Global Inner Cities Global Inner Cities  In Other Media e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   Click here for Global Inner City Archives 2006

  Click HERE for Daily UN Reporting on InnerCityPress.com    s  We welcome readers' comments or critiques.  Contact us

Click for March 1, 2011 BloggingHeads.tv re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press   2014: MRL on Beacon Reader

August 31, 2015

From UN, Trump Ousting Ramos Echoes Ladsous & CAR Rapes, FUNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 26 -- Amid debate about Jorge Ramos of Univision and Fusion being ejected from Donald Trump's press conference in Iowa, then allowed back in to ask questions, from the United Nations the comparison is inevitable to UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous.

  Ladsous who after openly refusing to answer any questions from Inner City Press about rapes in DR Congo, Darfur and the Central African Republic used Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's guards to eject the Press from a supposedly open meeting, here.

  Ladsous has STILL not answered questions about his role in covering up peacekeepers' rapes in the Central African Republic. And the old-school UN Correspondents Association, UNCA, said nothing about that, or the ejection. That most corporate media just sucks up to power? Sadly, not news. That's why the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, was created, here.

  On August 26, as Ramos was interviewed by Megyn Kelly on FOX, over on CNN that network congratulated itself on not celebrating shooters, as it devoted hours to such coverage, of Vester Lee Flanagan a/k/a Bryce Williams killing TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward. But that's... another story.

August 24, 2015

In Buffalo, Ban Spins for M&T Bank Accused of Discrimination and Money Laundering

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 17 -- Buffalo based M&T Bank has the been stalled its in proposal to acquire New Jersey's Hudson City Savings Bank since 2012, due to US government allegations that M&T has violated lending and anti-money laundering rules.

  M&T's merger application has been challenged under the Community Reinvestment Act, including by Fair Finance Watch; the bank has been sued under the Fair Housing Act.

  But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on August 14 gave a speech to “150 invited guests at M&T headquarters in downtown Buffalo.” 

  Did Ban mention the lending discrimination or money laundering charges? We don't know - unlike other speeches Ban gives, this one was not distributed to the press corp which covers the UN, much less put on the UN's website.

  It would have been easy for Ban and his team to learn about the status of M&T Bank by the most cursory of web searches. Bloomberg News on April 15 of this year reported that the bank's partner“disproportionately denied home loans to black borrowers -- 3.21 times more frequently than whites in the greater New York area  -- according to an analysis of public data by Fair Finance Watch.”
 
  This Bloomberg piece was published in the Buffalo News the same day; the Buffalo News back on October 10, 2012 quoted Fair Finance Watch that M&T made “119 loans to white borrowers, but just 17 to Hispanics, who were denied 1.91 times more often than white borrowers.”

   This same Buffalo News, which apparently alone until now reported on Ban's Buffalo trip, said that

“Ban Ki-moon may not be a household name. But as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban is an international rock star in the realm of world affairs – the Mick Jagger of international diplomacy. Which begged the question:  Why was he in Buffalo Friday? There’s a story behind the visit. Ban, 71, was invited by Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and chief executive officer of M&T Bank. The two have known each other for some time, Ban said. He first met Wilmers during a foreign relations visit to the Republic of Korea, where Ban had served as minister of foreign affairs and trade prior to taking over as Secretary-General at the United Nations in 2007. Ban ended up inviting Wilmers to his home, where the two discussed matters of common concern. On Friday, Ban spoke at a dinner for about 150 invited guests at M&T headquarters in downtown Buffalo.”

   The question arises: who were the 150 people invited by M&T? Did they pay to attend, or gain invitations due to payments to or business arrangements with M&T? If so, is charge for a speech by the UN Secretary General appropriate?

   Ban has previously offered praise to banks and corporations with questionable records - but often this has been justified with the argument that to address climate change, you have to deal with polluters and those who finance them. But in this case, did Ban push for any changes at M&T? It is not even a member of the UN's “blue-washing” Global Compact. Did Ban even ask Wilmers?

Footnote: Wilmers may blame M&T's problems on underlings. Ban Ki-moon has experience with such scapegoating, most recently on rapes in the Central African Republic being blamed only on local commander Babacar Gaye of Senegal, and not his (and UN Peacekeeping's) boss, Herve Ladsous of France. We'll have more on this.
On UN Rapes, ICP Asks of CAR Spox Quote, Whistleblower, US Power

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, August 14 -- When peacekeepers from France allegedly raped children in the Central African Republic and the UN learned about it a year ago, the UN and UNICEF did nothing, until French UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous asked to fire the whistleblower in March of this year. 

