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] fly him to Goma to Kisangani and then to Kinshasa when, in fact, I think there’s an arrest warrant for him?

Spokesman Dujarric: I’m not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO.

  When other sources indicated to Inner City Press that this flying service WAS provided by MONUSCO, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again at UN noon briefing on June 30:

Inner City Press: I asked you on Friday a pretty straightforward question, which is whether MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] used its helicopters to, prior to the denial by the Security Council’s 1533 Sanctions Committee, to transfer this… the FDLR’s [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] leader within the [Democratic Republic of the Congo]? And I’m wondering if you have an answer on that?

Spokesman Dujarric: I don’t have anything to add.

Inner City Press: Does that mean --

Spokesman Dujarric: If I had something to add, I would tell you. Yes, in the back?

So Dujarric had nothing to add to his June 27 statement that “I’m not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO.” So did he still think that was true? Had he even asked UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous -- who sitting beside Dujarric had refused Press questions on the DRC, video here -- or MONUSCO under Martin Kobler?

On July 1, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again:

Inner City Press: why did MONUSCO undertake to fly to Goma, to Kisangani and Kinshasa? And the reason why I keep asking about this is it seems like it’s a use of UN resources, just knowing why this flight took place.

Spokesman: Sure, if I have something on that I will share it with you

  For Dujarric to have nothing to supplement his statement of June 27 that “I’m not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO,” he either did not ask Ladsous' DPKO or they lied to him.

  On July 2, after Martin Kobler belatedly disclosed that yes, under him MONUSCO flew the FDLR leader, Inner City Press asked Dujarric. Laughably, given Ladsous' refusal to answer Press questions, Dujarric said, you could pick up the phone. UN Video here, from Minute 7.

Dujarric first said he never denied the flight. But he's said, even according to the UN's own transcript, “I’m not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO,” and then said nothing when asked twice more about this.

Inner City Press asked, can we assume that when a question is asked in his briefing room, you at least try to get an answer? When did you get this information? Dujarric did not answer this.

Footnote: Dujarric was asked if he will participate in the softball soccer game of the UN Correspondents Association, to which Dujarric sets aside the first questions in briefings and has defended in meeting(s) with the new Free UN Coalition for Access -- which, to put it mildly, is “deeply concerned” by inaccurate answers in the UN Press Briefing Room. Softballs with scribes? We'll have more on this.


 
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June 30, 2014

As UN Ladsous Stonewalls on Flying FDLR Leader, Kobler Silent Too

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up on Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- Two days after Rwanda complained to the UN Security Council that UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous and his MONUSCO mission flew FDLR leader Gaston Iyamuremye / Rumuli Michel on UN aircraft even as Ladsous travel waiver request was denied, Ladsous, MONUSCO and the UN were still stonewalling.

  Inner City Press obtained the complaint letter, on which it first reported on June 26, and put it online here. At the June 27 briefing, to Inner City Press' questions, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric replied "not aware," transcript here, video here:

Inner City Press: why did MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] fly him to Goma to Kisangani and then to Kinshasa when, in fact, I think there’s an arrest warrant for him?

Spokesman Dujarric: I’m not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO.

   Since the complaint to UNSC members says Rumuli was flown on MONUSCO aircraft, and given Ladsous' history of refusing to answer Press questions, Inner City Press has twice asked Kobler and MONUSCO the simple question: did they fly Rumuli?
  
   While they tweeted photographs of Kobler singing with a MONUSCO choir, still no answer. This is the Ladsousificiation of UN Peacekeeping.

  When Herve Ladsous was appointed head of UN Peacekeeping by France and UN Peacekeeping, Inner City Press asked him to address his past as French Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the Rwanda genocide, arguing for the escape into Eastern Congo of the genocidaires who would become the FDLR.

  Ladsous refused to answer, and then adopted the policy of trying to block Inner City Press questions, going so far as to have his spokesman grab the UN Television microphone to prevent a question. Video here, compilation here.

  Now -- not surprisingly -- a scandal has arisen, with Rwandan officials exclusively complaining to Inner City Press, citing letters, about Ladsous granting a travel ban waiver for FDLR leader Iyamuremye / Rumuli to fly from the DR Congo to Rome -- to meet with UN envoy Mary Robinson.

  Of course, Robinson could have met the FDLR leader without him breaking the travel ban. But in a UN trend, Robinson has been allowed to remained based in Ireland, just as Romano Prodi was allowed to remain based in Italy and to (over) charge the UN for his travel inside Italy.

  Earlier this year, Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press' simple question on when UN Peacekeeping under his watch might belatedly go after or “neutralize” the FDLR, video here.

Watch this site.


June 23, 2014

Alongside Ban's Syria Speech, ISIS on Border, Cholera Papers Dodged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21, more here -- On the Iraq - Syria border, the day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speechified at the Asia Society that "Syria’s neighbours should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria," ISIS took over a major crossing at Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad.

  At the UN's noon briefing on June 20, after Ban's speech, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: I didn’t see it in his speech, but it seems like at least a large part of the Iraqi border may be controlled by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).  So, in terms of realism, does this mean now absent Government control, it’s just an open flow of weapons? Is there an acknowledgement by the UN that nothing can be done in terms of weapons?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Well, I think, you know, Member States, groups that have an influence all have a responsibility to stop the flow of arms.

 Surely ISIS is listening to Ban. The Syrian Coalition of Ahmad Jarba, meanwhile, praised the speech and called for "serious" weapons. Inner City Press asked Dujarric:

Inner City Press: the Syrian Coalition of Ahmed al-Jarba has put out a statement praising the speech and saying that:  “There should be serious weapons and training for moderate opposition forces.”  And I wanted to know, just to be clear, the Secretary-General is not in favour of that, thinks this is a bad call?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General could not have been clearer when he’s speaking about an arms embargo and speaking for the halt of flow of arms into Syria.

 But how clear *is* Ban Ki-moon, when he meets with Jarba?

  Now it turns out that near the Asia Society Team Ban got served with legal papers about having brought cholera to Haiti. Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq told some media -- refusing to answer the Press -- that Ban himself didn't get the papers. We'll have more on this -- and on the UN's pre-spinning of Ban's speech, reviewed here.

   How can Ban's UN be taken seriously on Syria or anything else while dodging service of legal papers for cholera in Haiti, and refusing to answer about it?

On the humanitarian front, Ban “appealed for an end to the sieges” and for “immediate unfettered humanitarian access across internal front lines and across borders.”

  Later on June 20, Dujarric's and Haq's office murkily released a UN report which tracks Ban's speech, which the UN's go-to wire service then said it had "obtained."

  A draft resolution on cross-border aid is being negotiated in the Security Council. But on June 19, Australian ambassador Gary Quinlan told the Press there will be no vote this week. When there is, will that be news? Watch this site.


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info June 16, 2014

UN Tells ICP Baghdad Is Safe, Silent on Call to Distribute Weapons

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- In Iraq as ISIL advances, at the UN Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if it's true that UN assesses Baghdad to be safe - and is so, why? Video here.
 
  The UN's Haq said while different parts of Iraq are under threat, the UN's assessment is indeed that Baghdad is safe. If you say so.

  Inner City Press also asked for any UN comment on calls to arm the population in Baghdad to confront ISIL. Haq said he'd seen the comment made by "Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, we don't have any comments to make about that." Video here.

  Iraq has blocked much of social media, and Twitter has suspended an account associated with ISIL, which live-tweeted ISIL's advances.
  
   Was Twitter's suspension of @Nnewsi at governmental request -- and to confirm, which government?


In March, Turkey blocked Twitter citing a court order, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to get his leaked phone calls removed from Google's YouTube has reportedly "copyrighted" his calls.

   Both censorship moves have echoes in the United Nations, which as part of its renovation accepted money and named an area by the Security Council previously open to all accredited journalists the "Turkish Lounge."

