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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.

  Ironically the US Senior State Department Official on February 19 was asked about Yanukovych becoming more hardline after his visit to Sochi. From Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the view is different -- in the case of the UN, often marginal and self-serving. For example, Ban Ki-moon gave no read-out of his beginning of the year call with the president of his native South Korea.

 
Ah, transparency. Watch this site.

Footnote: On the Obama - Putin "positive" call, Inner City Press muses it may signal a 15-0 vote in the UN Security Council on the Syria humanitarian resolution about which Inner City Press asked State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf earlier on February 21, click here for that.


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info February 17, 2014

On FSA Child Soldiers, Amos Says Use Leverage, US Left UNanswered, Until Now

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 13, updated Feb 14 below -- Amid reports that the US already provides or is ready to provide aid to armed groups in Syria like the Free Syrian Army (FSA), on January 29 Inner City Press first highlighted and then on January 30 first asked the US Mission to the UN about a finding in the UN's then-unpublished report on Children and Armed Conflict in Syria:

"Throughout the reporting period, the United Nations received consistent reports of recruitment and use of children by FSA-affiliated groups." (Now final, here, Para 12).

  The US has cited the recruitment and use of child soldiers to suspend US aid to armies of governments which had previously been receiving it.  Inner City Press asked, and continues to ask,  how could the US provide aid to a non-state group which even the UN has found using child soldiers?

  On February 13, Inner City Press was able to put this question to the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, but not to US Ambassador Samantha Power who spoke just after Amos.

   Amos said "in terms of recruiting children into armed groups, we see culpability on all the sides to the conflict, and therefore anyone who has any kind of influence with those groups needs to be making it clear that this is not acceptable." Video here, from Minute 10:11.

   Given US statements about the Free Syrian Army, clearly the US has influence and leverage. So will the US use the leverage? Can it legally not?

  At the Security Council stakeout after Amos took five questions, including Inner City Press' question on FSA child soldiers, Ambassador Power took three: Al Arabiya, Associated Press and the New York Times. Inner City Press said, "Question on child soldiers?" and there was some reaction which we won't try to interpret. (The video is now online here, at end, also from Minute 10:11). But the question had still not been answered, as specifically regards the FSA child soldiers and the US 2008 Child Soldiers Protection Act.

Update: on February 14, the following was received from US Mission deputy spokesperson Tony Deaton:

"We are deeply disturbed by the contents of this report and strongly condemn the mistreatment and torture of children in any conflict. We equally condemn the use of child soldiers in Syria and around the world. The use of children in armed conflict is morally reprehensible, and the United States in no way supports or condones this activity. We vet recipients of our assistance to the moderate opposition and work diligently to prevent assistance from falling into the hands of groups that recruit or use children in combat or employ terror tactics."

While we will continue to pursue how the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act applies after the FSA finding in the UN report, we appreciate the US response and publish it in full.

  Back on February 4, the UK Mission to the UN provided this response to Inner City Press:

"The UK absolutely condemns the use of child soldiers in all cases, and strongly supports international efforts to stop the use of child soldiers. We urge all parties in the Syrian conflict to release any children held in detention.

"Armed conflict affects millions of lives around the world, and children are among those most vulnerable to the effects of conflict. The only way to secure the long-term future of Syria’s children is to find a political solution to the crisis.

"We have made clear our absolute condemnation of the use of child soldiers. As noted in this report, the use of child soldiers by the opposition is not systematic and is limited to certain elements. We have provided training to the Supreme Military Council of the Syrian opposition on the law of armed conflict, and will continue to work with them to help ensure that they meet their obligations under international law."

    As Inner City Press noted, that might be OK for the United Kingdom -- but what about the US, including in light of the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which provides for example:

It is the sense of Congress that—

 (1) the United States Government should condemn the conscription, forced recruitment, or use of children by governments, paramilitaries, or other organizations;

 (2) the United States Government should support and, to the extent practicable, lead efforts to establish and uphold international standards designed to end the abuse of human rights described in paragraph (1);

  There are prohibitions on funding which can only be overridden for formal, public findings in a waiver by the President. Given all this, Inner City Press on February 4 again asked two spokespeople for the US Mission to the UN its January 30 question: "could the US provide aid to a non-state group, the FSA and its affiliates, which the UN has found using child soldiers?"

  Now we add: (in) consistent with the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008.

 The report, now issued as a document of the UN Security Council under the symbol S/2014/31, goes on to recount:

"Boys aged 12 to 17 were trained, armed, and used as combatants or to man checkpoints. For instance, a 15 year-old boy reported being recruited in April 2012 by the FSA in Tall Kalakh (Tartus governate), and participation in military operations.... Also indicative was the case of a 16 year-old boy from Homs who reportedly joined the FSA as a combatant. In March 2013, his family reported to the United Nations that he was still fighting with the group."

  And is this boy still fighting with the FSA? There is more to be said about this UN report, but as to the US and the recent report it is or is moving toward aiding the armed FSA, what steps will be taken on this UN report? Specifically, by the US, including in light of what Valerie Amos said on February 13 about using leverage? Watch this site.


 
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February 11, 2014

On Nuland & Feltman, UN Tells ICP It Might Be a Third Jeff, Or Geoff Pyatt

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- The leaked audio of the US State Department's Victoria Nuland about Ukraine, best known for her "f*ck the EU" comment, continues to reveal more and more regarding relations between the US Administration and the United Nations, at least former US official Jeffrey Feltman.

  In the clip, Nuland told US official Geoff Pyatt that Jeff Feltman "got Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry can come in Monday or Tuesday" to Ukraine.

  On February 7 Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if as described Jeff Feltman "got" Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to sent Serry to Ukraine. Video here and embedded below.

  While saying he would not comment on others' leaked conversations, Haq then told Inner City Press he (and presumably the UN) is not convinced Nuland was referring to Feltman or rather "another Jeff" (or Geoff).

  Inner City Press, after intervening questions trying in essence to bolster the UN's position, by the United Nations Correspondents Association president Pamela Falk of CBS who also praised Ban Ki-moon during the briefing, asked Haq if he was really positing a THIRD Jeff / Geoff who "gets" Ban Ki-moon to do things.  

   Earlier today Inner City Press reviewed how the Nuland leak was covered, by Reuters and (better) by Gawker.

   Reuters managed to not even MENTION Feltman in its long story about the leaked audio.

   Despite that, or because of it, UN spokesperson Haq gave the first, tone-setting question about the Nuland audio to Reuters' UN bureau chief.

  Gawker to its credit ran a transcript, but calls the apparently little known Feltman "Felton."

   Inner City Press first reported in March 2012 that Feltman would switch from being a US Assistant Secretary of State to UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs. The US essentially owns this UN position (US Lynn Pascoe was Feltman's predecessor), just as France owns UN Peacekeeping through Herve Ladsous and three other Frenchmen in a row before him. The UK for now has Humanitarian Affairs, twice in a row.)

  As Inner City Press first highlighted yesterday evening, at Minute 2:40 of the leaked audio Nuland says she spoke to Feltman and "he's now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday" and "have the UN glue this thing, f*ck the EU." Listen here.

  Significant here, particularly given Feltman's previous position with the US government, is that Ban, ostensibly Feltman's boss, apparently didn't tell Feltman what to do. Rather, Feltman "got" Ban Ki-moon to agree to something that was pleasing to the US, to help the US "f*ck the EU."

   The Reuters piece is typical of its UN coverage, just as for example it delayed six days in reporting on a UN finding that the US (and UK and French) favored Free Syrian Army recruits and uses child soldiers, until the last Geneva Two talks were over. (Click here for that.) 

  Reuters UN bureau chief has even essentially spied for the UN, giving a UN media accreditation official an internal UN Correspondents Association anti Press document three minutes after promising not to.  Another Reuters filing to this same official has been banned from Google's Search after a cynical use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by the Reuters bureau chief. Click here for that, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's ChillingEffects.org.
 
   Gawker runs this transcript:

Nuland: I can't remember if I told you this or if I only told Washington this, but when I talked to Jeff Felton [the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy, Robert Serry. Did I write you that this morning?

Pyatt: Yeah, I saw that.

Nuland: Okay. He's now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it, and, you know, fuck the EU.

   Transcripts are the way to go - but by calling Feltman "Felton," the point about his previous position with the US State Department, in Syria then Lebanon then covering the whole Middle East may be lost.

  There is another Middle East connection, through Serry. On January 29, Inner City Press had asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq to confirm that the Ukraine trip of Robert Serry, who would seem to have a full time job as the UN's Middle East process coordinator:

Inner City Press: In the Ukraine, I’m not sure if I missed some announcement on your part that Robert Serry met with President [Yevgeny] Yanukovich and I wanted to know: is that the case? What’s the UN’s… why was it him, given his title? And what’s the UN seeking to accomplish?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: The Secretary-General asked Mr. Robert Serry to travel to Kiev on his behalf to convey the United Nations’ solidarity with Ukraine and to encourage dialogue. He will be in Ukraine from yesterday until Thursday, tomorrow. As for his past experience, he has worked in the Ukraine before. He continues to be the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. That hasn’t changed.

  Haq confirmed the assignment -- now we know by whom -- and later Ban explained that Serry had been his native Netherlands' ambassador to Ukraine.

  Since Nuland says she'd spoken to Feltman that morning and he had a "new name" for Ukraine, one is left wondering who the first choice, perhaps by Ban or some other operative, had been.

  The US State Department and Mission, despite Inner City Press' written questions to the latter since January 30 for an explanation of how the US can support the Free Syrian Army now that it is named in the UN report Inner City Press first quoted on January 29 as a recruiter and user of child soldiers, has not answered, despite the terms of the US Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008.

  When Ambassador Samantha Power spoke about Syria at the UN on February 6, only two questions were taken: Al Jazeera and Al Hurra, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governors John Kerry serves.