  Babacar Gaye but not Ladsous was fired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; Inner City Press obtained and put Gaye's letter online here (credited here).

  After Ban Ki-moon briefed the Security Council behind closed doors, US Ambassador Samantha Power but not UNSC President Joy Ogwu of Nigeria spoke for 24 minutes at the stakeout (while taking questions only from Reuters, AP and the WSJ.)

  On August 14, Inner City Press asked Central African Republic and UN Peacekeeping rape questions to Ambasssador Joy Ogwu (video here); she replied to Inner City Press:

"Well, I thought I would brief yesterday, but I waited for a long time, this podium was busy, so I decided to leave. Well, there was a consensus on the action that was taken. I think it was Shakespeare who said, there is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. The Secretary General got to the point where he drew the line. To say, to indicate that there is, and to reaffirm zero tolerance on this matter of sexual violence against women. I don’t think there were any differences on the action that he took, we supported that action, and indeed that it should broaden beyond the Central African Republic. All the contributors, troop contributors, must be that way, that the point of no return has been reached, and it needs to be taken very very seriously. It had to happen at some point. That’s some line, the dividing line. So there was no specific target."

 (The UN's UNIFEED, here, cut the podium reference and Inner City Press' question.)

 Also on August 14 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here
August 10, 2015

UNSC OKs Syria Chemical Weapons Deal, Talk of Khan al Asal, Hiroshima, PRST

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 -- After long negotiations between the US and Russia, the UN Security Council on August 7 adopted a resolution to establish a so-called accountability mechanism for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Outside the Council before and after the unanimous vote on August 7, Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin referred to a Presidential Statement he said may be adopted early next week, to support UN envoy Staffan de Mistura's work.

  Inside the Council after the vote, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari began his speech with a reference to the 70th anniversary of the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He went to to say the UN never investigated the use of chemical weapons, by rebels he said, in Khan al Asal.

   In its resolution the Security Council “recalls that in its resolution 2118, it decided that the Syrian Arab Republic and all parties in Syria shall cooperate fully with the OPCW and the United Nations.” It seems doubtful that ISIS will cooperate.

   Churkin in his post-vote speech inside the Council said that “the existing mechanics of the UN and OPCW do not have a mandate to identify those participating in such acts. Moreover, we became witnesses of the many politicized statements in this regard, which were clearly meant to be propaganda. It was necessary to eliminate this gap, which was done with the adoption of today’s resolution... Any efforts in the Syrian area must be in line with assisting a search for a political solution to the conflict.”

   Inside the Council, US Samantha Power delivered this speech. At the stakeout, questions were given to Reuters, Al Hurra (really, France 24, by mistake), and Voice of America. (We'll have a separate piece on Power's response to the Press' final question about Burundi. For now, here's previous stakeout, sit-down.

   After the meeting ended, on the steps leading out from the UNSC stakeout, Churkin said “I hope it will translate into our continued joint work on the political front. We are working, I think very well, on a PRST [Presidential Statement] in support of Staffan de Mistura’s efforts. I hope it will be adopted...” More on InnerCityPro.com.
August 3, 2015

Small Islands in UNSC, Niue's Nameplate & Sharks in Palau, ICP Asks of Drones

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 30, updated -- When New Zealand ran for and won a UN Security Council seat, beating up Turkey, it made a big pitch to small island developing states or SIDS. On Thursday it paid them back, or followed through on a campaign promise, by holding a Security Council debate specifically about SIDS. Inner City Press followed it, straight through to the end.

  Before the meeting, Inner City Press asked New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully:

Inner City Press: I see here that your Concept Note for the debate talks about exploitation of natural resources and some states like Palau have announced sanctuaries, in one case for sharks, some people are talking about sanctuary against commercial fishing. What’s New Zealand’s position on that type of protection and also they’ve talked about using drones, what do you think is the role of technology in defending the security of these states?

FM McCully: It’s a theme I intend to pick up myself today, because it’s an important one if you look at the characteristics of the small island developing states you’ll see that they all are relatively small in terms of their land mass but they have EEZs that are significantly bigger than their land mass and for many of them, particularly in the Pacific, it happens to be the biggest economic asset they’ve got and yet other people come and routinely help themselves to that resource and in our part of the world, under reporting and illegal fishing are a huge part of the problem. That is literally stealing from some of the poorest people on the planet. S o a significant part of our development programme is designed that we attack that challenge at every level. Everything from improving monitoring, surveillance but also up-skilling local people so they can secure employment and become part of the value chain. In our region, the tuna resource is the biggest economic asset owned by Pacific countries. They get too small a share of value of that resource and I will saying so in the Council today.