   As set forth below, an anti-Press complaint to the UN's Stephane Dujarric, now Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson, has been banned from Google's Search by an invocation of copyright similar to Erdogan's.

   Google has accepted and acted on DMCA complaints about leaked e-mails, for example from Reuters to the United Nations seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out, and has then blocked access to the leaked documents from its search.

  In this case, copyright is being (mis) claimed for an email from Reuters' Louis Charbonneau to the UN's chief Media Accreditation official Stephane Dujarric -- since March 10 Ban Ki-moon's new spokesperson -- seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. 

  Access to the document has been blocked from Google's search based on a cursory take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

 If this remains precedent, what else could come down?



June 9, 2014

After UN Eviction of News Agency of Nigeria, UN Tells FUNCA It Can Return

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- The UN, which since its founding has assigned office space to media to cover it, threw out the News Agency of Nigeria. Its name was simply cut off the door to what had been its office space. Photo here, by FUNCA member Luiz Rampelotto.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access opposed and opposes the move, particularly since other privileged media have been allowed to leave their assigned offices empty and unused for long periods - the rationale used by the UN.

  Inner City Press on behalf of FUNCA asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it at the June 4 noon briefing, video here, and embedded below.

  FUNCA also put the question to the UN in writing. Now, the UN has responded to FUNCA that "if a new correspondent is accredited to the UN, the Agency will have a space in the building." 

  A flier FUNCA posted was torn down, by the UN says it didn't remove it. So who did? The UN's Censorship Alliance? They said nothing about NAN's eviction, instead concerned with demanding first questions they do not report upon, and celebrating the large space the UN gives them as actual media are thrown out.

  From the June 4 UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: it seems that in the Central African Republic, where there is a UN Mission, there has been a ban on SMS or text messages directed at seeming a non-violent organization of a protest, so does the UN have any comment or reaction to that? And also, this is in-house, but I wanted to ask if you can explain the loss by the news agency of Nigeria of its office and workspace at the UN given that it’s a major country, they’re on the Security Council. Was there sort of notice given? What’s the process? What’s the reasoning?

Spokesman Dujarric: I don’t know. The process for offices and accreditation is clear, it’s on the website. And you know, you can ask MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit]. I’m happy to ask for you.

Inner City Press: I know there’s been previous request of sort of due process. Do you believe that that’s been provided in this case?

Spokesman Dujarric: I don’t know the specifics of this case but I have full trust in MALU that due process is followed.

Inner City Press: [UN says “inaudible,” but what was asked was “double standards?”]

Spokesman Dujarric: What is your question Matthew?

Inner City Press: Okay, I guess my question is that it seems that without --

Spokesman Dujarric: No, I think I’ve answered the Nigeria question. If you have another one, I’m happy to…

Inner City Press: The CAR question. Do you have any comment on…

Spokesman Dujarric: No, I’ll check with the Mission. I’ll see if they have said anything on this.

   Nine hours later, despite Dujarric's statement that he was happy to "ask MALU" -- which he previously supervised -- no explanation had received. So FUNCA submitted the question to MALU / DPI - and the response above was received.
 
  Since the old UN Correspondents Association board, rather than defend media, have shown a willingness to try to get other media thrown out, FUNCA soon after its founding asked the UN to at least be more transparent in its decisions that impact media, including not only accreditation but loss of work space.

  The New York Civil Liberties Union asked the UN to publicly implement due process rights for the journalists which cover it -- but the UN has yet to do so. FUNCA continues to push for this, and for example for the UN to belatedly take some action on French Ambassador Gerard Araud, in the middle of a UN press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room, telling a correspondent, “You are not a journalist, you are an agent.”

  But the UN would not convey, even in its typically wan fashion, the stated position that correspondents should be treated with respect to Araud or the French Mission to the UN. And UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance, "dragged its feet," according to the correspondent to whom Araud said, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent."

  Nigeria is a member of the Security Council; its Permanent Representative Joy Ogwu held ten question and answer stakeouts during her presidency of the Security Council in April. (South Korea held only three stakeouts during its May presidency, by contrast.) So why is the News Agency of Nigeria having its UN work space taken away?


News Agency of Nigeria cut off UN office sign, photo by FUNCA's Luiz Rampelotto of Europa Newswire

  Here is a flier the Free UN Coalition for Access put out, soon after its founding, about double standards (it referred to a previous configuration of offices, over the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library)

FUNCA Asks a Question: Double Standards Much?

The New York Times has an office inside of UN Headquarters. But its door has been closed, without opening, for months. A thick pile of fliers, months old, clogs the doorway. There’s dust everywhere.

But the UN is doing nothing, because it won’t apply its rules equally to all.

In fact, reporters who want to cover the UN are being denied access to UN Headquarters – on the grounds that there’s just not enough space to go around. And Big Media gets handed big offices that some of them never even use.

The UN’s media guidelines say that reporters need to come in the UNHQ three times a week in order to keep their office space. It’s a catch-22: if you don’t have an office, you also can’t get the right kind of press pass that lets you move freely in and out of Headquarters.

And plenty of small newspapers have lost their desks because they couldn’t keep up with the attendance requirement. But of course, these standards aren’t applied across the board: the New York Times hasn’t even opened the door to their space since October.

What kinds of conditions are these? Is it any wonder that we see less and less reporting on international affairs, or that newspapers increasingly rely on wire services for their news? What other options are open to small media?

UN correspondents have launched the Free United Nations Coalition for Access, a group dedicated to guaranteeing equal access for all reporters looking to cover the UN.

We formed FUNCA after a small group of big media – the UN reporters from Reuters, AFP, and Voice of America — banded together to try and dis-accredit Inner City Press, an independent news site that produces tough, watchdog reporting on the UN.

Then the head of the UN’s Peacekeeping Department, Herve Ladsous, announced that he was no longer taking questions from Inner City Press – a policy which he has bizarrely, blithely kept going for months. This means he hasn’t had to answer questions about, say, the UN’s role in allowing rapes in the Congo, or working with the rapists, or in bringing cholera to Haiti. Far from putting pressure on him, most of the UN press corps has sat by silently and let Mr. Ladsous turn a deaf ear to all the tough questions.

FUNCA wants to fill the press freedom vacuum. Right now, we’re advocating along other things for the rights of freelancers who have been denied UN credentials (even as other freelancers have credentials and big offices). We’re pushing more UN officials to give on the record briefings to the press corps. And we now work with journalists around the world, from Somaliland to Colombia to Burundi - and Nigeria.

   Note that despite a commitment that while UNCA maintains a glassed in bulletin board in front of the large office the UN gives it -- while News Agency of Nigeria is thrown out -- FUNCA can post fliers on a separate board, not glassed in, recently these have been torn down, including one about the need for the UN to take action after French Ambassador Araud told a correspondent, “You are not a journalist, your are an agent.”

  We are inquiring into these flier tear-down, just another form of censorship at the UN. Watch this site.



June 2, 2014

On Rapes & Drones, Ladsous Refusal to Answer Implicates UN Spox & Scribes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 29, more here -- Can a UN Under Secretary General on camera refuse to answer questions about providing military support to Army units charged with rape, and about procuring drones without required approvals, by saying “I do not respond to you”?

On May 29 in the UN Press Briefing Room, Herve Ladsous the head of UN Peacekeeping did just that, telling Inner City Press on questions of rape and drones, “You know I do not respond to you, Mister.” Video here and embedded below.

  Ladsous did it flanked by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric. He did it with no complaint or reaction from the similar head of the old UN Correspondents Association Pam Falk, who though arriving 15 minutes late was called on by Dujarric to lob a softball question before Inner City Press.