  Nor has a simple question been answered about why the proposed replacement for UN Reform Ambassador Joe Torsella, Leslie Berger Kiernam, had her name "withdrawn." So we are less than confident that the US will explain the dynamic between the State Department and Feltman as reflect in Nuland's leaked audio. Perhaps the UN or Feltman -- or even Serry -- will explain. Watch this site.



February 3, 2014

Deal On Rwanda Genocide Description Voted 15-0, US Policy UNexplained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30, longer form here -- After stand-offs including on how to describe the 1994 Rwanda genocide, on January 30 the Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions resolution was adopted by the UN Security Council, 15-0.

  The language compromised on is "the 1994 genocide
against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed."

  Sources exclusively told Inner City Press that the United States resisted calling it a genocide against the Tutsi of Rwanda, even saying that there is a US policy against referring to it in this way.

   Inner City Press has asked the US Mission to the UN for an explanation. It was said one might be forthcoming after the vote.

  Where would such a US policy be written down? It seemed strange, particularly during a time of Holocaust events at the UN, from one about Hungary to another about Albania.

   On January 29, Inner City Press asked a US Council diplomat, who said spokespeople would be asked. Inner City Press was told to wait for the language to be final, then, for the vote.

  In the Council's January 29 debate, the representative of the DRC spoke about Rwanda and the M23 rebels. Rwanda's Deputy Permanent Representative replied with a series of questions: was it Rwanda who killed Lumumba? Was Rwanda responsible for Mobutu? Who hosted and failed to separate the genocidaires from Rwanda in 1994?

  This continued on January 30 after the vote.  Rwanda Permanent Representative Gasana said UN Peacekeeping should investigate links between the DRC Army and the FDLR.

  The DRC representative asked to be given specifics about links between his country's army the FARDC and the FDLR militia. The resolution voted on provides:

"Noting with deep concern reports indicating FARDC collaboration with the FDLR at a local level, recalling that the FDLR is a group under United Nations sanctions whose leaders and members inchide perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed, and have continued to promote and commit ethnically based and other killings in Rwanda and in the DRC, and stressing the importance of permanently addressing this threat"

   As Inner City Press exclusively put online last June, some of these links were even specified in the UN Group of Experts report, for example:

"107. The Group interviewed 10 FARDC soldiers in Tongo, in North Kivu, who reported that FARDC and FDLR regularly meet and exchange operational information. These same sources stated that FARDC soldiers supplied ammunition to the FDLR. Col. Faida Fidel Kamulete, the commander of FARDC 2nd battalion of 601st Regiment based at Tongo, denied such collaboration, but declared to the Group that FARDC and FDLR do not fight each other."

  Going further back, it is impossible not to note, particularly given the lack of explanation or transparency, that US Permanent Representative Samantha Power began her 2001 article "Bystanders to Genocide" in the Atlantic with this sentence: "In the course of a hundred days in 1994 the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies very nearly succeeded in exterminating the country's Tutsi minority."

  Given that, why would the US Mission be saying it had a policy of describing the genocide as being against the Tutsi minority? Inner City Press asked again: Since I'm told that the US has said that there is a government position not to say the 1994 genocide was against the Tutsis, can you say what that policy is? Why does it exist? Does it apply to other genocides or atrocities?

 As noted, Inner City Press also has pending with the US State Department a number of requests, including a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Administration's Atrocities Prevention Board.

  A Rwandan diplomat told Inner City Press these were Hutu killed not because of their ethnicity but because they opposed the genocide against the Tutsi. "This is a precedent," the diplomat said. Watch this site.

January 27, 2104

Syria Represented by Ja'afari in Geneva, Annan to Iran After Ban Disinvitation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- With Syria talks in Geneva surprisingly going forward, with the two sides in the same room not speaking to each other but only to Lakhdar Brahimi, on January 25 "The Elders" made an announcement.

  Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as well as Martti Ahtisaari, Desmond Tutu and Ernesto Zedillo, will to the Iran from January 26 to 29, to discuss among other things "mutual respect" and peace in the region: that is, Syria.

  This comes after current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on January 20 reversed his "decision" of the previous day of inviting Iran to the Syria talks in Montreux. The contrast, some say, couldn't be clearer.

   (Among those not making the obvious comparison was Reuters editor in chief Stephen Adler, bylined on a dispatch from Davos identifying Annan as "Ex-Syria Envoy." Under Adler's watch, Reuters at least through its UN bureau has degenerated into a pass-through for Western missions, also seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN then mis-using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to try to cover it it: that is, censor it from Google's Search. Click here for that story. DMCA filing here, via ChillingEffects.org).

   Now in Geneva Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al Ja'afari is speaking for the government. In New York, Ban's spokesperson's office has refused to answer a detailed "note verbale" from the Syrian mission about inaccurate answers to Press questions about who attack UN peacekeepers in the Golan.

 On January 20 in the Security Council, Ja'afari complained again of inaction on complaints by Herve Ladsous, the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row. This is why the UN is not even the lead mediator on South Sudan, much less the Middle East or Syria.

Ending the Syria speeches in Montreux on January 22, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called them "productive." Then his spokesperson accused some non-Western media of being "disrespectful of the Secretary General of the UN," after he gave the last two questions to Bloomberg and NHK.  How was it productive?

   Even before the afternoon session began, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius took to the Montreux stakeout to say Syrian foreign minister Moallem was "aggressive." This is the same Fabius who in September at the UN declared Ahmad al Jarba the leader of the Syrian people, and refused to take critical questions from the media including about his country's practices.

   Australia was represented not by foreign minister Julie Bishop but rather its Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Woolcott (who also chairs a humanitarian high level group on Syria, it's been pointed out to Inner City Press.).  Bishop is on Washington, and soon New York.

   Ahmad al Jarba spoke next to last, thanking Saudi Arabia, viewed as his sponsor, as if in an Oscars speech. Ban Ki-moon wrapped up, calling it productive and asking the assembled (hand-picked, without Iran) minister to "wish [him] luck" as he went to speak to the media.

  There, the questions were chosen much as they are at the UN in New York, as documented and critiqued by the Free UN Coalition for Access -- but in Montreux, this was actively protested. (FUNCA also questioned the UN citing Ban's press conference as a basis to cancel its noon briefing in New York, on South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and other countries in which the UN is at least somewhat less marginal or US dominated.)

  When John Kerry held his press conference, only four questions were taken: CBS, a Turkish media, BBC and Al Hurra, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governors John Kerry himself serves. Freedom of the press at today's US State Department we covered yesterday, here.

After the UN's craven reversal on including Iran in the Syria session in Montreux, it has turned out to be a series of speeches mostly by countries significantly less important to that conflict and the region.

   In the morning session on January 22, Italy and Spain spoke and Japan offered money. Turkey spoke without mentioning the Kurds -- but neither did supposed representative of the range of Syrian opposition Ahmad al Jarba.

   Since Jarba's Saudi-sponsored, Saud al Faisal called him "Excellency," pomp like Jarba's faux "UN briefing" with Gulf and Western media in July.


January 20, 2014

On Mali Gang Rapes, Chad Tells UN Probe's Finished, But Not Result: Longer form, with Video link, here via Beacon Reader

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- On the alleged gang rapes in Mali of which UN peacekeepers from Chad stand accused, the UN on the afternoon of January 16 sent Inner City Press a response.

 It does not really answer the question of accountability. But here it is, in full:

Subject: Your question on Mali
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 3:23 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

In response to your question about the follow-up to the allegations of sexual assault by United Nations peacekeepers in MINUSMA in September 2013, we have received the following information:

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations officially notified the Government of Chad of these allegations in late September. The Government of Chad officially responded, saying that it would take responsibility for the investigations. The Government of Chad has further advised the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that it has completed the national investigation, and the United Nations awaits advice on the outcome of the investigations and follow-up accountability measures as appropriate.

  The UN is waiting for "advice" -- but will it ever make it public? How else can the UN's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy be assessed?

  One of the UN's other too-few criticisms of military action in north Mail, the shooting into a crowd of protesters in Kidal on November 28, was disputed in the Security Council on January 16.

  In a statement prepared like a defense attorney, trying raise reasonable doubt, Mali's Permanent Representative Sekou Kasse said that the UN Mission MINUSMA elements closest to the shooting were 400 meters away, precluding them from "objective" testimony. The argument made was one must wait for the ballistic analysis ordered by the Malian government itself. Will that be credible?

 Again, similarly, can statements by the French Mission to the UN, about military action in its former colony Mali and related topics, be believed? If so, does that require disbelieving the UN itself, whose reports are different?

  In the run-up to the UN Security Council's January 16 meeting on Mali, both France and the UN Mission MINUSMA filed reports. It's worth comparing their accounts of the same incidents, for example on October 23, 2013 in Tessalit.

France gives a Polyanna report emphasizing its good works and downplaying death:

"On 23 October 2013, in response to an attack on a Chadian post in Tessalit by a commando made up of three armed terrorist groups using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, the Operation Serval Liaison and Support Detachment assigned to the Chadian battalion assisted MINUSMA by conducting a patrol with a Mirage 2000D jet and sending a CASA 'Nurse' medical evacuation aircraft. The end result was that six wounded Chadians were evacuated and the remaining explosives were neutralized."

  The UN by contrast recounts seven deaths including five civilians (one child) and two peacekeepers:

"On 23 October, four individuals drove and detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device into a MINUSMA checkpoint in Tessalit. Seven people were killed, including four adult civilians, a six-year-old boy and two MINUSMA peacekeepers."

  This type of disparities in reporting - misleading - would and should be delved into in legislative review sessions. But the Security Council, on which France uses its Permanent Five seat, confines such consultations to behind closed doors. How and where will these disparities be explained?

  One might say, at the Security Council stakeout. But Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, has said he has a "policy" against answering Press questions.

Earlier this week, French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud used the stakeout to rail against publication of a New York Police Department document concerning a French diplomat -- contrasting with the case of Indian diplomat Khobragade -- an NYPD document on which Araud's French Mission to the UN had declined to comment, responding only with threats that publication would a "hostile act."