  During the debate, several islands said there should be an ongoing Security Council seat for the group.  Tonga questioned whether the Security Council is fit for purpose anymore. The Premier of Niue spoke behind a sign with his own name, Toke Talagi, and not that of Niue. While he was speaking “under Rule 39,” so does the European Union -- which, just before 3:30 pm, had "European Union" on its name plate.

  Countries competing next time for the Western European and Other Group two seats -- Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands -- all sent officials higher than Permanent Representative. (For Netherlands, it was the Prime Minister of Aruba. Camillo Gonsalez of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines brought up the invasion of Grenada, and the current expulsions to Haiti from the Dominican Republic; he's previously said that the UN should pay compensation for bringing cholera to Haiti, to his credit.

 Late in the debate, Turkey which lost out to New Zealand and its small islands votes bragged about its work for the island states through the G20. There were no rights of reply -- past 6 pm, action shifted to the UN's North Lawn building, where what had been planned as an end of presidency barbeque was moved indoors by rain.

 There were steel drums and reggae, Murray McCully and a who's who of the UN (some double-timing with Morocco's National Day at the Waldorf Astoria). The planned "wrap up" session got canceled, but New Zealand will keep working, for example on Troop Contributing Country issues. We'll have more on this.
July 27, 2015

Iran Deal Sold by Kerry at CFR in NY, Called Out in Times Square

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 24 -- The Iran Deal UN Security Council resolution was adopted by the UNSC 15-0 on July 20. This came the day after a slew of US members of Congress said the UN vote should wait for their 60 day review, and two days before a protest of the deal to be held in Times Square, where a slew of US elected officials, and Secretary of State John Kerry, were denounced from the stage.

 On July 24, Kerry came to New York to field questions at the Council on Foreign Relations on Park Avenues, then to meet the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Jewish Committee.

 At CFR, Kerry argued that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is less likely with the Deal than without it. He mentioned Yemen, bragging that he stopped Iran from landing a ship there (no mention was made of the new U.S. APCs in Aden). He said that Saudi Arabia spends $80 billion a year on defense, "fancy toys." Look at the impact of those toys on Yemen.

  Kerry said that France's Fabius is going to Iran, and that Germany will be going (actually, it's already gone). Moderator Richard Haass apologized for how few questions were taken from the floor, saying Kerry had other meetings to go to. But would he be protested there?

  Back on July 20 in the Security Council in speeches after the unanimous vote, Russia's Vitaly Churkin shouted out Kazakhstan as well as Austria and Switzerland, which hosted the talks. US Samantha Power vowed to pursue Iran on others issues. Iranian ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo was to speak inside the Security Council, then Israel's Ron Prosor outside at the stakeout.

  The day after the Iran Deal was announced in Vienna by the EU's Federica Mogherini then Iran's Javad Zarif, on July 15 a draft resolution was circulated in the UN Security Council, with paragraphs on sanctions snap-back and other provisions. Inner City Press put the draft, obtained from multiple sources, online here.

  As detailed below, the vote is set for July 20, 9 am in New York.

 On the US Sunday morning political talk shows, not only Republican Senator from Wyoming John Barrasso but also Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland said the Obama administration shouldn't take the deal to the UN until Congress considers it. Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas, speaking from London, said the same, citing Cardin and Steny Hoyer.

 On July 19, the US State Department in Washington said:

"Pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, today the State Department transmitted to Congress the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its annexes, and related materials. These documents include the Unclassified Verification Assessment Report on the JCPOA and the Intelligence Community's Classified Annex to the Verification Assessment Report, as required under the law. Therefore, Day One of the 60-day review period begins tomorrow, Monday, July 20."

  Then at 5 pm on July 16, Inner City Press reported that the UNSC vote on the draft would occur on Monday, July 20 at 9 am.

  Hours later, the UN confirmed this, and a US Mission spokesperson tweeted the timing. Reuters, typically, then published a story quoting an UNnamed "U.S. official" on the timing; the CBS former head of the UN Censorship Alliance echoed the timing targeting the P3 with nothing but photos. (The current head of the Censorship Alliance was invisible, checked out.)

  This is how the UN works, or doesn't. At the underlying UNSC experts' meeting there were only two journalists. But Western missions served up information later to non-present correspondents, who by quoting unnamed sources seemed knowledgeable. This is today's UN.

July 20, 2015

On Iran Deal July 20 Vote, After ICP Reports, Reuters Blurs US Spox

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- The day after the Iran Deal was announced in Vienna by the EU's Federica Mogherini then Iran's Javad Zarif, on July 15 a draft resolution was circulated in the UN Security Council, with paragraphs on sanctions snap-back and other provisions. Inner City Press put the draft, obtained from multiple sources, online here.