  Agence France Presse was called on -- AFP invoked the UNCA machinery against an article Inner City Press published showing that Ladsous was not Ban's first choice for the job. UNCA's board demanded outright censorship of an article about its president's conflict of interest, renting an apartment to a UN Ambassador (there's more real estate shenanigans to come, June 7).

  Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, which opposes Ladsous' picking which media to answer, and UNCA insiders for accepting this.

  Afterward on May 29 Inner City Press asked Dujarric how this was acceptable. The question about Ladsous not applying Ban's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy after only two Congolese soldiers were convicted of 130 rapes in Minova in November 2012, Inner City Press has asked Dujarric for weeks. He has still provided no answer, nor on Ladsous' drone procurement.

  Dujarric pointed to a separate answer by USG Ameerah Haq, not on the rapes or drones but logistics in South Sudan. This was appreciated and may be separately reported. But Ladsous is bringing all of UN Peacekeeping down, not only other officials but the troops working in the field. We'll have more on this.


 
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May 26, 2014

Press & Public Banned from UN Communications Group, Accreditation Mulled

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- A group of UN spokespeople which considers such issues as media accreditation is meeting in New York today and tomorrow, and Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked to observe or at least get a summary.

  On May 20, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said no, it is internal, and declined to take a follow up question. But previous UNCG Annual Principals Meetings have come out with statements like that it is "important for the United Nations family to engage with all forms of new media, but that some, such as blogs, present particular challenges for accreditation."

   Even today, the UN lags behind the OSCE in raising concerns about the detention by Ukraine authorities of journalists like those of Life News, which put on YouTube video of “UN” marked helicopters in Ukraine. Inner City Press asked Dujarric about this on May 20 and was told that no one in the UN system has even raised the issue to Kyiv, unlike the OSCE. Video here.

   Inner City Press wrote to UNICEF to asked to attend or get access to a webcast of the UNCG meeting but was told: “The UN Communications Group meeting is co-hosted by UN DPI and UNICEF. It’s an internal meeting so isn’t open via webcast or otherwise.”

   But if it concerns topics like accreditation, shouldn't it be open or summarized? Watch this site.


 
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May 19, 2014

On “UN” Copter in Ukraine, UN Tells ICP Kyiv Contacted by UN Peacekeeping

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 13, more here -- Ukraine is a major provider of helicopters and air services to the UN, and amid the Kyiv government's “counter-terrorism” offensive on May 13 video surfaced of a white helicopter marked “UN,” here.

The UN has in the past complained of governments using UN-marked equipment for their own military goals. So Inner City Press submitted these questions on deadline to Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq:

This is a Press request for UN comment on deadline on this video http://youtu.be/W0P_sv_x4E0

featuring “UN” helicopters in Ukraine. Is this appropriate? Why would Ukraine have helicopters with such markings inside Ukraine? What does the UN allow Ukraine to use them for? What will the UN do? On deadline.

  Hours went by without any substantive answer. Inner City Press asked about the issue at the UN Security Council stakeout, video here from Minute 5:17.

  More than six hours later, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson provided this response to Inner City Press:

Subject: On Ukraine.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Tue, May 13, 2014 at 7:40 PM
To: Matthew.Lee@innercitypress.com

The Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities concerning this issue. It is the responsibility of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) that provide Contingent Owned Equipment to peacekeeping missions to remove all logos and signage bearing the UN's name once such equipment has been repatriated to the home country or is no longer being used for official UN purposes. Moreover, every Letter of Assist, signed between the UN and TCC, also clearly states that “the Government may only use such painted and marked Aircraft for flights, which have been tasked by the United Nations.”

   We will await more -- that is, the response of the Kyiv authorities and what the UN actually does. Inner City Press asked another question as well, and has questions pending back to the first week of Dujarric's tenure in March.
Watch this site.


May 12, 2104

After 2 Convictions for 130 Minova Rapes, UN Says Trials Were Enough

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 8, 2014 -- For months, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous dodged and refused questions about rapes by the Congolese Army FARDC in Minova. Video compilation here.

   Then after other UN officials emphasized that some Congolese soldiers were belatedly being prosecuted, on May 5 the verdicts declared not guilty three dozen of the 39 charged, convicting of rape only two of the soldiers, for more than 130 rapes.

  On May 8 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq who will decide on implementing Ban's stated human rights due diligence policy of suspending support to units engaged in abuse, and which are not held accountable and are given impunity. Video here from 20:33.

  Haq replied, "I wouldn't say pretty much impunity - there was a trial - that in itself is a step. We are disappointed, we have to evaluate what happened.

  Inner City Press asked, who makes the decision? Mister Ladsous? 

   Haq said, we were pressing for a trial, it's not my place to comment on the workings of the judicial system of the DRC. Accountability meant getting the trials.
  
   But only two convictions for 130 rapes?

  The day before on May 6 at the UN Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesperson Vannina Maestracci would would now happen, under the UN's and Ladsous' claimed "Human Rights Due Diligence" Policy. Video here.

    Maestracci insisted, "We said we were disappointed." But is that enough? Is that the due diligence policy? Maestracci said others will be "analyzing" the two convictions.  Inner City Press asked, who will be analyzing, and who would decide on suspending support to the 41st and 391st Battalions?

    "You got my answer," Maestracci said.



May 5, 2014

On Syria, If Morjane Replaces Brahimi, Ben Ali Crony'd Seek Assad's Ouster

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 -- With UN envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in New York, there is speculation not only of him resigning, but who would replace him. Australian Kevin Rudd is pushing hard, but the name Inner City Press' sources say has more currency is Tunisia's Kamel Morjane.

  This would be ironic: Morjane as well as working in 1999 for the UN's troubled mission in the Congo MONUC and UNHCR, was Tunisian dictator Ben Ali's minister of defense then foreign minister, and had been groomed as a successor.

  If Morjane is named as envoy to Syria, it would be a case of a retread of a pre Arab Spring dictatorship blue-washed into one pushing to oust Syria's Bashar al Assad.

  Sources tell Inner City Press that after the Tunisian revolution Morjane was eyed for having helped launder Ben Ali's funds. They say his passport was revoked and ask: what type of passport does he have now? They say that about the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, France which supported Ben Ali so long would also support Morjane.

  Given that current UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous helped set up disgraced French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie's flights on "Air Ben Ali" -- he refused to answer Inner City Press on this then everything else -- it would perhaps not be a stretch.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon talked with the Arab League in Abu Dhabi, and the buzz is that while Rudd couldn't bring the Arab League's co-blessing, Morjane might. But to what end? Watch this site.

Footnote: The Kevin Rudd attempt is notably because he'd like to rise all the way to Secretary General, despite the position being committed to Eastern Europe. Rudd's calculus seems to be that Russia might veto most Eastern European candidate and there he'd be, waiting. But what of gender balance? We'll have more on this.


April 28, 2014

As Ethiopia Jails Bloggers, US Talks Free Press Elsewhere, Files Risen Brief

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- Ethiopia has conducted a sweep and arrest of journalists including Tesfalem Woldeyes and six bloggers from the Zone 9 collective. Next week, US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Addis Ababa. Will he be raising the issue? We'll see.

   New US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowsi on April 25 spoke about the US defending bloggers; the examples he gave were in Russia and Vietnam: "Dieu Cay," Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai.  How now about Ethiopia?

   As Press Freedom seasons heats up, some were surprised not only by this brief filed in the Supreme Court but also by this week's US announcement of renewed military aid to Egypt, including 10 Apache helicopters. Isn't Egypt the country with journalists including but not limited to those of Al Jazeera locked up?

After questions, the State Department clarified the specifics of aid to Egypt on April 24:

"The Egypt bilateral foreign assistance budget for FY2014 is approximately $1.5 billion and includes $1.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) – $200 million in Economic Support Funds; and over $7 million for other security assistance programs, including International Military Education and Training, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs. The $650 million from FY2014 FMF will be the first of this funding to move forward, pending Congressional notification and approval."