 While continuing to pursue that, delving into the French report, and the roles of UN Peacekeeping, MINUSMA and their respective leadership(s), will be done elsewhere.

  At the UN stakeout on January 16, Araud called on French radio then went from there, most questions about the delay in MINUSMA deployment, not about the rapes, or the shooting of civilians, much less this.

The French report n Mali makes claims about the December 14, 2013 incidents in defense of a "bank building" in Kidal, an incident that when Inner City Press asked Araud about at the stakeout, Araud refused to answer, calling it a mere detail. Then why is it in France's self serving report, a report which is materially different that the UN's? We'll have more on this.

January 13, 2014

Khobragade "On Watchlist," But US Let French Dip Serman Return as Consul (see more, here)

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- Following yesterday's US indictment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for underpaying a domestic worker, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki today said that Khobragade was told that if she applies for another visa to the US, her name would be placed on a watch list.

  Back in 2011, though, Inner City Press uncovered and exclusively reported on the case of a French diplomat, Romain Serman, who after assaulting a New York Police Department officer while allegedly buying cocaine was allowed to leave the country before any indictment. See story here, arrest report here.

  It seems clear that Serman was NOT placed on any watch list, because he not only returned to the US -- he is now France's consul in San Francisco.

  While it may be debatable if assaulting a police officer when being arrested for cocaine purchase is more or less serious than allegedly underpaying a domestic worker, the disparity in US treatment between the French and Indian and French diplomat cannot be missed.

  The Indian diplomat was arrested, booked and stripped searched, indicted and told she'd be put on a visa watch list. The French diplomat Romain Serman was allowed to quietly leave the country without any indictment, and was allowed to return, as consul.

  Usually the agreement upon being allowed to leave the US in this way is that the person will not come back to the US. But, amazingly, Romain Serman came back to the US -- as France's consul in San Francisco, still.

  When Inner City Press reported this, the then spokesperson of the French mission demanded that Inner City Press remove the story from the Internet.

  As with stories on Sri Lanka that the United Nations Correspondents Association demanded be taken down from the Internet or Inner City Press face expulsion, Inner City Press refused. The French spokesperson called this a "hostile act" (Inner City Press countered that it was an act of journalism) and things proceeded from there.

  This becomes even more relevant now in light of reports not only of the disparity in indictment of Khobragade versus none for the French Serman, but of US State Department spokesperson Psaki's comments today about being put on a watch list.

  Back in April 2011, Inner City Press asked spokespeople at the US Mission to the UN and then Mark Toner at the State Department, "Was the State Department aware of Serman's arrest record when he re-entered in 2010, and how does applicable law and precedent allow this?"

 And we're still waiting for a response, as we are to FOIA requests pending at the State Department. Soon the new Free UN Coalition for Access will have to get on this case. Watch this site.

UN Says Truck in Anti-Kagame Convoy "Taken Over" - But Jeep in Video?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- After rumors of the death of Rwanda's Paul Kagame were shot down, across the border in the Eastern Congo, a time-stamped photograph was tweeted of a UN truck full of people on the back, captioned "MONUSCO in Goma celebrating the death of Pres Paul Kagame."

  It seemed worth asking the UN mission chief Martin Kobler to comment on or explain the photograph, and Inner City Press sent this, to Kobler and three MONUSCO spokespeople:

"Please comment on / explain this time-stamped photo, which is being described as a UN truck participating in "celebrations" of the rumor of the Rwandan president's death. Do you dispute that the photo was taken on January 10? To whom is the UN giving a ride in this truck / photo? In what context?"

   After a time, UN envoy Kobler replied:

"@innercitypress Ceci apparait de toute évidence comme une utilisation frauduleuse d'un véhicule de la #Monusco. C'est inacceptable"

  Translated: "This appears clearly as a fraudulent use of a vehicle of the #Monusco. This is unacceptable."

(Translation not by Google, not only because of NSA spying issues but also acquiescence in Digital Millennium Copyright Act abuse by Reuters UN bureau, click here for that.)

  The question became, now what does Kobler, or those above him in New York, do? 

  Inner City Press went to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's press conference, 11 am in New York, to ask this question: "in the DRC this morning, after false rumors of Paul Kagame being dead, a MONUSCO truck was photographed in what some call celebrations and Martin Kobler told me is "unacceptable." What do you think your UN should do about this, in terms of the perception of impartiality or bias by the UN?"

  But Ban's acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq did not call on Inner City Press, instead automatically giving the first question to the United Nations Correspondents Association (a/k/a UN's Censorship Alliance), then mostly questions soft on the UN about Syria.

  Next came spin from MONUSCO, e-mailed to the Press:

Fraudulent use of MONUSCO truck in Goma

Kinshasa, 10 January 2014 - MONUSCO is aware of a photo being circulated on the internet showing a MONUSCO truck in Goma during a demonstration.

In reality, the truck was taken over by demonstrators while on a regular mission. The driver was alone and unarmed when the incident happened. MONUSCO condemns this agressivity against its assets.

MONUSCO has launched a full investigation to ascertain the circumstances and the context surrounding the incident.

  But how does the UN explain, then, this UN jeep or Four by Four in this longer video of the anti-Kagame protests, from Minute 1:04 to 1:54? http://youtu.be/L9EPcUOpT1M

   Watch this site.

January 6, 2014

For South Sudan, Ladsous Cited Troops from Haiti, UN Wouldn't Answer, Morocco Follow Ups

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- Even in South Sudan, the lack of transparency by UN Peacekeeping does not serve it. On December 30, Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Herve Ladsous admonished South Sudan to not put in "caveat" on accepting troops from any country.

Though Ladsous didn't name the country -- for reasons that soon became obvious -- and later in the week UN spokesperson Farhan Haq declined to specify any country being considered for South Sudan, later on December 30 at the UN Mission of an African (and troop contributing) country Inner City Press was told Ladsous was trying to push into South Sudan peacekeeping from Morocco. Click here for more on that.

  After telling Inner City Press "I don't answer you Mister," Ladsous dodged about the impact of shifting peacekeepers out of Darfur, where two had just been killed, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then he mentioned, for South Sudan, "half a regiment" from the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti. UN Video here, from Minute 3:09.

  Now, which country's half-regiment could that be? Questions have been asked, particularly in light of UN Peacekeeping's dubious record in Haiti: the introduction of cholera, multiple cases of sexual abuse or exploitation, nearly always followed by mere repatriation and no update on any discipline meted out, for example in the case of repatriated Sri Lanka peacekeepers.

  The website of the UNMISS mission in South Sudan lists fully 55 countries as contributing peacekeepers (Morocco notably is NOT among them) and some additional countries contributing UN Police, including Zimbabwe.

On January 2 Inner City Press asked UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: Yes, Farhan. I wanted to ask you two questions about peacekeeping in South Sudan. One is that, it’s reported that India is unhappy with not being consulted in some of the ways their peacekeepers were used and intends to send its own military team to meet with its peacekeepers there. I wanted to know, separately, [Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar] Mukerji has, over the holidays, said that the Force Intervention Brigade may put peacekeepers in danger. What’s your response to that? And also, if you could confirm, I’ve heard that the UN wants to send Moroccan peacekeepers to South Sudan and they’re pushing back. And one of their reasons for pushing back is that Morocco is not a member of the African Union due to the Western Sahara. And I wanted if it’s DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) position that countries don’t have a right to have a sort of principled, political stand on why they wouldn’t take peacekeepers? Or should they take anyone that DPKO sends?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we wouldn’t comment on the specifics of how we’re trying to bring more peacekeepers in. We, as you know, are in touch with a number of Member States trying to build up the forces, as was approved by the Security Council. And when we have details of which countries are coming in, we’ll provide those details at that point. But, I don’t have any specific names to give up until more arrivals come in.

Inner City Press: I ask that only because Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous at the stakeout made a big point of saying, it’s not… when the house is on fire, anyone must be taken. So, I just wanted to know, can you say… is that the UN’s position? That even if there’s a political, principled stated reason not to take them… that wouldn’t… that should be overridden?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: For us, the priority is to get as many peacekeepers in as we can. They’ve been authorized by the Security Council. We’re trying to get the right numbers in order to stop the bloodshed as soon as we possibly can. So, that’s our priority. But, if we have any specific announcements to make about different countries joining in, we’ll make it at that point. But, that’s not ready at this stage.

Inner City Press: And on India?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I wouldn’t have any comment on that. Is that it? Okay? Pam?

Correspondent: Hi, Farhan. I’d like to just correct the record that was established at this briefing a few weeks ago that the UN Correspondents’ Association has not… does not have any new Samsung TV sets in the room, never has had and has never accepted any donation or loan from the UN for Samsung TVs. Thank you.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, thanks. I’m in receipt of a letter from the United Nations Correspondent’s Association, which says, which does read: “Please be advised that there are no new Samsung TV sets in the UNCA room and have never been. And the UN Correspondents’ Association has not accepted a donation or loan of new Samsung TVs”. Thanks for that update. We’ll try to get any updated guidance about the language that we had earlier received. Yes?

Inner City Press: Because I’m thinking maybe you’ll correct the transcript on the answer that was given to me in writing about the television. If so, do you have any response about the note verbale that was filed by Syria that we previously discussed here?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, there’s no response to that at present. But, yes, if there’s any fresh language on the language that was given to you, we’ll try to correct the record here. Yes, Lou?

Watch this site.


December 30, 2013

On Killers Armed from Kiir's Armory, UN's Johnson Says It Was Broken Into

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 26 -- When the UN's envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson took press questions on December 26, she quoted and praised President Salva Kiir for his pledges on accountability.

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about reports that "young men from the Dinka community, many of them with no military training, were given uniforms and guns from various armories around the capital, including one located at President Kiir's own compound, known as J1."