  Then at 5 pm on July 16, Inner City Press reported that the UNSC vote on the draft would occur on Monday, July 20 at 9 am.

  Hours later, the UN confirmed this, and a US Mission spokesperson tweeted the timing. Reuters, typically, then published a story quoting an UNnamed "U.S. official" on the timing; the CBS former head of the UN Censorship Alliance echoed the timing targeting the P3 with nothing but photos. (The current head of the Censorship Alliance was invisible, checked out.)

  This is how the UN works, or doesn't. At the underlying UNSC experts' meeting there were only two journalists. But Western missions served up information later to non-present correspondents, who by quoting unnamed sources seemed knowledgeable. This is today's UN.

  On July 16, the Security Council's 15 members at the Expert level met about the draft. Inner City Press and one other journalist staked-out the meeting (Periscope video for now here), held in basement Conference Room 8 and afterward asked attendees what the next step would be.

  While several said "No comment" -- since it will presumably help them, including the US Legal Expert and a former French mission spokesman -- from others Inner City Press was told of a 9 am Monday July 20 vote on the resolution.

  It was said that France was pushing for a weekend vote, on Sunday, related to Foreign Minister Fabius desire to travel to Tehran with the vote already done. This was resisted - now, 9 am Monday, before a Security Council Arria formula meeting about Gaza, sponsored by Malaysia and Jordan. Watch this site.

  Here embeddd is the draft. Operative Paragraphs 11, 12 and 15 bear particular interest, with their purported automaticity. See also, InnerCityPro.com.

July 13, 2015

On Yemen, Ban Was Urged Not to Announce Dubious Pause, Now Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- The UN Secretariat's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below. On July 9, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proudly announced a humanitarian pause to start on July 10 at midnight.

  It quickly became clear that some of key parties had not been spoken with or agreed; the pause's midnight beginning came and passed amid airstrikes.

  Now Inner City Press is informed by sources that Ban Ki-moon was urged to not make the dubious pause announcement, including from within the UN's own Department of Political Affairs -- but Ban announced it anyway.

  At best, it was rolling the dice. At worse, on the very day that UN is rightly criticizing itself for making false promises of protection in Srebrenica 20 years ago, in this case Yemenis were told there would be a pause, and some perhaps relied on it, to their detriment. And still the UN had said nothing.

  After the July 9 announcement, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman if the Saudis had been spoken with. The answer was, Hadi told the Saudis his position. But did Hadi ever agree to the pause, or just to the conditions set forth in his letter to UN? What of Hadi's responsibilities to the Yemeni people?

  Where is the UN's replacement envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed? Headed to Ethiopia, Ban's spokesman said, to meet with Ban on the sidelines of the Financing for Development conference there. Does IOCA harbor ambitions for another UN system post, or back in his own country? What sort of a track record is this? Watch this site

July 6, 2015

To Pick Next SG, ACT Event, Why Not Debates, Disclosure Needed?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization?

 In what may be a good sign, UN Conference Room 11 was full on June 30 to discuss this question, in an event organized by the 27 member states (so far) making up ACT (Accountability, Coherence, Transparency).

  Surprising to some, on the panel was UK Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft, who said among other things that the Next SG should not necessarily be from the Eastern European Group.

  The room was full -- Inner City Press stood by the door, broadcasting by Periscope and live-tweeting with laptop in hand -- but with a notable contingent of Eastern European representatives. One question identified herself as such: a woman, and Eastern European. Just saying.

   William Pace of WFM reminisced how Boutros Boutros Ghali's second term was vetoed in a deal between the (Bill) Clinton adminstration and then-Senator Jesse Helms, to release dues payments to the UN.

 The proposal now is for a single seven year term. Mary Robinson says she knows of another P5 country, beyond the UK, which is open to a single seven year term.

  When it was open for questions, Inner City Press (also on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which unlike the older correspondents grouping actually fights for more transparency by the UN) asked why not have a debate among prospective candidates?

  Why not require disclosure of how much is spend on each candidates campaign, including banning or requiring the disclosure of spending of the funds of UN Programmes (UNDP) or Organizations (UNESCO) for their chiefs to campaign to replace Ban Ki-moon?

   The UK's Rycroft said that prohibitions are not the answer -- agreed -- but did not answer on requiring financial disclosures. (He said we don't want massive spending, one isn't running for president. Which raises another question: what about some form of matching funds for candidates from lower income countries?)