  The next day new US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski was asked about the detained Al Jazeera journalists. He replied that withholding of one additional certification is in part due to the Al Jazeera case, and therefore the case has consequences.

  But here is how US Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby explained the certification:

Secretary Hagel told General Sobhy that we are not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition, and he urged the Egyptian government to demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians.

Secretary Hagel also informed Minister Sobhy of President Obama's decision to deliver ten Apache helicopters in support of Egypt’s counterterrorism operations in the Sinai. The secretary noted that we believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten U.S., Egyptian, and Israeli security.

  While some say "safe and free," the above shows the relationship between "U.S., Egyptian, and Israeli security" and the freedom of the press issues at stake in Egypt. Watch this site.

Footnote: Freedom of the press issues have arisen at the UN with respect to Voice of America, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governors John Kerry serves. Freedom of Information Act requests have been filed with the BBG - and with the State Department, including with regard to South Sudan and the US Atrocities Prevention Board. The issues are being pursued by the new Free UN Coalition for Access. Watch this site.



April 21, 2014

On W. Sahara, Araud's "Word" Belied by Acts in 2011 MINURSO Renewal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 19, more here -- In the untransparent annual UN cat and mouse process around Western Sahara, French Ambassador Gerard Araud continues denying online any French role, this year or before, in blocking a human rights monitoring mechanism in the MINURSO mission.

 Araud claimed, "there is not, there has not been, this year or last year or previous years, any French veto threat! It is a fact."

 Now he adds, "my 'word' is simply that, contrary to your assertions, France never threatened to veto any proposal. Nothing more, nothing less."

  This stands in contrast below to 2010, when Uganda, Mexico and as now Nigeria were serving on the Council along with Araud, who is now slated to leave in July -- and to the process in April 2011.

  On April 18, 2011, multiple sources told Inner City Press that France opposed any MINURSO human rights monitoring mechanism, counter-proposing only cooperation with the special rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council.

  On April 27, 2011, Inner City Press aske Araud about the High Commissioner for Human Rights' recommendation that a right monitoring mechanism be included in MINURSO. Araud replies that "Ban Ki-moon's" final report, into which the French chief of UN Peacekeeping had input, hadn't adopted the OHCHR's recommend. That is where the lobbying is -- and it is attributable to France, with refusals to answer questions playing their role.

   Araud opposed a human rights monitoring mechanism in 2010 as well:

  On April 30, 2010, six hours into Western Sahara negotiations in the Security Council, the threat to call the vote was made. There would be three abstentions against the resolution drafted by the so-called Group of Friends: Uganda, Nigeria and Mexico.

A compromise that was apparently acceptable to all 15 members, but was opposed by Morocco, would refer to UN "mechanisms" as a euphemism for human rights.

  Frente Polisario says it could live with this language, and is angry that Morocco has become on this issue the one in "P-5 Plus One." Others wondered if France only agreed to put this language to Morocco because it knew Morocco would shoot it down.

Inside the consultations, Inner City Press was informed, Austria's Ambassador wondered out loud how France, so important in forming the concept of human rights, could be so vehemently opposing the inclusion of the term in the Western Sahara resolution.

French Ambassador Araud responded angrily that no one can teach human rights lessons to France. 

 Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose -- surtout avec Araud.

  Back on on April 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm, Araud noted he should have left for Greentree for the Council's annual retreat with the Secretary General 10 minutes before. This year in 2014, the retreat is earlier in April, before the MINURSO vote. So there will be no excuses. We'll have more on this.

  This year in a multiple French farce, a wire service reporter usually of use to France, Reuters' Louis Charbonneau, has now purported to cover as news his being accused of misinformation by his often-source France. Trying to serve two of the P3 Conuncil members on this issue - and some others -- doesn't work.

  The threat of a French veto was cited by Charbonneau as the reason for the "Group of Friends on Western Sahara" draft resolution not including a human rights monitoring mechanism.

   Based on that, Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth did what he rarely does: criticize France.

   Then French Ambassador Gerard Araud did what he rarely does: actually respond to a critique. He tweeted, "Ken Roth your message is wrong! France has not threatened to veto anything! The negotiation has not even started... How can we veto something which is not proposed by the pen holder (which in not France)? You rely on rumors and disinformation."

    The "rumors and disinformation" are those repeated by Reuters' Lou Charbonneau, on whom the French mission often relies to get out its message.  Inner City Press asked, and asks: so who is not telling the truth?

  Meanwhile from Paris the French foreign services "social media" team issues a blog by Anne Chounet-Cambas singing its own praises, citing Williamsburg, Brooklyn and hard rock. If they are the ones staffing Araud's twitter feed, is this what they had in mind?

   This French foreign ministry social media teams map of Morocco and Western Sahara, here, has been noted -- particularly in light of France's recent statements about UN maps and Crimea. We'll have more on this.

   Obscured is all this is why "Ban Ki-moon's" report's recommendation was changed to drop the word "mechanism." UN Peacekeeping is run by Herve Ladsous, a former French diplomat during the Rwanda genocide who is the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping. This has not been mentioned by Reuters.

     Another irony is that on April 17 after a French, US and Australia sponsored Arria formula meeting with Michael Kirby, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, Kirby said threats of veto should not be allowed to bury human rights proposals. He said a formal meeting (and vote) should be called on referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

  But this logic apparently doesn't apply to Western Sahara, or to France as the veto-wielder.  None of this is noted, of course, in pass-through account by Reuters' Charbonneau, demonstrably engaged in censorship, here. Reuters' Charbonneau, who last time quoted French Ambassador Gerard Araud denying any role, this time didn't mention him at all.

   On April 15, Araud told another reporter, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent." While UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has been asked to convey to Araud and the French Mission the UN position that accredited correspondents should be treated with respect, here, we note that this servile wire by Araud logic is just as much an agent.

  Araud's anti-press moves on April 15 were of course not reported by this wire -- nor on Western Sahara was the African Union position with which Nigeria's Joy Ogwu answered Inner City Press --rights mechanism needed, video here and embedded below -- in the wire's story.

  Africa is not represented in the Council's "Group of Friends on Western Sahara." Changing that is not a reform you'll hear France talking about, including prospectively at the Council's retreat with Ban Ki-moon on which we'll have more.  Nor is Africa represented or even recognized, it is increasingly clear, on this servile wire. This is how the UN works, or doesn't.

  On April 17, the day of the Security Council first formal consultation on Western Sahara, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Dujarric about a reported crack down on peaceful demonstrators in El Aaiun, then asked Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, Council president for April, about the consultations.

   Dujarric said he had no information about the demonstration or crackdown or any letter received; when Inner City Press asked if envoy Christopher Ross would hold a question and answer stakeout, he said probably not. (None happened.) Video here.

  But Inner City Press asked the Security Council's president for April, Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, if human rights monitoring came up. She said in her national capacity she raised it, saying that a human rights monitoring mechanism should be (belatedly) put in the MINURSO mission's mandate, as it is in the mandate of other UN peacekeeping missions. Video here.

  Before the consultations, French Ambassador Gerard Araud engaged in a long discussion with Morocco's new Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale. Inner City Press, at the stakeout, took and tweeted a few photographs -- Morocco supporters replied with Araud's anti-press phrase of April 15, that anyone they disagree with is "not a journalist;" one even called photographing from the UN stakeout "spying."

  (That Araud was quoted by Javier Bardem that Morocco is France's "mistress" was in the air. Araud talked about suing Bardem, but has not.)

   Another replied to Inner City Press that Ambassador Ogwu shouldn't have said what she said. We're left wondering if Gerard Araud, before he leaves in July, will say in a Security Council consultation, "You're not a diplomat." And what would happen next. Here is what has been requested: that Dujarric convey to the French mission that position that accredited correspondents should be respected, before the arrival of Jacques Audibert.