  Johnson replied that several government armories had been "broken into" and army uniforms and equipment distributed. UN (inaccurate) transcript below.  To some, it was just what a defense lawyer, in this case for Kiir, would say. But in a real trial the question would be, Did you report them stolen at the time?

  In any event, it seems strange for Johnson at this time to be quoting with praise Salva Kiir, and speaking favorably of government control of Bor, which was re-taken by force. Does the government do that elsewhere (other than, for example, Sri Lanka)?

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about threats by Kiir's supporters to re-take Bentiu by force. Johnson said she hopes talks can proceed in tranquility and that option is not pursued. It fell short of saying, as the UN does elsewhere, don't re-take by force.

  One wanted to ask other questions, about the status of Yida camp (the UNHCR person to whom South Sudan OCHA referred Inner City Press is, who knew, out of the office from December 9 to January 9), of the UN base in Yuai from which the UN withdrew peacekeepers and of other UN facilities Inner City Press has asked in writing about, in for example Aweil, and in Kuacjok.

  Johnson was asked at the end of her briefing about reports UNMISS helped and or sheltered armed rebels. Her response, partially cut off by the understandably choppy audio from Juba, seemed limited to non-governmental fighters.

So Inner City Press has asked the UN Spokesperson, adding to the other questions left unanswered now for 120 hours, that while Johnson "spoke of disarming those who enter UNMISS bases... please state if this applied to the 27 SPLA fighters whom UNMISS spokesperson Joe Contreras was quoted by Reuters as saying sought shelter with with UNMISS in Rubkona, across the river from Bentiu, and separately state if UNMISS has sheltered SPLA fighters anywhere else in the past two weeks."

Watch this site.

Update: the UN put out a transcript with various inaccuracies, some intentional, such as leaving in "Reuters," "AP," "UNCA" (UN's Censorship Alliance) and even "Huffington Post contributor" -- but censoring out from the below "Inner City Press" and "Free UN Coalition for Access." They call it censorship, compare to UN video here at Min 20:39

[This was explicitly by Inner City Press & FUNCA] Question: I wanted to ask you about Bentiu. It’s been said that President Kiir’s forces had said they are going to retake or could have already retaken it. Has it been? Who’s in control in Bentiu and what’s the Mission’s position in terms of any retaking or any reentering by force? And also, I’m sure you saw in The Guardian December 23rd piece, hey said that President Kiir had spoken on accountability but in the middle of that article they said that, quote “young men from the Dinka community many of them with no military training were given uniforms from armories, including one located in President Kiir’s own compound known as J1”. And I wanted to know what do you make of that? Is your Mission in a position to look into this allegation against the President or at least arms within his compound. Do you think it’s possible that some of these atrocities have been committed by the Government or with the Government’s knowledge? In which case, what will your Mission do about it? Thank you.

Hilde Johnson: Well, first in regard to Bentiu, it’s too early to say…[inaudible]…there are two forces present and there might be attempt at retaking the city. However, what we are now hoping for is a political track can be established as soon as possible, which in that case would imply, we hope, that talks would be taking place in tranquility and that these operations would not be pursued. This is too early to say. We are waiting for the outcome of what has happened amongst the IGAD heads of State and their consultations.

As regards to what has unfolded in terms of human rights violations, abuse, and atrocities that seem to have been committed. All of those issues, and all of those allegations and reports, as I said, are being looked into by our human rights division, and they will investigate and verify. I may also add that during the night of 15 to 16 December several of the armories of the forces of the Government, whether Presidential Guard or SPLA, were broken into and a significant number of uniforms and arms were stolen and taken. So that is an important factual piece of information that also needs to be included in any of the investigations going forward. But it is far too early to assess anything in terms of possible perpetrators or indeed responsible actors. We need to see a solid verification and investigation process take place.



December 23, 2013

In S. Sudan As Civilians Threatened in Yuai, UN Evacuates Troops, No Briefings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- In South Sudan amid UN talk of protecting civilians and rushing to more dangerous locations to do so, UN Peacekeeping is preparing to evacuate "40 UNMISS peacekeepers from a base in the Jonglei state town of Yuai this afternoon."

  Inner City Press on December 20 asked Security Council president Gerard Araud about this plan, what would happen to civilians under threat in Yuai. Video here, from Minute 12:53.

  Araud acknowledged that UN Peacekeeping, led by its fourth Frenchman in a row Herve Ladsous, is trying to pull out of Yuai -- in fact, it would already have done so, except its evacuation helicopters were fired at. Strangely, Araud then insisted quoting Ladsous' deputy Edmond Mulet that the UN is "on" (or in) the way, and not the target.

  As if to minimize the contradiction of claiming to be protecting civilians while evacuating armed personnel from where the civilians are, Araud said he understood there were no civilians inside the UNMISS base in Yuai.

Since all of his, and the UN's, understandings come from communications with its bases, Inner City Press asked about the breakdown in communications with the Akobo base, where two Indian peacekeepers and at least 20 civilians were killed. Araud called this a "detail" and refused to answer, saying "I'm in substantial questions." Video here, from Minute 19:47.

Inner City Press went to the day's UN noon briefing and asked acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about the plan to pull out of Yuai. Haq had just claimed that the UN is moving peacekeepers from less dangerous to more dangerous places. Now he doubled back and said it is a matter of concentrating UN forces where they can have an impact.

But what about the civilians in Yuai?

Inner City Press asked Haq about a quote by UNMISS spokesperson Joe Contreras that 27 soldier loyal to Salva Kiir sought refuge with the UN in Rubkona. Haq said he couldn't confirm that -- which is weird, since the UN's spokesperson in South Sudan has already said it.

  Also on (mis?) communications, Inner City Press asked about the 11 hour delay in the UN confirmation the death of two Indian peacekeepers and injuring of another which India's Ambassador Askoke Mukerji told Inner City Press about on the afternoon of December 19.

  Haq said the delay was because the UN must notify families, and implicitly chided anyone who reported the death of two (unnamed) peacekeepers before the UN did. He also chided reports that three peacekeepers had died. While other went this this, apparently not having spoken with Mukerjee but only watched a meeting on UNTV or relied on a tweet, Inner City Press even in its headline said 2 dead, one injured.

But this is how the UN operates -- it does anything it can to discourage real questions by turning then around, then doling out information selectively to journalists who will report positively (and often inaccurately).

   UN Peacekeeping, after Inner City Press first reported the Akobo deaths based on a direct conversation with Mukerje, sent other media but not Inner City Press information by e-mail. But UN Peacekeeping didn't make this information available to the public and other impacted people. It has become dysfunctional.

  As has the wider UN. Despite claims this week about a new post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" plan, in the midst of this South Sudan crisis spokesperson Haq on Friday announced no more briefings for the week -- just spin on the UN website. (The Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info, has protested).

  As was jotted inside the Security Council consultations on December 20, there is a "credibility crisis in the UN." Watch this site.


December 16, 2013

In Mali, UN Peacekeepers Guarding Bank in Kidal Killed by Car Bomb, Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 14, updated -- It is reported that while UN peacekeepers were guarding a bank in Kidal, two were killed by a car bomb. Rest in Peace.

  Between the Malian police and army and the French Serval contingent, why were UN peacekeepers guarding a bank? And by working with these forces, have the UN peacekeepers become parties to a conflict, combatants for purposes of international law?

  It's said the UN was guarding the bank because the Malian forces can't, under the peace agreement. But how then were the Malian police at the Kidal airport, shooting at the protesters?

  The Kidal car bomb comes a day after UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous acknowledged that the Malian police in Kidal shot protesters in last November after UN peacekeepers and French Serval forces told the crowd to disperse. Last weekend one of those shot died.

  Inner City Press on December asked UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous about the incident, and also how France obtained a non-public Letter of Assist payment from the UN for airfield services in northern Mali, how much it is for and why it is not more transparent.

  Ladsous replied that "I make it a policy not to respond to you, Mister," but then provided something of an answer to the first but not second, financial, question. Video here, from Minute 15:45. Inner City Press YouTube here and embedded below.

  He said, "I will respond on Kidal, because indeed that was a very unfelicitous occurrence. Our UN Police and Serval, the French troops, ordered the crowd to disperse. It appears Malian police did shoot, and yes, three civilians were injured, one of whom died over the weekend."

  In many countries, if an unarmed civilian is shot and killed by police the officer is suspended and charges are brought or put before a grand jury or other tribunal. What is happening here?

  Ladsous said, "We are looking further into the matter. Of course we have to say if indeed it is established beyond any doubt that the Malian police did shoot, that is not a way to behave, this is absolutely unacceptable."

  But to whom must it be established beyond a doubt? In the case of the 135 rapes in Minova by the 391st and 41st Battalions of the Congolese Army, the UN has continued to provide material support to those two units for the eleventh months before any trial started.

  Ladsous did not say anything in response to Inner City Press' question about how France got the Letter of Assist, how much it is for and why it is not more public.

 The history of Ladsous and the policy he adopted in May 2012 of not answering any of Inner City Press' questions, including about the Minova rapes except once at the International Peace Institute across First Avenue from the UN, is long; since there was on December 13 at least this plausible interim answer on the Kidal shootings to report, we still leave it here for now. (Longer form here, on Beacon Reader.)

  But even on this there are questions of policy -- to use Ladsous' word -- which should obviously be answered or responded to. Does Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy apply to this case of Malian police shooting at unarmed protesters?

  Is the UN's MINUSMA mission still working with these Malian police? If so, does that make the UN peacekeepers combatants?

  And now: what were UN peacekeepers doing guarding a bank? These questions should be answered. Watch this site.

December 9, 2013

France Says Its Troops in CAR Have No Economic Aspect, Power Agrees

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- After the UN Security Council adopted the French-drafted resolution on Central African Republic 15-0 on Thursday morning, France's Permanent Representative Gerard Araud came out and said the Council was finally shouldering its responsibility.

  In this, he ignored that while other Council members said they'd expected a resolution in August, they were told that since France "has the pen" on its former colony the CAR and was largely on vacation in August, there would be no resolution. (Araud has denied this, but the sources said what they said.)