  While much of the focus seems to be on arranging letters from the President of the Security Council to the President of the General Assembly, as Inner City Press asked at the ACT event and asked the new PGA Mogens Lykketoft himself, twice (video), can't the PGA call a high level meeting and invite candidates to present themselves? In this way, the wider world outside the UN could get engaged, and put on some pressure. The anonymous polling of which candidates are “discouraged” by the P5 members should not, FUNCA contends, be repeated.

  Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Juan Carlos Mendoza-García wrapped up, and the event was over. It was promising, but moves for reform and opening up should begin as soon as possible. Watch this site.

June 29, 2015

In Syria Open Meeting ICP Is Told To Stop Periscope By France, Controls UNTV

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 26 -- When France and Spain co-sponsored a UN Security Council session about Syria in the “Arria Formula,” Inner City Press went to cover it and was told that the meeting was open, but only if it went in through the UN Visitors Lobby.

  And so it did, being the first journalist (and person) in the audience section of UN Conference Room 4. On two large screens in the front, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura spoke, taking a different stance than he had when he assumed the position after Lakhdar Brahimi resigned, like Kofi Annan before him.

  Then a Human Rights Watch video was shown, with voice-over. Three more journalists arrived; a guard came over to tell them they could sit anywhere, including outside of the audience section. Then another UN official approached Inner City Press.

   Are you filming? he asked. Yes, Inner City Press said, pointing to mobile phone broadcasting by Periscope. YouTube of the end of the Periscope, and subsequent questions, here.

   The UN official ordered Inner City Press to stop filming the “open” meeting, then demanded that Inner City Press erase or delete the footage. (It had, of course, already been live-streamed and broadcast).

   Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq why at an “open” meeting a UN official had ordered Inner City Press to stop filming or broadcasting. Haq said it was a decision of the member states which organized the meeting: that is, France and Spain.

   So when the Ambassadors of France and Spain, along with three NGO representatives, held a stakeout later on June 26, Inner City Press went to ask. But there the UNTV boom microphone operator was ordered by the spokesman for the French Mission to the UN who to give the mic to: Agence France Presse for a set-up question, then US Broadcasting Board of Governors' overseen media, in Arabic. That was it.

  Inner City Press approached France's Ambassador, who said at least you were in the room. But why not have it on UNTV, why order the Press which was broadcasting it to stop, and ask to delete the footage? We'll have more on this.

Footnote: in the “open” but unfilmable meeting, and at the stakeout, was Human Rights Watch, which going even more secretive will hold a smaller event on Yemen, not on UNTV or in the UN Press Briefing Room but in the clubhouse of the UN's Censorship Alliance. We'll have more on this as well.
June 22, 2015

UN Schools in Censorship, Press Ejected by Ban's Guards For Ladsous Commanders

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 20 --With scandals surrounding UN Peacekeeping, from covering up child rape by French “peacekeepers” in the Central African Republic to buying sex in Haiti and selling UN Police jobs in the DR Congo, on June 18 the UN including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave Force Commanders a lesson -- one in censorship. Ban's guards ejected the investigative Press, which closely covers Peacekeeping including the scandals, out of an open meeting, at the demand of Herve Ladsous.

  This came a day after Jose Ramos-Horta and 14 others on Ban's Panel issued a report complaining for example that "Sometimes peace operations are slow and reactive in getting their messages out; at other times the messages are convoluted or obscure. At other times, peace operations appear mute and introverted, which conveys its own very particular message." "HIPPO" Report at Paragraph 282.

  So what is the message of using UN Security to throw the Press out of an open meeting about Peacekeeping, right in front of the Secretary General who did... nothing? On June 19, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain, but it remained "convoluted and obscure." From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I have a number of questions, but I feel I have to ask this one first and it has to do with…

Spokesman Dujarric:  Are you getting me on two cameras?

Inner City Press:  I actually am, yes, and here is the reason for it. [Periscope.] Yesterday, there was an open meeting in the basement, in Conference Room 9, which the Secretary-General was to deliver a speech to a number of generals, and Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous was there.  I went to attend it and it was listed in the media alert.  I was told not to take pictures at the photo op, but I continued to, because it was in the hallway.  But, in Conference Room 9, the security detail of the Secretary-General told me I had to leave the open meeting at the direction of the organizer, Mr. Ladsous.  And I wanted to know, one, what do you say about an open meeting, the press being excluded from it?  Two, what is the role of the security detail of the Secretary-General in excluding journalists that were far away from it?

Spokesman:  I think it was an unfortunate situation and a misunderstanding and the decision to open up the meeting in the AE for the [Secretary-General’s] part was taken late and I think everybody that should have known didn't know, so it was a misunderstanding.

Inner City Press:  But, I guess what was the problem, given the meeting it was on UN TV and you distributed his remarks?