  The Security Council is scheduled to vote on the MINURSO mandate on April 23, but it could go until the end of the month, when the old mandate with no right monitoring mandate expires. Watch this site.

  Back on April 16 Dujarric refused to explain, when Inner City Press asked, why Ban dropped a rights "mechanism" from the advance copy of his report. Dujarric refused to say with whom, other than Morocco's King, Ban spoke about the matter between April 10 and April 15, when a new draft without "mechanism" went on the UN's website. Video here.

  Moments later, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, April's Security Council president and an African Union member, about the drop of the word "mechanism." She said it will be discussed in consultations on April 17. Video here.

  On April 10, Inner City Press published what was called the advance copy of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on Western Sahara, saying that the goal is a human rights monitoring MECHANISM, see here at Paragraph 100.

  Now, the revised report is on the UN's website, with the mechanism dropped. Click here, at Paragraph 100. Earlier on April 17, despite a slew of questions about Western Sahara coming in to French Ambassador Gerard Araud as he held a press conference on human rights, he did not answer those questions nor take any question from Inner City Press. The only critical question Araud took, perhaps by mistake, he replied to, You are not a journalist, you are an agent.  Video here.

  (Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Dujarric on April 16 if this was appropriate. Video here. He said accredited correspondents should be treated with respect, but declined even when Inner City Press noted that French foreign minister Laurent Fabius did the same thing to say he will convey this "respect" position to the French Mission, or Araud's replacement Jacques Audibert, click here for that)

  On April 15, Araud called on France 24 and a Reuters reporter who quoted Araud without mentioning that Javier Barden reported Araud as calling Morocco France's mistress. (Araud talked of suing, but never did.) Nor did Reuters mention that the head of UN Peacekeeping, atop the Western Sahara mission MINURSO, is Herve Ladsous, a long-time French diplomat including at the UN during the Rwanda genocide of 1994.

  So a human rights monitoring mechanism is out, at least from Ban Ki-moon report.

   Morocco's King, after in essence threatening to end the UN mission if human rights monitoring mechanism is included, is now reportedly slated to visit Dakhla, as early as tomorrow. Click here.

   And as the pace picks up, here is another letter going in to Security Council members, this time from humanitarian groups working in Western Sahara, here.

   This comes just after the King announced a new Ambassador to the UN, replacing (and some say blaming) Ambassador Loulichki.

   The new Ambassador will be Omar Hilale, most recently a hardliner on the human rights issue at the UN in Geneva. This comes as France is slated to replace its Ambassador Gerard Araud with Jacques Audibert in July. So for both Araud and Loulichki, this month is a last campaign against a rights monitoring mechanism.

  Araud was slated to give a press conference on April 15, ironically on human rights, on topic on which he convened a closed door meeting at 10 am on April 15, from which even some UN member states were banned.  Araud should have been expected to address these issues -- but he and his spokesman Frederic Jung did not take any question from Inner City Press, and Araud attacked the lone critical question he selected.

   Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access on the morning of April 11 put online the first advance copy of the "Report of the Secretary General on the situation concerning Western Sahara," to be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/2014/258, here.

  On April 12, the Moroccan government -- but not the UN -- issued a read out of a call by the King of Morocco to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the day on the topic of "the Moroccan Sahara," emphasis added:

Tetouan - HM King Mohammed VI held on Saturday a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, says a release of the Royal office.

The talks covered latest developments and the present timetable related to the Moroccan Sahara issue, says the release. On this occasion, HM the King reiterated Morocco's constant commitment and constructive cooperation to reach a final political settlement to this regional dispute, within Moroccan sovereignty.

HM The King further drew the UN secretary General's attention to the imperative need to preserve the negotiations parameters as they were defined by the Security Council, safeguard the presence framework and modalities of the UN involvement and avoid biased approaches and risky options, the statement goes on.

Any straying from this track will be fatal for the ongoing process and holds dangers for any UN involvement in the issue. The conversation also covered HM the King's sustained actions and laudable initiatives for the stability and development of the African continent.

   Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN:

"The Moroccan government has issued its own read-out of their King's telephone call to the Secretary General, this is a request for a UN readout of the SG's call, in light of what Inner City Press asked at the April 11 noon briefing... There are other questions outstanding, as you know, and I have others, but asking this after the Moroccan government's readout, for the UN's read-out."

    Without providing any UN read-out, Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric replied, "I can confirm that the call took place."

  Inner City Press and FUNCA asked Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq more pointedly:

"If not the still requested UN read-out, will you comment on Morocco's statement that the "King further drew the UN secretary General's attention to the imperative [to] risky options... Any straying from this track will be fatal for the ongoing process and holds dangers for any UN involvement in the issue" -- since this seems to be a threat to try to terminate "UN involvement" in Western Sahara if an option such as a human rights monitoring mechanism were included in MINURSO, do you have any comment? And, can you state which side initiated the call, and if the advance copy of the Secretary General's report on Western Sahara which I asked about at Friday's noon briefing was discussed?"

    Ban's spokesman Dujarric an hour later replied: "No further comment."
   At noon on April 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric who has input into Ban Ki-moon's reports, for example if not only the first but the final "Ban" report on Western Sahara will urge a human rights monitoring mechanism. Dujarric refused to explain the process, saying wait until it's over, it is not final until it is final -- not a good sign, some say. Who wrote the first report? Who is changing it? Who CAN change it? Inner City Press asked, without answer. Video here


April 14, 2014

Week After Burundi Cable on Arming Young, SC Press Statement, What Action?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 10, more here -- Twenty years after the "genocide fax" from Rwanda to the UN in New York was largely ignored, for a week there was little visible reaction to a strikingly similar cable from Burundi, about AK-47s being distributed to the youth-wing of the Hutu aligned CNDD party.

  Inner City Press on April 9 put the cable online, submitting questions about it to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and on April 10 online and at the Security Council stakeout to Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, pen-holder on Burundi in the Council.

   But it was US Ambassador Samantha Power who took and answered the question, telling Inner City Press that it is very troubling, that there have been fast trials of 21 young opposition figures and a threat to change the constitution and now, these reports. Video here and embedded below.

  At the April 10 noon briefing, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric who had sent Inner City Press a wan response to its April 9 questions about the cable (and about actions by one of the three addressees, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping) read out a list of contacts the UN had made.

  Inner City Press asked if the UN, whose cable it was and is, had done anything to check into the weapons given to the youth-wing: pistols in February, AK-47s since. Dujarric said he didn't understand the question and had nothing to add. Video here.

  Hours later, the UN Security Council issued a press statement, which will publish here in full since it is not yet on the Council's website:

Press statement on the situation in Burundi

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Joy Ogwu (Nigeria):

On 8 April, the members of the Security Council were briefed by UN Department of Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman on the situation in Burundi.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern for the political tensions in Burundi and for continued restrictions on the press and on civil liberties, including limitations on the freedoms of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly, including for members of opposition political parties, and for media and civil society organizations, especially in the run up to the 2015 elections.

They condemned any recourse to violence, and expressed their concern for the reported acts of intimidation, harassment and violence committed by youth groups in Burundi. They recalled the urgent need for the government of Burundi to address impunity, while respecting the right of due process, and for all the political parties to publicly condemn all political violence and acts of incitement to hatred or violence, in line with the Constitution of Burundi and the Arusha Agreement.

The members of the Security Council encouraged further efforts by the government of Burundi to ensure a space for all political parties and to continue to improve dialogue between all relevant actors, including civil society, with a view towards ensuring a conducive, free and open environment in the run up to the 2015 elections.