  That was then, and this is now, with France deploying into Bangui. Inner City Press asked Araud why this, and France's intervention in Mali, are somehow not examples of the colonial FrancAfrique.

  Araud responded that France has no economic interest in CAR -- as with Mali, France's and its Areva's interest in low-tax uranium from Niger was ignored -- and that he is proud of his country. He went on, "answering a question you didn't ask," to say that Mali was about organized terrorists while CAR is about thugs who might just melt away, afraid of the French deployment.

  There were of course other questions: what of reports that Cameroon's Paul Biya told France he does not want Chad in the MISCA force? Why is France, in the midst of all this, replacing its ambassador to Bangui Serge Mocetti?

  But these questions weren't possible. Even with the UN microphone in front of Inner City Press and the question started, the French mission spokesman insisted it be moved to the far end of the stakeout to Reuters, "Monsieur Charbonneau" as Araud put it. (It was Araud to his credit and not the spokesman who subsequently relented and took Inner City Press' question on protection of civilians outside of Bangui, and about FrancAfrique.)

  Moments later when US Ambassador Samantha Power came out, she used her opening statement to agree with Araud on Inner City Press' FrancAfrique question, saying that for France this is only about protecting civilians. But Inner City Press was not called on to ask Power any follow up -- that was again the Western go-to Reuters, and Al Jazeera English, not viewable in the UN or, other than AJAM, in the US.

  Power insisted it is not a matter of the color of the helmet, that is, not a matter of whether it is a UN or an African Union mission. But a question left unanswered because not allowed to be asked: what does Power think the US role should be in these operations, in light of her book "A Problem from Hell"?

  What has the US military presence in the region, helping unsuccessfully chase down Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army, been doing during this carnage in the CAR? Watch this site.

Footnote: it is not anti-humanitarian to ask economic questions. Yesterday Inner City Press reported on the competition for logistic contracts in Mali between the American firm Pacific Architects & Engineers and French companies Thales, Sodexho, Geos and others. Will Herve Ladsous, the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row, play a role in the decision?

  France's economic interests are acknowledged even by French diplomats, in the Financial Times. But Human Rights Watch's UN lobbyist, formerly of Le Monde and France 24, has churned out "analysis" with no mention of this interest. Thursday morning he was at the UNSC stakeout, from which recently another former UN correspondent now with an NGO was ordered to leave. This is how the UN works - or doesn't. The Free UN Coalition for Access is asking at least for some content-neutral rules, that apply to all. Watch this site.


 
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December 2, 2013

UN Admits No Mission Has a Claims Commission, Like on Haiti Cholera, No Remedy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 26 -- When the UN got sued on charges of bringing cholera to Haiti which has killed over 8000 people, a major reason was the UN's failure to set up the Standing Claims Commission provided for under its Status of Forces Agreement (or Status of Mission Agreement).

   And so starting nine days ago, Inner City Press has been asking UN spokespeople whether any UN Peacekeeping mission has a standing claims commission.

   UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press it is "not a yes or no question," then that counting days without an answer wasn't helpful.

   Inner City Press waited more days, then on November 26 -- nine days after asking the question -- asked it again at the day's noon briefing. Minutes later, this admission:

Subject: Your question on claims commissions
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 1:13 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Regarding your question at today's noon briefing, we can confirm that no peacekeeping mission has a claims commission in place.

  Clearly something is broken; people in countries ostensibly helped by the UN have no recourse when things go wrong, even deadly wrong.  So what will be done by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Herve Ladsous, the UN head of peacekeeping selected like his three predecessors by France?

    The impunity is flagrant. With the UN now akin to a scofflaw, its acting deputy spokesperson Haq last Thursday refused to confirm or explain refusing even service of the court papers.

   When the lawyers in the class action suit for victims of the UN bringing cholera to Haiti tried to serve the complaint, they told Inner City Press last Wednesday, the UN "refused to physically receive process."

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq the next day to confirm and explain -- but he said there was nothing more to say, that previous statements explain it. Video here and embedded below.

  So did then UN lawyer Patricia O'Brien ruling the adminstrative claims were "not receivable" mean her successor Miguel de Serpa Soares wouldn't even "receive" the court case papers?

 
The lawyers tell Inner City Press they aim to ask for permission for an alternate mode: service by publication. Those are the legal notices published in newspapers, often putting deadbeat parents on notice their wages will be garnished. How has the UN fallen this low?

  The victims' lawyers anticipate the UN, once it is served if only by newspaper publication, making a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it is immune. But, they say, no remedy has been provided, nor any alternative mechanism.

  Just as Sri Lanka military figure, now Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva successfully did, the US State Department will be asked to make a court filing supporting immunity.

  This time, the lawyers say, there will be a campaign to ask the State Department not to support impunity, with letters to Secretary of State John Kerry including from members of Congress.  Would newly appointed US Mission reform ambassador Leslie Berger Kiernan play a role in this?

  On last Tuesday evening, Inner City Press filmed as State Department official Victoria Holt heard the UN's Edmond Mulet essentially blame the cholera deaths on Haitian under-development; when given the floor, Holt said nothing about this. Video here; longer form analysis by this author here, on Beacon Reader.

  In the UN Press Briefing Room, for seven days now Inner City Press has waited for a UN answer to a yes or no question: has UN Peacekeeping established any of the Standing Claims Commissions provided for its its Status of Forces Agreements.

  On November 14, UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said that actually setting up a standing claims commission depends on the request of the mission's host government. But that not only ignores the power relations, it did not answer the yes or no question.

  Haq referred to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. But its chief Herve Ladsous has refused to answer basic questions, such as about the 135 rapes at Minova by UN Peacekeeping's partners in the Congolese Army. Video here, UK coverage here. So would will this simple question be answered?

  Not on November 18. Asked again, Haq said the question had been put to UN Peacekeeping, but it's "not a yes or no question." Video here. If the answer's yes, can't it be said in four days? And if no - what's the explanation? Or does the UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous think they can just not answer?

  Waiting two days, and after filming UN Peacekeeping deputy Edmond Mulet Tuesday night, here, Inner City Press, on November 20 asked Haq again, saying it had been six days. Haq replied that counting days is not helpful. But why did UN Peacekeeping not answer a basic question for eight days? Would it have ever answered, if not asked again and again? Watch this site.

Footnote: also last Thursday, Inner City Press asked the UN's Haq for an update on previous answers that the UN Mission in the Congo MONUSCO was "verifying" reprisal attacks in Bunagana and Kiwanja. These was no update. So is the UN checking or not?

November 25, 2013

Evading Haiti Cholera Case, UN Won't Confirm Refusing Papers, DRC Reprisals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 21 -- With the UN now akin to a scofflaw, its spokesperson on Thursday refused to confirm or explain refusing even service of the court papers.

   When the lawyers in the class action suit for victims of the UN bringing cholera to Haiti tried to serve the complaint, they told Inner City Press on Wednesday, the UN "refused to physically receive process."

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq on Thursday to confirm and explain -- but he said there was nothing more to say, that previous statements explain it. Video here and embedded below.

  So did then UN lawyer Patricia O'Brien ruling the adminstrative claims were "not receivable" mean her successor Miguel de Serpa Soares wouldn't even "receive" the court case papers?

  The lawyers tell Inner City Press they aim to ask for permission for an alternate mode: service by publication. Those are the legal notices published in newspapers, often putting deadbeat parents on notice their wages will be garnished. How has the UN fallen this low?

  The victims' lawyers anticipate the UN, once it is served if only by newspaper publication, making a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it is immune. But, they say, no remedy has been provided, nor any alternative mechanism.

  Just as Sri Lanka military figure, now Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva successfully did, the US State Department will be asked to make a court filing supporting immunity.

  This time, the lawyers say, there will be a campaign to ask the State Department not to support impunity, with letters to Secretary of State John Kerry including from members of Congress.  Would newly appointed US Mission reform ambassador Leslie Berger Kiernan play a role in this?

  On Tuesday evening, Inner City Press filmed as State Department official Victoria Holt heard the UN's Edmond Mulet essentially blame the cholera deaths on Haitian under-development; when given the floor, Holt said nothing about this. Video here; longer form analysis by this author here, on Beacon Reader.

  In the UN Press Briefing Room, for seven days now Inner City Press has waited for a UN answer to a yes or no question: has UN Peacekeeping established any of the Standing Claims Commissions provided for its its Status of Forces Agreements.

  On November 14, UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said that actually setting these up depends on the request of the mission's host government. But that not only ignores the power relations, it does not answer the yes or no question: has any Standing Claims Commissions been set up?

  Haq referred to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. But its chief Herve Ladsous has refused to answer basic questions, such as about the 135 rapes at Minova by UN Peacekeeping's partners in the Congolese Army. Video here, UK coverage here. So would will this simple question be answered?

  Not on November 18. Asked again, Haq said the question had been put to UN Peacekeeping, but it's "not a yes or no question." Video here. If the answer's yes, can't it be said in four days? And if no - what's the explanation? Or does the UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous think they can just not answer?

  Waiting two days, and after filming UN Peacekeeping deputy Edmond Mulet Tuesday night, here, Inner City Press, on November 20 asked Haq again, saying it had been six days. Haq replied that counting days is not helpful. But how can UN Peacekeeping not answer a basic question in seven days? We will keep asking. Watch this site.

Footnote: also on Thursday, Inner City Press asked the UN's Haq for an update on previous answers that the UN Mission in the Congo MONUSCO was "verifying" reprisal attacks in Bunagana and Kiwanja. These was no update. So is the UN checking or not?

November 18, 2013

UN Peacekeepers for Syria Floated by Ladsous, Copters to Mali, Rape Stonewall

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 14 -- The murky capture of UN Peacekeeping by France through Herve Ladsous is on display this week, from Mali through Eastern Congo and now even to Russia, on Syria.