Spokesman:  What I'm saying is that it was a misunderstanding and that all the people who should have known that it was an open meeting were not aware.

Inner City Press:  Isn't the default… I mean MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit] was there and MALU said to the security detail to the Secretary-General, “this is an open meeting”, and they said:  “It doesn't matter, if the organizer says you are out you are out”.

Spokesman:  It was a misunderstanding.

Inner City Press:  Can you say from this podium that meetings that are open, that journalists should be able to remain inside them?

Spokesman:  Of course.  Everybody should know how the meeting is classified.  It was a misunderstanding.  Everybody who should have known should have known.

Inner City Press:  I also I guess related as to security, it came up yesterday and Farhan said what he said, but I want maybe to take a second shot at it.  There is a photograph of Ban Ki-moon shaking hands with an individual who is on the US Al-Qaida terrorist sanctions list.  So, what I wanted to know is, I mean, in diplomacy you may have to meet with anyone, but my question actually has to do with entering the UN premises and role of the security detail of the Secretary-General, did they know that this individual was listed as having financed if not being a member of Al-Qaida?

Spokesman:  I think you're right.  In diplomacy, we have to speak to the people we have to speak to.  As for the Secretary-General’s security, I'm not going to get into the details of it, but obviously, it's there to protect the security of the Secretary-General and they do what they need to do.

Inner City Press:  But, what do you think of the Hadi or Riyadh delegation having as one of its members a US-listed Al-Qaida terrorist?

Spokesman:  I think I have used as many words as I can on this.

  As Ramos-Horta said, convoluted and obscure. We'll have more on this.

 Ban was scheduled to give a speech to UN Force Commanders in Conference Room 9 of UN Headquarters in an open meeting, following a public photo-op with the commanders.

   But when Inner City Press showed up for the photo op, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous directed one of his officials to tell Inner City Press to leave. Then he got Ban's guards to eject Inner City Press from the open meeting.

 On June 19, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who previously enabled Ladsous' strikingly anti-press stance by refusing to allow Inner City Press to put a single question to Ladsous, to explain the use of Ban's security detail to oust a journalist from an open speech by Ban. Video here.

  Dujarric said those who needed to know weren't told early enough that it was an open meeting. It was a strange response, because there are open meetings every day in the UN without prior notice to all participants; this one was listed as open in the Media Alert the night before.

  It seems that what Dujarric meant is that had Ladsous been specifically directed to the open meeting notation, he would have had time to veto it, like this patron. But since he didn't, how could Ladsous who ostensibly works FOR Ban Ki-moon get Ban's guards to oust the Press from covering an open speech by their boss? Who works for whom? We'll have more on this.
June 15, 2015

From Burundi, Journalists Write to Ban & FUNCA of Crackdown, DSG at AU

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- With UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson at the African Union summit in Johannesburg where Burundi is being discussed, Burundian independent media have written to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the crackdown against them, sending to a copy to Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, which is now online here.

   Ban's UN has said little amid the closing down of independent media in Burundi, other than generalities when FUNCA and Inner City Press have asked about it. Now what will they do?

 The letter is from Bob Rugurika of Radio Publique Africaine, Patrick Nduwimana of Radio Bonesha FM, Anne Niyuhire of Radio Isanganiro, Innocent Muhozi of Radi-Tele Renaissance, Alexandre Niyungeko of UBJ and the Association Burundaise de radiodiffuseires, here.

 On June 12 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: In Burundi, documents emerged, a ruling, legal opinion by the ministers of justice of the East African Community states, and they read very closely the constitution and the Arusha declaration and they say that a third term would be illegal, that he’s not eligible, that it's clear the first term was under the Constitution.  I'm wondering, one, is there any response by the Secretariat, that it's been sort of not addressing this question?  And was Mr. Djinnit aware of this ruling during the time of this facilitation?  And if so, why didn't it speak more clearly on the subject?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think that Mr. Djinnit is one of our more experienced diplomats, experienced negotiator, mediator.  I'm sure he was aware of everything he needed to be aware of.  I don't have a response to that....

Inner City Press:  Is the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General] aware of this document as he goes to the African Union Summit…?

Spokesman:  I think the DSG is fully aware of the situation in Burundi and would be looking forward to his discussion with Mr. Djinnit.

  We'll see.

June 8, 2015

On CAR Rapes, Ban Tells 4 States of Panel

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- French soldiers in the Central African Republic allegedly sexually abused children, as exposed in a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report leaked to the French government by longtime OHCHR staffer Anders Kompass.

 On June 3, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced an intention to name an independent panel at least 14 UN member states met about its terms of reference and to whom beyond Ban it should report, as Inner City Press exclusively details below.