They encouraged Burundi to sustain the progress towards peace, stability and development and reiterated the need for the United Nations system and the international community, including the international financial institutions and Burundi’s development partners, to maintain their support for peace consolidation and long-term development in Burundi. They welcomed Burundi’s contribution and active participation to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations, especially in Somalia and Central African Republic.

The members of the Security Council commended the continued contribution of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) and the United Nations system to the country’s peace, security and development, and reiterated their full support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Burundi.

They recalled the Security Council resolution 2137 (2014) and their request to the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the benchmarks, the implementation of the mandate of BNUB and of the resolution, and the conditions that affect such implementation, as well as on BNUB’s transition to the United Nations Country Team.

    That the cable was in fact sent from the UN in Burundi to three top UN officials -- Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping and Great Lakes envoy Mary Robinson -- was reliably confirmed. Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access put this photo online here and here. Below, the full text of the cable is published.

  On April 9, UK Mission to the UN spokesperson Iona Thomas replied to Inner City Press that "I can confirm that Feltman raised this issue in the Council discussion on Burundi yesterday and members of the Council expressed their concern at the reports."

  UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to Inner City Press' request for confirmation that Ladsous, who was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis, had received the Burundi cable merely pointed to a read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's April 6 meeting with Burundi's First Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza.

  That UN read-out says that "the Secretary-General expressed strong concerns about reports concerning activities of Burundian youth groups and urged the relevant national authorities to investigate these reports."

  But it is the government itself that is accused of distributing pistols, uniforms and AK-47s to the "youth groups," which the UN read-out leaves unnamed. Is this "Rights Up Front"?

  US Ambassador Samantha Power traveled from Rwanda to Burundi and issued a statement that the "United States will provide $7.5 million in assistance for the Burundian electoral process" and expressing concerns, here. It did not directly mention the alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerukure or the cable.

  France, in the same week that it snubbed the Rwanda genocide commemoration and called any suggestion it was complicit in the 1994 killings "disgraceful," holds the pen on Burundi in the Security Council.

   That is to say, it was up to France after Feltman came and raised the memo to then pen and push for fast adoption some output: a resolution or Statement. But this did not happen -- until a week after the cable.

  Instead, when at the end of a higher profile consultation with High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay including on Syria, where France is pushing a referral to the International Criminal Court, April's Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged to speak to the press, there were only two journalists there including Inner City Press. She mentioned Feltman's briefing, but not the cable or its contents.

  Nine hours later, Australia's Ambassador to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted, "#UNSC discussed deteriorating situation in #Burundi for 2nd time in 2 weeks - signs of political exclusion & oppression deeply concerning."

The French Mission to the UN -- the penholder on Burundi -- was even less specific: "Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman has briefed #UNSC on current political tensions in #Burundi."

  So is the main difference in 20 years since the Rwanda genocide the speed of leaks and of social media?


April 7, 2014

Kessab Issues Hits LA & DC, UNSC Delay, Why Not Kardashian Arria?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3, More here on Beacon Reader -- The issue of the over-running of largely Armenian Kessab has been brewing for days, including around the UN Security Council, in Hollywood and in Washington.

  On April 2 Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if the UN had any access to or knowledge about Kessab, including who did what there. Haq said the UN doesn't know that. Video here, from Minute 13:50. Shouldn't it?

  Kim "Famous For Being Famous" Kardashian has gotten involved, due to the Armenian connection; this played a role in US Ambassador Samantha Power being asked about the issue when she testified about the Obama Administration's international organizations budget.

At least one UN wag muses that Russia might want to convene Kardashian to the UN for an Arria formula meeting on Kessab, or Kassab -- others from Hollywood have come to testify on other issues, why not this one?

  Power is quoted (mostly in the Armenian press) as saying, " I would note that, unfortunately, the extremist group that appears to have taken hold of that town is not one that the United States and the United Nations overall has a great deal of leverage over."

Update: but here is a photo of Syria Coalition Jarba, here.

  Some are saying that it was ISIL / ISIS -- that is, the extremists -- did it, but on April 2 Ahmed al Jarba's Syria Coalition put this out:

Syrian Coalition: Russian accusations against rebels in Kasab are false

Khalid Saleh, President of the Media Office, commends "the heroes of the Free Syrian Army for their honorable treatment of the Armenian inhabitants of Kasab following the liberation of the town." Saleh described Russia's calls for the UN Security Council to discuss "the extremist militants' violations" against the Armenian population of the town as "baseless accusations through which Russia seeks to shuffle the cards and to deflect the attention of the international community away from the massacres committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. "The Armenians are a fundamental part of the Syrian fabric and the rebels continue to protect them in Aleppo and Kasab. We expect the Russians to demonstrate seriousness in reaching a political solution to end the bloodshed, but the only language that the Assad regime and its allies understand is the language of militarization and bombing of civilians," Saleh said. In a similar vein, The Syrian Coalition has renewed confidence in the Free Syrian Army’s ability to protect all civilians, regardless of religious, ethnic and political affiliation. Recently, different fighting groups issued a number of statements, in which they reiterated their commitment to protecting civilian population across Syria. "Every time rebels gain ground, the Assad regime leads a smear campaign to discredit rebels. As the rebels advance in the Kassab area, Assad continues to create smear ads. Activists posted a video on social networks reaffirming their commitment to protect holy places. In the video the Armenian Church appears intact." The Syrian Coalition also stresses that it is committed to the unity of Syrian society and the FSA is committed to the protection of civilians against Assad’s militias. It is vital that the international community realize that the Assad regime has to be removed, so that the Syrian people can decide their own future and build a pluralistic, democratic, and free Syria." The Syrian Coalition also demands that the international community put pressure on the Assad regime to stop the fierce military campaign waged against the people of Mount Turkman. "The Assad regime is attempting to eliminate the cultural components that have long enriched the Syrian civilization throughout history. It should have also followed the example of the FSA fighters, who liberated the town of Kassab without committing any violations against the Armenian population of the town, nor did they attack churches or houses of worship." The Syrian Coalition also calls on the FSA fighters not to harm any of the people in the coastal region, including Kassab, which contains one of the most important historical monuments in the world. "We have to protect the civilians in the areas that we liberate, regardless of their views or orientation. FSA fighters must fight those who are armed and that kill the civilians on charges of supporting the revolution. The Assad regime poses a threat not only to Syrian culture, but also to the regional and global culture.” Mohammed Sarmin, Advisor to the interim Prime Minister, visited the town of Kassab north of Latakia and met with the leader of the Western Front, Colonel Mustafa Hashim, and leaders of the Ansar Al Sham brigade. Sarmini handed them the aid sent by the Syrian interim government to the coastal front. He also toured some medical centers and field hospitals, stressing the readiness of the Ministry of Health in the interim government to provide all kinds of medical support. The Shariah Committee in Mount Turkman condemns the murder of two young men by Assad's shabiha in the dominantly Turkman neighborhood of Ali Jamal in central Latakia as a retaliation to the victories of the Free Syrian Army in Latakia province, in which the Turkman fighters played a vital role. The spokesman for the Sharia Committee also said that the battle for the Syrian coast has not witnessed any revenge killings, based on ideology, religion or race. The Syrian minorities, which the Assad claims he protect, are playing a vital role in the battle, which proves to the whole world that the Assad regime lies when it talks about protection of minorities. (Source: Syrian Coalition)

  And here is Jarba's tweeted photo. So now what? Watch this site.

Update 2: After Inner City Press asked about Kassab on April 2, when it asked again on April 3 UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said he'd sent some information to those who asked about Kassab on April 2 - but not to Inner City Press. After Inner City Press asked about a letter from Armenia's foreign minister on April 3, Haq's office squawked confirmation then sent this:

Subject: Your question on Kassab
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 2:38 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Cc: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org

The Office of the Spokesperson can confirm that the Secretary-General has received a letter from the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia, concerning the attacks in Kassab, Syria.