  While refusing to answer Press questions at the UN in New York, including about alleged gang rape by his peacekeepers in Mali and partners in the Congolese Army, UK coverage here, Ladsous today in Moscow let drop that the UN might send peacekeepers to Syria. Click here, and here.

  But how? Under what mandate? Back in mid-2012 it was Ladsous who pulled the plug on the UN mission led by Robert Mood. Now he'd go back in for what?

  Speaking to Radio France International, where else, on November 4 Ladsous bragged that he was moving attack helicopters from former French colony Cote d'Ivoire over to another former French colony, Mali, while waiting to bring in troops from, where else, Burkina Faso. Ladsous alluded to new copters coming from... Central America.

  But he has refused to answer whether Mauritania's demand to only serve in the MISUSMA mission along its own border complies with UN rules. Ladsous has ignored or even destroyed the UN's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, by continuing to support the 41 and 391 Battalions of the Congolese Army implicated in 135 rapes in Minova.

  These rapes will belatedly be mentioned in today's Security Council Presidential Statement, as Inner City Press reported yesterday. But the policy has already been defanged by Ladsous.

  As noted, while leaving all this murky, Ladsous is slated for a "panel discussion" near but outside of the UN next week, for dues-payers. Watch this site.


November 11, 2013


On Sri Lanka, Swire Silent on What UK Does in UNSC or UNHRC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 7 -- In the run-up to the UK's controversial attendance in Sri Lanka at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, minister of state Hugo Swire took questions on Twitter for 45 minutes today.

  They focused on Sri Lanka -- lack of accountability for war crimes, killing and disappearance of journalists, torture and authoritarianism -- as well as the Maldives and also Somalia.

Swire answered that "we consistently call for an independent, thorough & credible investigation into allegations of war crimes."

Inner City Press asked what if anything the UK has done about this in the UN Security Council, where it has one of five Permanent seats. Also, since the UK is "running" for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, Inner City Press asked what the UK would or will do there on Sri Lanka issues.

  The reality is that the UK is running on a "clean slate" with no competition. Like some other "candidates," it will essentially be automatically elected. Perhaps it's for that reason that Swire did not answer the Human Rights Council -- or UN Security Council -- questions.

  Swire proffered an answer on sexual violence -- but apparently not to a follow-up on how the UK has spent its funds.

  Also in the UN Security Council, the UK "has the pen" on Somalia. But contrary to what happened when two journalists were killed in Mali this month and the Security Council quickly issued a press statement condemning it, the Council does not do this when Somali journalists are killed. Why not? This question has yet to be answered.

Swire was asked, given the cancellations of elections in Maldives, if they will be seated at the CHOGM. No one, it seems, asked about The Gambia, quitting the Commonwealth (and reportedly being evicted from office space of Commonwealth members in New York).

Like many UK diplomats, Swire has the hashtag #DigitalDiplomacy in his profile. He did answer some questions on Thursday, but it is unclear what will happen with those he chose not to answer. Watch this site.

November 4, 2013

UN Won't Say If Saudi Rebuffed Brahimi, Al Arabiya Puts Assad in Maliki's Mouth

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1 -- The UN's envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was asked, "after Saudi Arabia refused to receive you;" he called it a speech, not a question," but did not confirm or deny that the Saudis declined to receive him.

So Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky on November 1 to confirm or deny (video here and embedded below)

Inner City Press: one of the questions that Mr. Brahimi was asked in his press conference in Damascus was about Saudi Arabia refusing his request to visit. And he said it was a speech and not a question, but as I read it, I didn’t see him say yes or no. Can you say whether he asked to visit Saudi Arabia and whether this request was denied, as the question has it?

Spokesperson: Well, with the greatest respect, Matthew, if Mr. Brahimi didn’t answer the question, I don’t think you’d expect that I would.

Inner City Press: It seems important…

  Particularly since Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised Saudi Arabia so effusively after they said they wouldn't be taking the Security Council seat they without competition won.

  In other transcript games, when Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki spoke to the media with US President Obama, the White House's foreign pool report by Nadia Bilbassy-charters of Al-Arabiya said that Maliki "denounced the use of chemical weapons that were used both in Iraq under Saddam Hussain and in Syria by President Assad."

  The last part of this seemed dubious. And lo and behold, when the transcript came out, Maliki actually said we "want to avoid the use of chemical weapons, because we and the Syrians suffered a lot from these weapons." That is, not that Assad had used them.


  On the allegation that it was the opposition that used chemical weapons, for example in Khan al Asal, the UN as Inner City Press gleaned and screened yesterday the UN has pushed back its report from late October a full month to early December. The UN still hasn't explained why. Watch this site.

As Ban & Kim Head to Sahel, Softball Questions Ignore Tuareg, Rape, Dams

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1, updated -- With World Bank president Jim Kim appearing by video from Washington, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday morning announced his and Kim's upcoming trip to the Sahel: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

  Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky then chose four questions. The first, in a politicized process that has become more indefensible by the day, went to the UN Correspondents Association.

 This is a group which, beyond trying to get investigative media thrown out of the UN, in July held a faux "UN briefing" for Saudi-sponsored Syria rebel boss Ahmad al Jarba.

  Two of the three other questions were also given to UNCA Executive Committee members: a softball and one not even about the Sahel. The only non-UNCA question turned out to be about money laundering and corruption.

  Directly on Mali and the UN Peacekeeping mission MINUSMA which Ban bragged about, he should have been asked about the allegations of gang rape against MINUSMA, and its troops leaving their posts in Northern Mali after not being paid.

No one asked if Ban will travel to Gao or Northern Mali, or if the World Bank's money will benefit the Tuaregs.

  Even on the Great Lakes trip both Ban and Kim bragged of, no one asked about opposition to dam projects, or about why the International Monetary Fund still has not revived the program it suspended with the DRC due to murky mining contracts. This is how this UN is working - or not. Watch this site.

Update: only after Ban left did Nesirky take questions on the trip from members of the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. To Inner City Press on the rape charges, Nesirky said it is mostly up to the Troop Contributing Country: Chad, which Kim and Ban will also visit. No answer on if they'll go to Gao, or how ensure World Bank funds reach Northern Mali. We'll have more on the trip.

October 28, 2013

On Syria, UN's Amos Says Met Jarba's SNC, Won't Answer on Nusra or ISIS

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 25 -- On Syria, whom does the UN speak with and why will the UN list some but not all of the groups?

After UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos briefed the UN Security Council Friday morning, she told the Press she met with the Syrian National Coalition (which is headed by Ahmad al Jarba) in New York.

Inner City Press asked Amos if the UN has any contacts with Jabhat al Nusra or ISIS in Syria, since they control territory which the UN is supposed to be trying to access with aid. Video here, Minute 4.

Amos replied, I am not going to comment on specific contacts.

Inner City Press reminded her she had just named the SNC, the Syrian National Coalition.

Amos noted that she'd met the SNC "in New York" but would not list contacts in Syria. Why not?

This approach, naming the SNC as a legitimate contact, is in line with the attempt of France (which sponsored a Jarba event inside the UN in September) and others to name the Saudi-sponsored Jarba as the sole or most legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

(Likewise the UN let is UN Censorship Alliance hold a faux "UN briefing" by Jarba in the large UN room given to UNCA, then wouldn't expain the basis when asked by the Free UN Coalition for Access.)

  Inner City Press went to Friday's UN Noon Briefing and asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky if the UN has any contacts with ISIS or Al Nusra, and what the UN's policy is on naming the groups it speaks with.

Nesirky said since Valerie Amos wouldn't answer or be drawn in, he wouldn't either. But shouldn't the UN have a policy? If you name one group, you should name others. Or name no groups. But be consist.

Inner City Press also asked in person a question it posed to Nesirky and his acting deputy by e-mail two days before, "about the UN's Syria chemical weapons Trust Fund. Just now at the US State Department briefing deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said the US has given 'nearly' $6 million to 'UN and OCPW.' So what is the status of the UN Trust Fund? How and when (and where) will disclosure be made?"

Nesirky said he had looked into it. (Why no answer was e-mailed or at least read-out at the briefing is not clear.) He said the UN has received a PLEDGE from the US for $2 million, as well as vehicles (valued by the US as $1.55 million).

So when was the US going to answer? When is it going to report, and where? Watch this site.

Amid Shelling of Rwanda, UN Silent on Civilian Casualties, Reuters Phones It In

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- From Eastern Congo the shelling of neighboring Rwanda has continued. The Rwandan government has asked the UN to respond to the shelling of Kageyo Village, Rusuro Cell, Busasamana Sector was shelled, and the wounding of a 16 year old, Gisubizo.

On October 25, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: a DRC citizen, Catherine Gahombo was shot by FARDC and is now being treated in hospital, and I wanted to know if MONUSCO was aware of any civilian casualties caused by the DRC army, I am asking you whether they can confirm or deny that.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I will check on the civilian casualties, whether there is any further update for the Mission on that...

Inner City Press: if MONUSCO and the Force Intervention Brigade have protection-of-civilians mandates and it’s often described only in terms of M23, FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] and the various armed groups, what about harm caused by the DRC itself, not only the Minova rapes in the past, but if it is true in this instance that their attack actually injured a 58-year-old woman. What MONUSCO doing? Can you imagine MONUSCO combatingthe DRC army oris it a protection-of-civilians mandate sculpted to only target harm caused by some groups and not others?

Spokesperson Nesirky: No, well, I think it’s looking at it in a slightly roundabout way. The point here is that measures should be taken by the Mission under its mandate to protect civilians. That does not mean that civilians at some point are not going to get harmed. I need to look into that specific point that you have raised

  Twenty three hours later, no answer. And now, more shelling. In Eastern Congo UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous is in its own world. Yesterday after the UN Security Council session on the shelling of Rwanda, Ladsous left the Council without speaking to the press -- laughing, in fact. It has become a farce, as the UK New Statesman put it, here; see also Ladsous video here.