  Now Inner City Press reports on the June 5 meeting between four of those states -- minus South Africa - which met on June 5 with Ban Ki-moon and more than a half dozen other officials, including Deputy Eliasson, DFS' Atule Khare, Herve Ladsous' fill-in and others.

  The states -- the UN identified them as Australia, Guatemala, Japan  and Finland, though the last was Norway -- went in with a series of positions and questions, including:

"We are concerned by the damage that these incidents, and their follow-up, have done to the UN’s reputation and credibility in an area where the UN is expected to uphold the highest standards and values.

The review must be conducted in an expeditious manner and the results must be fully transparent.

It is crucial that the review looks at the whole chain of events, including the senior management’s decisions leading to disciplinary action against Mr. Anders Kompass. This has cast doubt about the credibility of the UN’s human rights commitments in field missions and about the integrity of its whistleblower policy.

It is crucial to remove any doubts that the UN is fully committed to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure effective investigation of any such allegations in field missions. In addition, accountability for perpetrators, and protection and assistance to victims, must be ensured.

Questions: What will be the scope of the Independent External Review (CAR only? The UN’s handling of the investigation, SEA more broadly?)

To what extent has the Human Rights Up Front approach been applied?

Will the review look at institutional reforms to better address cases of SEA, including timely reporting and action in cases of abuse?

Will the review look at the protection of whistleblowers? What is the status regarding the pending case against Mr. Anders Kompass – in light of doubts that have been raised about this process?"

June 1, 2015

In UN's NGO Comt'e, Freedom Now Voted Down 11-4, Move to ECOSOC Predicted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 30 -- In the UN's Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on May 29, the application of Freedom Now was pushed to a vote by the United States; it was badly defeated, with eleven votes against and only four votes for, with one abstention (India) and three NGO Committee members absent: Guinea, Mauritania and, tellingly, Turkey.

  The “No” voters included Sudan, on which outgoing UN aid coordinator Valerie Amos refused to comment on May 28, here, and Burundi amid its crackdown and simultaneous submission of abusive police officers for service in Herve Ladsous' mission in Mali, MINUSMA, here.

  Freedom Now speaks up for (some) political prisoners, and usually effectively (that the Zone 9 Bloggers are still in jail is telling.) Freedom NOw can and will continue their work without the dubious “legitimacy” this Committee can confer. But the question arose, why did the US push it to a vote that it knew it would lose, and badly?  Why didn't the US work to “turn” some of the votes, at least from “No” to abstention or absent?

    But the “No” camp had their points on May 29. The chair of the Committee repeatedly refused to explain why for example the vote on Freedom Now could be pushed for, while another item in the morning, similarly pushed, was deferred. South Africa raised this, and later the Chair made a point of admonishing them, “for the record,” he said.  He did not appear impartial, whatever that means in the UN. Inner City Press live-tweeted it, here and here.

   The pattern now is for defeated applications like this to be referred to the full ECOSOC Committee, where the political mix is different. Does this mean there is less focus in the run-up to selection for the NGO Committee? Some expect to hear more on this from the US, from Ambassador Samantha Power as before, here, and soon. Watch this site.

 
May 25, 2015

UN Is OK with Censorship In Burkina, Silent on Killed Journalist in S. Sudan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 -- At the UN there is much talk about the protection of journalists in conflict situations, and about freedom of the press. But when Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access on May 21 asked the UN about a journalist killed in South Sudan, where the UN has a mission, there was nothing:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: In South Sudan, a journalist of Radio Tamazuj, Pow James Raeth, is reported to have been killed by gunfire in Akobo.  And I wanted to know whether UNMISS, which I believe still has a facility in Akobo, is aware of it, if they have any comment on it, and what they think is behind the killing of this journalist.

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  We'll have to check with UNMISS whatever details there are of that incident.

  Seven hours later, there was no answer. The day before, on May 20, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked about Burkina Faso:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: Burkina Faso has announced that it's banning live political broadcasts for three months in the run-up to elections, and a number of press organizations have been critical of it.  Given DPA (Department of Political Affairs) and the UN's kind of involvement in different stages in Burkina Faso, do you have any view of that banning of live political broadcasts?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I don't know whether it's a banning or whether it's restrictions.  There are a number of countries that restrict political broadcasts in the run-up to elections, and sometimes that's designed to lessen the threat of electoral violence, so that's a more complicated issue.  So at this stage, we wouldn't have anything to say about that.  If there are concerns about actual harassment of journalists, that would be a case for concern.