  Now what?


March 31, 2014

On Ukraine, IMF Answers ICP on Gas Price 50% Rise, Citing Kyiv

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 -- It was 4:25 am in New York and Washington when the International Monetary Fund announced its preliminary agreement for a $14 - $18 billion loan program with Ukraine.

 Inner City Press asked the IMF to confirm or comment on reports that the Ukrainian "increase the price of natural gas for household consumers by an average of 50%" is attributable to the IMF.

  At the IMF's 9:30 am embargoed briefing, IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray read out the question then said that the program has five components, including energy sector reform.

  He said Ukraine will reduce subsidies to the energy sector, and that current prices in Ukraine are two to three times lower than in neighboring countries. He said, as it did to other questions, that responses were given in a press conference in Kyiv.

 In New York at the UN, a General Assembly meeting started at 10 am. Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin recounted history and said radicals "called the shots" in the change of government. We've noted that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with the leader of the Svoboda party while in Kyiv.

  In Washington later on March 27 the US Congress is expected to act on a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine, but not on the IMF changes the Obama administration requested. Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement welcoming the IMF preliminary deal, concluding that "We also remain committed to providing the IMF with the resources it needs – in partnership with Congress – to provide strong support to countries like Ukraine as well as reinforcing the Fund’s governance to reflect the global economy."
  
  Two weeks ago on March 13, the day after several US Senators argued that International Monetary Fund quota reform would have to be approved by Congress to enable the IMF to meaningfully assist Ukraine, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice if this is true. Video here, from Minute 12:05.

  Rice genially said several times that the question couldn't or wouldn't be answered while the IMF mission is “in the field” in Ukraine. He initially gave the same answer to Inner City Press' question that had nothing to do with Ukraine: is it true, as Russia reportedly argued at the most recent G-20 meeting, that quota reform could be accomplished without US approval, under some set of rule changes?

  Rice during the briefing repeated this could not be answered while the mission is in Ukraine. Later it was conveyed that the reform is not possible without US approval. The answer is appreciated: a benefit of asking in person. But Inner City Press (and the Free UN Coalition for Access) hope to make the online asking of questions work better from now on.

 And on March 27, for example, IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray read out this question from Inner City Press:

"On Zimbabwe, please confirm IMF is re-opening its office and respond to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa saying part of the deal included cutting Zimbabwe's wage bill from 70 percent of the budget but this pledge will not be met, 'addressing it overnight would mean very drastic measures which I indicated to them (IMF) I am not prepared to take. That would mean retrenchment of civil servants.'"

  On March 27, Murray said he would not comment directly on what the Finance Minister said, but pointed to a press release we will add a link to.

  Back on March 13 in another non-Ukraine question, Inner City Press asked Rice about a book published earlier this week in Hungary, that the then-economy minister in 2011 told Goldman Sachs that the government would be going to the IMF for a program. Since much currency trading ensued, Inner City Press asked if the IMF has any rules limiting its government interlocutors from trading on or sharing insider information.Video here, from Minute 31:12.

  Rice said there are confidential provisions. But are those only for the contents of communication and not the existence of communications or negotiations? We'll see.



March 24, 2014

In Ukraine, List of Parties UN's Ban Met Still UNdisclosed, Visa Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kyiv for a second day, it remained unclear if he met with representatives from the Svoboda Party, whose "freedom of speech" parliamentarian was filmed beating up a news executive and then sought to get the video removed from YouTube.

  Inner City Press on March 21 asked Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, video here

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that in his opening remarks, the Secretary-General talked about provocative actions and counter-reactions and obviously there have been, the US announced sanctions on a slew of individuals and one bank, and another bank, SMP, has been cut off from the Visa and Mastercard system. Russia has its own sanctions. Was this discussed, was this discussed while he was in Moscow? Does the Secretary-General think that sanctions should be done through the UN? And will he meet with representatives of the Svoboda party while he’s there, if they were to request it?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: There was a — I will share with you as soon as I get it — the list of party leaders that attended the meeting with the Secretary-General. So we will see who exactly was there and, you know, I’m not going to get into detailed reactions to sanctions and counter-sanctions and so forth. But what I will say is that, you know, everybody needs to kind of focus on finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution and lowering the tensions.

Inner City Press: Has he or you seen the video of the Svoboda party MPs beating up the television executive?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I have not and I doubt that he has.

  But more than 24 hours later, the "list of party members" who met with Ban was still not provided or shared, nor was an explanation provided. What should one infer from that?

  On the new US sanctions on Russia described on March 20 by four Senior Administration Officials, including on Bank Rossiya, Dujarric had no comment on March 21 when Inner City Press was able to ask him.

  Notably a bank NOT on the US sanctions list, SMP Bank, has been cut off from payments services by Visa and MasterCard. Apparently Visa and MasterCard are part of US foreign policy


March 17, 2014

Of French Mistrals to Russia, US Urges Restraint on Sale, Of Mayotte Analogy

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, March 14 -- Amid talk of "costs" for Russia if the Crimea referendum goes forward as scheduled on Sunday, a sample deal shows Russia's leverage: France's sale of Mistral warships to Russia.

Inner City Press asked US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on March 14 about the deal, about a pending UN Security Council resolution and an analogy raised earlier in the day by Russian foreign minister Lavrov: the French-run referendum that split Mayotte off from the Comoros.

  On the Mistral sale, Harf replied that ""Decisions about these kind of sales are obviously a matter for each sovereign state... We would hope that any country would exercise judgment and restraint when it comes to transferring military equipment that could exacerbate tensions in any conflict region.. That certainly applies here." Video here, from Minute 18:34.

  Hart said she would check if the US has discussed the Mistral sale with France.

   From the State Department transcript:

Inner City Press: on Ukraine, one question that’s come up is, in terms of sanctions is France has this big deal where it’s selling Mistral warships to Russia, and it’s said that it’s going forward. What does the United States think of that sale of military hardware?

MS. HARF: Well, decisions about these kind of sales are obviously a matter for each sovereign state to take into account including a host of factors – obviously, international law, regional stability. We would hope that any country would exercise judgment and restraint when it comes to transferring military equipment that could exacerbate tensions in any conflict region. In general, I think that certainly applies here.

 
  French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who like his Permanent Representative to the UN Gerard Araud has declined comment on the Mistral sale, has said he may travel to Russia on March 18.

On the Mayotte analogy, Harf said "In general, it's very clear under Ukraine's constitution how this legally could take place... a countrywide referendum. She said of "any comparisons, they just don't have relevancy here."

  Inner City Press also asked Harf about South Sudan: Riek Machar's rejection of the proposed deployments of regional forces by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and of the Salva Kiir government's information minister saying that broadcasting interviews with rebels in South Sudan would be illegal.

  Harf noted that she had begun the briefing with a statement condemning crackdowns on the press in Russia, and that would apply here. But would it? Watch this site.



March 10, 2014

In S. Sudan, UN Admits "Error" of Trucks of Guns by Road, Haiti Cholera

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 -- The UN issued a rare admission of error on March 6, saying that contrary to policy weapons were moved by road, not air, in South Sudan for the Ghana peacekeepers recently arrived from Cote d'Ivoire.

The UN issued this:

Juba, 6 March 2014: It is the policy of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that during the crisis in South Sudan all arms and ammunition for peacekeeping contingents are flown into respective areas of deployment and not taken by road. This is an important security measure.

In connection with the transport of cargo of general goods belonging to the Ghanaian battalion on its way to Bentiu, several containers were wrongly labelled and inadvertently contained weapons and ammunition. This is regrettable. The Ghanaian troops are part of the surge of UNMISS troops to assist South Sudan and the goods were en route to Bentiu, passing through Rumbek.