  Rwanda's Permanent Representative Eugene-Richard Gasana did speak right outside the Council, on the record, saying that if the UN and Congolese Army are not ready to stop the shelling, Rwanda will, "with laser precision."

  To Inner City Press, Gasana said clearly: the FARDC, the Congolese Army, fired the shells.

  Tellingly, Reuters which was hand-picked by the French Mission to the UN to accompany the "UN" trip France was allowed to lead through the Great Lakes region was not present outside the Council.

  Reuters reported: "Rwanda's U.N. Ambassador warned the 15-nation council on Friday during a closed-door meeting that Rwanda would not tolerate shelling of its territory and was in a position to respond militarily, a U.N. Security Council diplomat said."

So Reuters couldn't even use an on the record quote from the Permanent Representative of the country concerned, instead putting in in the mouth of an unnamed other Security Council diplomat. And the story while listing fully four reporters and two editors -- Kenny Katombe, Pete Jones, Edmund Kagire, Daniel Flynn, Andrew Roche and Tom Pfeiffer -- didn't list any of the six as in New York at the UN.

  Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, who has been exposed as spying for the UN and trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, (he gave an internal UNCA document to the UN three minutes are promising not to do so, document here, audio here), claiming that his brand of no-show, wait to be handed documents by Western powers journalism is the only kind, was nowhere to be seen during this meeting on the Great Lakes.

 The correspondent hand picked by the French to go on the trip was in the building, but didn't cover the meeting, or get the easy to get quote from Rwanda itself.

  But the UN's Radio Okapi in the Congo breathlessly reports on FARDC advances; Ladsous' man in Kinshasa, Martin Kobler, re-tweets his own Okapi but doesn't reply to Council diplomats who just visited his little empire.

  Nor does Kobler respond any long to factual Press questions, like yesterday's. (By contrast, the UN's envoy in Somalia not only these days  responds, he follows up with previously promised answers.)

  Kobler has at least for now become, as it's put in the UN, "Ladsous-ified." Ladsous was the French Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the Rwanda genocide, arguing for the escape of the genocidaires into Eastern Congo. To this has the UN sunk. Watch this site.


October 21, 2013

Saudi Withdrawal Explained to ICP by Syria as  Inability to Support Geneva II

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- After Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari gave a speech Friday in the UN Security Council saying "the French regime" should give up its permanent seat on the Council, and slamming Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Inner City Press asked him what he thought the reason was for Saudi Arabia renouncing the Security Council seat it won Thursday without competition.

  Ja'afari made some expected points -- that Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive and so is not qualified for the Council, for example, and that its mission does not have the capacity to serve on the Council. But this is true of others too, Inner City Press noted. What changed?

  Then Ja'afari offered this explanation, as an exclusive to Inner City Press: now that the Security Council has passed a resolution, and the push is on for the so-called Geneva Two talks, Saudi Arabia "cannot" (or does not want to be) part of that consensus. Even France cannot vote against Geneva Two. But could Saudi Arabia stand to be seen voting against it, isolated 14 to 1?

  This is something that changed, and recently - the coming together of the Council to vote for the chemical weapons mission, and singing from the same choir book about Geneva Two.

  It is not implausible, that as the date of starting on the Council grew closer, and the sides on the Security Council grew closer together and not farther apart, Saudi Arabia or someone in its royal family saw serving on the Council in a different light.

Kuwait, Ja'afari told Inner City Press, is no different.

  But Kuwait is not as aligned publicly - voting for a Geneva Two would not be seen as contradicting its positions or, as for Saudi Arabia, those it funds. We'll see. Watch this site.

On Sri Lanka, After ICP Publishes Ban's Failure Plan, Spox Says It "May Not Exist"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- Ever since the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did nothing, and worse, as 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka in 2009, its officials and spokespeople have claimed they want to learn from what happened.

  But now, not only did the UN withhold its internal report on the lesson learned. After Inner City Press obtained and exclusively published the report on October 11 and Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq answered Press questions about it, today lead spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that nothing had been confirmed, the documents referred to "may or may not exist."

   Well, it exists and cannot be covered up. Inner City Press put it online here.

  Asking about the UN system human rights plan citing failure in Sri Lanka as its impetus, which it published on October 14, Inner City Press sought clarification from Nesirky: was this proposal to merge "Rule of Law" into human rights the UN's main response?

Nesirky replied that Inner City Press must be a "member of the magic circle," since it cites "documents that may or may not exist."

Really? Here is the post Sri Lanka "action plan" which Inner City Press published on October 11.

Here is the UN system human rights / rule of law proposal Inner City Press published on October 14.

Back on October 11, Nesirky's associate Farhan Haq told Inner City Press "in terms of other information that we can put out, we’ll be preparing a summary of the Action Plan."

Actually, the "one pager" of the action plan already existed. Inner City Press had it, and now publishes it here.

  The UN already failed, massively, in Sri Lanka in 2009. Why would it now be trying to deny the existence of its own reports into the matter? We will have more on this. Watch this site.

Footnote: Despite Nesirky saying he had read the UN's transcript of what his associate Farhan Haq said on October 11, when his office called "the lid is on" and closed at 6:30 pm on October 17, the day's noon briefing transcript had still not been put online.

  Inner City Press has noted that these UN transcripts are intentionally inaccurate, for example when Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson was the guest, omitted the name "Free UN Coalition for Access" which the UN otherwise tries to silence but leaving in "UN Correspondents Association," Ban's UN Censorship Alliance (including on Sri Lanka, here).

 So we are using video now, as more trustworthy. Click here for a sample, and there will be more.

October 14, 2013

Exclusive: UN's Sri Lanka Report Cites Syria & Rwanda, Despite Haiti Claims Accountability

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, October 11 -- Since August Inner City Press has asked the UN to release its internal report on its failure in Sri Lanka in 2009 as 40,000 civilians were killed.

  First Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that Ban would have something to say on it in September. This was a brief reference in his General Assembly speech.

  Then yesterday Inner City Press asked Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq, who said "we will have, I think, more to say in, I believe, the days and weeks to come." Story here video here.

  Since a lesson supposedly learned by the UN from its inaction was to have the courage to speak, withholding the report seemed and seems contradictory.

  Today Inner City Press exclusively publishes here the UN's "Follow-up to the report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka," dated July 9, 2013 and marked on each of its mere six pages, "Internal."

The introduction says

"In 2009 the Sri Lanka crisis was a test. We failed it. It was - as characterized by the Internal Review Panel report that I commissioned - a 'systemic failure.' The challenges that plagued us in Sri Lanka were not new: they have been with us for many years and in diverse situations. They include failure to communicate evidence of impending crisis and lack of strategies to address serious violations drawing upon the full range of our diplomatic, legal and operational capacities. We do not always deploy and empower colleagues swiftly to address often rapidly changing circumstances, and back them up when they take risks. Lack of clear leadership at headquarters has resulted in mixed messages, reduced operational clarity and lost opportunities. Above all, we have not always been effective at getting Member States to reach agreement on concerted action."

  Even while admitting "systemic failure," this underplays the degree to which the UN was complicit in what happened: it pulled out of Kilinochchi, an envoy was sent who was perceived (we'll leave it at that) to just want the LTTE Tamil Tigers wiped out, so much that a ceasefire was never even called for.

  Since the slaughter, the UN has accepted one of the most involved military figures, Shavendra Silva, on the UN Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations; this month, Silva's putative boss Palitha Kohona, also involved, took over the chair of the UN General Assembly's Sixth (Legal) Committee.

  So what was learned from the cited 1999 Independent Inquiry on UN Action in Rwanda and the 1999 review on the fall of Srebrenica?

  Syria is cited in, and explains, this "Plan of Action to strengthen the UN’s role in protecting people in crises." The report says: "Today we are witnessing the agony of the Syrian people. That conflict is a test - not just of Member States’ will to fulfil their responsibilities, but of the UN’s ability to use all the tools at its disposal to make sure that people are protected."

  This may explain the report: while the Western P3 members of the Security Council, the US, France and UK, did not much or at all push Ban Ki-moon to "do something" about the slaughter in Sri Lanka -- the UK is holding its Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting there -- they are pushing, and hard, on the issue of Syria and ousting Bashar al Assad.

  So, now a UN report and plan for "Rights Up Front."

  The plan claims that Ban's UN "will also adopt an ‘Article 99 attitude’, and tell Member States what they need to hear (action 2). We must assert the UN’s moral authority and put Member States in front of their responsibilities." But Ban so often takes his cue from the Western P3.

  What will be the next text of the UN needed to act without prodding from the US, France or UK?

The plan says the UN will "hold accountable staff, particularly at senior levels." But if the UN can't even admit and apologize for bringing cholera to Haiti, what does accountability mean?

  If Ban's UN allows its head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous to openly refuse to answer Press questions about mass rape by his partners in the Congolese Army, where is the accountability? Now that farce has been reported this week in the UK New Statesman, here.

 This comes after the UN's Censorship Alliance tried to oust Inner City Press for its Sri Lanka reporting, then spied against it to the UN, click here for that; it is the new Free UN Coalition for Access, despite threats from the UN, now working to further open the UN.

  The report says "when situations of serious violations are not on the Security Council’s agenda, the Deputy Secretary-General to brief Member States."

  While DSG Jan Eliasson brings more credibility, why wouldn't Ban Ki-moon himself do such a briefing, as he does on chemical weapons?

  And what does Eliasson think, for example, of the refusal by Herve Ladsous given his history to answer questions on mass rape by his partners? Or is UN Peacekeeping so much run by France -- sixteen years and four USGs in a row -- that no one can or does say anything? We'll see. Watch this site.

As France Calls "Vague" UN "Moral Responsibility" for Cholera in Haiti, PM Lamothe Tweets ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 10, updated -- The day after the UN was sued for bringing cholera to Haiti, Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud about the case, and how the UN should respond since it is "pretty clear the UN brought cholera to Haiti." Video here, from Minute 9:04.