UN Headquarters intends to dispatch a high level investigation team to look into this matter on an urgent basis, in cooperation with the Government of South Sudan.

Pressed for more details, spokesperson Martin Nesirky declined. One wondered, if the UN can in essence apologize so quickly for weapons transport in South Sudan, why not for the 8,000 people killed by the cholera introduced into Haiti?

Then Inner City Press was sent links to the photos of the (UN) trucks, and of the weapons. Click here and here; h/t.

 Perhaps it's that the UN was caught red-handed, so to speak. So now what? Watch this site.

March 3, 2014

Myanmar Invited for UN Peacekeeping by Nambiar, UN Silent on Law (for Ukraine coverage, click here)

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- Even as Myanmar denies the rights of the Rohingya, Karen and Kachin and other people, the UN is inviting it to contribute troops to UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, it was confirmed to Inner City Press on February 27.

   Earlier this month, Inner City Press asked the UN about the exclusion of "Rohingya" from upcoming UN-assisted census. On February 26, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: I've been meaning to ask about Myanmar, there is a report that Vijay Nambiar, when he was there, met with a defence services commander-in-chief and, the quote goes, said that Myanmar could contribute to United Nations peacekeeping operations, if interested. He essentially either solicited or left the door open for Myanmar to contribute UN peacekeepers. Since many people remain concerned, including Mr. [Tomas] Ojea Quintana, about a lack of rule of law and some abuses by the army and there is still [a United States] arms embargo on the country, is it possible to know whether Mr. Nambiar said that or maybe some variation on that and what the UN’s position is on Myanmar contributing troops?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, troop contributing is a conversation that would be had with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. So, I would need to check with them, and also with Mr. Nambiar on precisely what was said with that, in that meeting unless, bear in mind, that Mr. Nambiar on his trip had any number of troops with different officials.

 Twenty four hours later, Nesirky and DPKO had provided no answer. So, even limited two a mere two questions -- no Sri Lanka -- by Nesirky, Inner City Press on February 27 asked again about Myanmar.

   Along with asking again if Nambiar invited Myanmar "peacekeepers," Inner City Press asked about president

"Thein Sein expressed his support on Thursday for four controversial laws on religion due to be considered by the country's parliament, including one that restricts interfaith marriages for Buddhists, a parliamentary official said. In a letter to lawmakers, Thein Sein urged the lower house to pass the bills aimed at protecting Buddhism, the predominant religion among Myanmar's estimated 60 million population, a lower house spokesman said. The interfaith marriage bill, if enacted, would mean a non-Buddhist man who wants to marry a Buddhist must convert to her faith, or face a 10-year jail sentence. The text would not apply restrictions to marriages between Buddhist men and non-Buddhist women. The draft laws could be presented to parliament for a vote as early as next month, sources said."

   Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Nesirky said he wouldn't comment even this law while it is pending. Next month? After peacekeepers?

  Later on February 27, Nesirky's office sent this to Inner City Press:

Subject: On your question on Myanmar.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

"During his recent meeting with the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s Defence Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the question of Myanmar’s cooperation with the UN on peacekeeping was discussed. The Special Adviser explained that, like any Member State, Myanmar was invited to discuss its interest in specific terms with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations which would consider such a request in accordance with its regular parameters."

   Under Ban and Ladsous, UN Peacekeeping has been advised by controversial Sri Lanka military figure Shavendra Silva; Ladsous has accepted a child soldier recruiter and user into "his" mission in Mali. Myanmar may be next.

   Is the UN still in denial about the exclusionary census it is supporting in Myanmar? Back on January 24, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: another Myanmar question. There is a census coming up. It seems that the United Nations system is involved in funding and maybe even participating in it. Both Kachin and Rohingya groups have expressed a lot of concerns. One, there is no box in the census thus far to check Rohingya, meaning… implying that they are not citizens. Also, Kachin, they have other complaints. I wanted to know: is UN aware of these? What steps are they taking, and will they fund a census that many groups think makes things worse rather than better?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, we will look into what we are doing on that question. We need some details about that.

  It was 19 days later, on February 12, that the UN Spokesperson's Office finally sent this response:

Subject: In response to your question on the Myanmar census.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 5:02 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is the focal UN agency for providing technical and programmatic assistance to the Government for the census. It says that everyone in Myanmar will be counted in the census. UNFPA is supporting the Government to ensure that the census is fully inclusive and conducted according to international standards. Respondents will be asked to identify their ethnicity, with the option of selecting one of the categories used in the 1983 census or selecting "other" and writing in the name of another group. All of the responses will be coded and tabulated.

  Compare this belated Pollyanna answer by the UN and UNFPA to what the Myanmar government Minister for Immigration and Population U Khin Yi openly says:

"They say that their race is Rohingya. When a person says that his race is “B”, because he doesn’t want to mention his race as “A”, that means that race “A” no longer exists, but the race “B” is a new race. Since race “B” is a new race, there will be questions, such as “how did the race enter (the country)?” or “are they encroaching here?” When things become radical, I worry that it could harm peace and stability...We will record what the person says. If he says “A” then we will fill the form as “A”. The result will be, like I said before, that even if that term “A” is Rohingya, we will not recognize Rohingya as one of the 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar."

So this is "fully inclusive and conducted according to international standards"? The UN is at best in denial. Watch this site.

Footnote: It appears that on-again, off-again UN official Charles Petrie is about to set sail from Myanmar. He was quoted earlier this year: "In terms of MPSI we want to make sure whatever we do adds value, and there’s a clear sense that if there isn’t we won’t continue." Watch this site.


 
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February 24, 2014

In Ukraine, Yanukovych Heads East, Putin - Obama Talk, Hagel Gets His Call

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- Here's how fast things have moved in diplomacy on Ukraine: today Presidents Obama and Putin had a phone conversation which a Senior US State Department Official called "positive" and at the US' initiative.

  The official said that Yanukovych has gone on a trip to Kharkiv in his eastern base in the country, "for some kind of meeting that's taking place out there," and recounted a rumor that the deposed interior minister has fled to Belarus.

  US State Department official William Burns will be heading to Ukraine; Vice President Joe Biden has spoken nine times with Yanukovych: twice in November, once in December, three times in January and on February 4, 18 and 20. Even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel finally got through to his Ukraine's counterpart, Lebedev.

  Amid the self-congratulation, the United Nations was once again on the margins. The UN has made much of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's talk with Yanukovych at the Sochi Olympics, and another phone call today.

  But tellingly, the Senior US State Department Official while citing a "good offices" role for "the international community" did not mention the UN once, in opening remarks nor in response to the eight questions taken. (Two were from the New York Times, the second of which referred to Putin's call with "President Bush.")  An overly long question from Le Figaro was cut off.

 Back on February 19 when Lithuania's foreign minister Linas Linkevieius came to the UN Security Council stakeout, that country seemed to be the one to ask him about. Inner City Press asked Linkevieius about his visit to Washington; he replied among other things that there is a need for "more coordination." Video here.

  Later on February 19 a US Senior State Department Official told the press that "Russia has not been transparent about what they are doing in Ukraine," citing that Russia for example does not provide read-outs of its contacts in Ukraine.

  The US' own high level contacts have gotten more difficult: "they are not picking up the phone," the official said, adding that three European Union foreign ministers are on their way.

  Of the four questions Linkevieius took at his UN stakeout, one was on the UN's North Korea report, another on Venezuela. A Russian reporter waiting at the stakeout with his hand raised was not given a question. This is the UN.

  Moments later at the UN's February 19 noon briefing, outgoing UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky was asked about a perceived double standards in responses to Bosnia and Ukraine. (The question was echoed on February 20, comparing Ukraine with Bahrain). Nesirky said every situation is different -- of course -- and also said the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had met for 90 minutes in Sochi with President Yanukovych.