Araud replied, "that's your judgment, that the UN brought cholera, that's your assessment, you can make it."

But even those who wrote the UN's first cover-up report have recanted it and admitted that a strain identical to that from Nepal where the UN brought peacekeepers from caused cholera in Haiti.

  On the class action lawsuit, a copy of which Inner City Press put online yesterday morning here, Araud said "that for UN to answer, the UN has made an answer, the assessment of the Secretariat" -- apparently referring to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's pre-lawsuit ruling that the claims were "not receivable."

  Araud continued, about the "state of law," that "it will be to the court to decide... I'm sure that the UN will accept the decision."

  Actually, even in the UN's dubious in-house legal system, Ban Ki-moon appeals nearly every decision against him, including for lack promised of whistleblower protection.

  Inner City Press then asked Araud about what Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said in the General Debate last month, that the UN has a "moral responsibility" for cholera in Haiti.

Araud scoffed and said, "moral responsibility is a very vague term." Video here, from Minute 10:22.

Inner City Press tweeted this, and minutes later Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe wrote to Inner City Press by Twitter: "@innercitypress do you have a question? #haiti #cholera #UN #UNSC #UNSG"

Yes, Inner City Press had and has questions, and has now sent three to Lamothe's office, including about testimony yesterday on Capitol Hill about Haiti. Watch this site.

Footnote: Yesterday Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq answered Inner City Press that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous now screened peacekeepers for cholera, he thought: "I believe that part of our lessons learned from this has been to screen peacekeepers for cholera." Inner City Press asked him to check, saying "I haven't heard that they are."

  Having no response 24 hours later, Inner City Press asked Haq at Thursday's noon briefing and he said -- only when asked a second time -- that Ladsous' DPKO does NOT screen for cholera. When was that answer going to be provided?Video here from Minute 9:38.  [And see update below.]

   Inner City Press asked Ladsous a simple question in front of the Security Council on Thursday, which he refused to answer. This "farce" was reported earlier this week in the UK New Statesman, here. We will pursue all of this. Watch this site.

Update of October 10, 2013, 5:30 pm: Later this came in:

Subject: Your question on cholera screening
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 5:23 PM
To: Matthew.Lee@innercitypress.com

Regarding your question, please see below:

Currently, WHO does not endorse or advocate the screening of asymptomatic carriers of cholera. The United Nations follows the policies and recommendations of the World Health Organization.

October 7, 2103

UN's Failure to Go to Khan Al Asal UNexplained, Like Ban's Jarba Meetings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 5 -- Why didn't the UN chemical weapons team ever go to Khan al Assal, which Syria asked them to visit back in March 2013? First the UN demanded access to other sites. Then once in Damascus, it dropped Khan al Assal in favor of al Ghouta - then left the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared the result report by Ake Sellstrom "overwhelming" before he even saw it. Then he sent Sellstrom back from September 25 to September 30. Finally it seemed Khan al Assal would be visited.

But it wasn't, the UN has yet to explain why. Inner City Press asked on both October 3 and was told the answer was in a previous transcript. But it wasn't. So Inner City Press asked again on October 4, transcript and video here and below:

From the UN's October 3 transcript:

Inner City Press: Angela Kane says that she, in hindsight, regrets not having simply gone to Khan al-Asal, but instead, having requested to go to other sites which led to these, these months’ delay; so, one, I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General also has that analysis that the delay may have actually played some role in the further use of chemical weapons. And I also wanted to know whether the [Åke] Sellström team, in their most recent visit, just to be sure: did they, did they actually get out to Khan al-Asal?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I have already answered that, Matthew: no, they did not.

Inner City Press: Alright. So, why not? That’s what, I’d only learned yesterday, I may, I might have missed your earlier answer, but why didn’t they go where they were initially going to speci--

Spokesperson: I answered that, as well.

Inner City Press: Okay. Can you say why?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Read the transcript.

Then, after Inner City Press reported on this exchange in a story about Ban Ki-moon's meeting, with Angela Kane present, with Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif, Nesirky's office sent this:

Subject: Your question at the Noon Briefing
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 4:58 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

In reference to your question at the [October 3] Noon Briefing, the Spokesperson said the following at the Noon briefing on 30 September 2013:

Question: Thank you, Martin. Just had a quick question about Dr. Sellström’s mission: Does that mean he won’t go back to Syria now, now that he is finalizing the report and they didn’t go to Khan al-Assal in the end?

Spokesperson: They are now heading out of Syria with the aim of finalizing their report. And I will be able to provide details on where they have been, but not right at this moment. They have not visited Khan al-Assal to my knowledge. But that does not mean that they have not been able to collect a large body of information, which they had been doing in any case in the lead up to their initial visit and then to their return. And so, if I have any more details, I will let you know. And I know also that they will now be seeking to marshal all of the information that they do have with the aim of putting that report together by the end of October, as we just said.

Inner City Press published the above in full, while still asking: why? And the next day on October 4, Inner City Press asked again:

Inner City Press: I did read the transcript; it’s not like I don’t read these things and it was sent to me again, I just want to... forgetting the transcript and without any disrespect, I just wanted a simple answer why the UN never went to Khan al-Asal. And I read, I read it a number of times; maybe I am being dense, but was it that it they couldn’t get there? Was it that the, the, the, it was too deteriorated? I am not suggesting those are the reasons, I just want to know what the reason is.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, it does say, not in that particular part that you have in front of you; it does say on 30 September, that transcript from Monday, or let’s be clear about it: I said there are a number of reasons, potential reasons. And one of those includes that with the passage of time, it becomes… I don’t think you expect me, I know you are reading what I said, you don’t think you’d expect me to say exactly what I said on Monday?

Inner City Press: I am asking you a kind of a substantive question; what would you say to those who say it’s, it is a shame that if the request, the initial request to go to Syria was to visit this one place, it seems to cry, to call out for an answer of why what was initially requested was not done.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Right, right, so, listen: As I have said, as I have said here a number of times, there are a number of factors why it was not possible or feasible to go. And one of those is that with the passage of time, there is a deterioration of the material that could be used for sampling, and, therefore, to help decide whether chemical weapons were used or not. But as I also said, there is a portfolio of different ways that the team, the investigation team, can gather evidence and try to determine at a distance whether chemical weapons were used. That’s one of the possible constraints. Another is obviously security. And with regard to the broader question about the passage of time, everybody knows that it was not for want of trying that the team did not get there until August. As you well know from March, there was extremely hard work done on both sides — meaning the Syrian authorities and the United Nations in the form of the Office for Disarmament Affairs — to make this work. It was not easy. And that’s been plainly said by any number of people, including the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. But the fact of the matter is that everyone persevered because there was an interest to get in. And eventually, they were able to get in and they were able then to determine that chemical weapons had indeed been used in that incident on 21 August; and they furthermore have continued both outside and then, on a subsequent visit to Syria that ended on Monday, to gather material so that they can present a final report at the end of this month.

  That says why the UN thought it wasn't WORTH going to Khan al Asal, not why they COULDN'T go to the spot that Syria had asked them to visit. It's like Ban Ki-moon meeting at his (UN-provided) residence with Saudi-sponsored Syria rebel boss Ahmad al Jarba -- a reflection of where Ban is coming from.

  Footnote: Ban's partners in the UN Correspondents Association, whose Executive Committee is dominated by Gulf and Western media from Al Arabiya and Reuters, where as Nesirky points out he worked for 25 years (video here), hosted Jarba for a faux UN briefing in July, on which Nesirky refused to answer questions by the Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info about whether this really WAS a "UN briefing," and why this room is given by the UN to a partisan organization. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.


Minova Rapes by DRC Army Raised to Minister & Kabila by UK & Power

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, October 5 -- The mass rape of 135 women in Minova in November 2012 by two units of the Congolese Army to which the UN still provide support is an issue on which UN Peacekeeping has been far less than transparent.

When Inner City Press, which has inquired into the rapes with exclusives since last November, asked UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, he refused to answer at all. Video compilation here.

  More recently after spin UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky has said it is entirely a matter for the Congolese authorities -- this despite the UN's continued support to the 41st and 391st Battalion in seeming contravention of Ban's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

Now with the UN Security Council in Kinshasa for meetings, Inner City Press has reports from multiple sources that the issue was raised, including to President Joseph Kabila himself.

UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant to his credit gave an open answer less than an hour ago, by Twitter: "@innercitypress Yes we have just seen Pres Kabila. Minova crimes raised by me & others with Defence and Interior Ministers."

Inner City Press has further learned that the "others" referred to by Lyall Grant include US Ambassador Samantha Power, who raised the issue not only to the Defense minister and to the Interior minister (accompanied by the Justice Minister in the meeting with the Security Council) but to President Kabila himself.

A complaint is that the claimed investigation has been far too slow, and that only junior soldiers have been jailed. Inner City Press is informed that the Ministers responded that twelves officers were suspended, and may be prosecuted, after investigation.

How is this investigation taking from November 2012 until now, October, more than ten months later? And what is President Kabila's response?

It must be noted for the context of Ambassador Power's question to Kabila that the 391st Battalion was trained by the US. Inner City Press, after reporting, got a US Mission to the UN comment on it, here.

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who dropped out of the trip at the last minute after his Mission hand-picked which correspondents could accompany and cover the UN trip and rejected Inner City Press, had earlier told the Press that the units implicated in the Minova rapes were the DRC's "best" units.

  The Security Council is now dining with the DRC Prime Minister; tomorrow they head east to Goma. We will continue to cover the trip. Watch this site.

  For viewing: in this video, Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press' question about the Minova rapes, then took into the hall some favored correspondents, including one individual selected by France for this trip, as well as Reuters and AFP: click here.

Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson Martin Nesirky on camera admitted that the decision on which media would be allowed to go on and cover the UNSC's Africa trip was made "in consultation" with the lead mission for the trip: France. Inner City Press YouTube channel video here: http://youtu.be/N_nn8lToeUU