 What about the killing of a journalist in South Sudan? Next week the UN Security Council under its Lithuania presidency has a meeting on the protection of journalists, and we will cover it. But we will not cover the RSF side event with Christophe Deloire held in the clubhouse of UNCA, which typically did not ask about the journalist killing in South Sudan or censorship in Burkina Faso. In fact, UNCA board members tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, for its reporting, becoming the UN Censorship Alliance.

Many organizations like to "launch" their reports at or in the United Nations, and so ask few questions about UN. The Committee to Protect Journalists did one earlier this year.

  Tellingly, while CPJ spoke out against the censorship in Burkina Faso, it has said nothing about the UN's defense of it. What is the likelihood of Burkina reversing itself, when it now has UN endorsement?

 On February 14, 2013, Inner City Press asked CPJ about the UN Correspondents Association's board members trying to censor its reporting about Sri Lanka and trying to get its UN accreditation "reviewed."

 The CPJ response was no comment on the "internal dynamics of the UN's accreditation process," saying its focus is "international press freedom issues." Isn't censorship at the UN international?

  Now it gets worse - the above quoted Q&A was at least in the open UN Press Briefing Room. Now CPJ intends to take its report launch behind closed doors in clubhouse the UN gives UN, its UN Censorship Alliance, publicized only to those who pay UNCA money.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access challenges all this - and CPJ's corporate and selective advocacy for only some journalism. It is a tuxedo approach such as on display in DC.

   Back on February 14, 2013 when CPJ came to the UN Press Briefing Room to “launch” its annual report on press freedom Inner City Press asked them, not for the first time, about the UN's own treatment of the full range of journalists, their right to access the UN and to due process if challenged. Video here, from Minute 29:12.

  As example, Inner City Press noted the UN limiting accreditation by geography and to those who abide by the “principles of the Organization,” and total lack of due process rules for journalists on complaints as those filed against Inner City Press in 2012 by Voice of America, Reuters' Louis Charbonneau and the “UN Correspondents Association” for which he spoke on Thursday. Video here, from Minute 12:04.

  Rob Mahoney of CJP, who had begun the press conference by saying “we look to the UN” on these issues, declined to comment on the "internal dynamics of the UN's accreditation process," saying he doesn't know enough about it since he focuses on "international press freedom issues." Video here, from Minute 30:40.

  But aren't unfair rules of the UN worldwide in denying access to journalists "international press freedom issues"? And how can you "look to the UN" to help if you don't first look AT the UN?

  While Charbonneau's UNCA in mid-2012 initiated a process against Inner City Press citing an article it wrote about Sri Lanka (and UNCA, see here), Inner City Press received death threats from supporters of the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka.

  Inner City Press asked UNCA to stop or at least suspend its process; this was refused, including by Charbonneau, who told Inner City Press to “go to the NYPD.”

Remembering CPJ's Bob Dietz' focus on Sri Lanka, Inner City Press wrote to him and CPJ's Joel Simon. The response came from CPJ's Americas Research Associate Sara Rafsky:

Thank you very much for alerting us about your situation. At the moment, the Americas program is swamped with urgent cases... Thus it will most likely be some time before I can look into your case.”

  These was no follow up by CPJ. The New York Civil Liberties a month later, citing the complaint against Inner City Press, asked the UN to state its due process rules, which the UN has yet to do.

   The  Free UN Coalition for Access, on behalf of which Inner City Press thanked Mahoney and his largely silent panel for coming, is pursuing changes to the UN's archaic and exclusionary accreditation rules and Media Access Guidelines.

   UNCA's, and Charbonneau's, response was to tear down flyers on the topic. Atop UNCA again is Giampaolo Pioli the past president who, after renting one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, later granted Kohona's request as Sri Lanka's ambassador to screen that government's war crimes denial film "Lies Agreed To" inside the UN, under the UNCA banner. Inner City Press reported on it, was told to remove the article from the Internet or face expulsion from the UN. That is censorship, and CPJ was informed: but partners with UNCA. This is not press freedom.

   Then on February 12, 2014  when CPJ its "Attacks on the Press" report online, under the heading Africa there were pages on Tanzania and Swaziland, for example, but none on South Sudan or Mali.

  CPJ's Joel Simon began the February 12, 2014 "launch" press conference by explaining why it was held at the United Nations (he cited countries trying to use the UN to control the Internet). Inner City Press when called on asked if CPJ thinks the UN Peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and Mali do enough to combat crackdowns on the press there, for example the Salva Kiir government seizing a complete issue of the Juba Monitor, and theats against MaliActu.. 

 Now we wonder, including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, what CPJ thinks of the UN bureau chief of Reuters, with essentially a permanent seat on UNCA board, mis-using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to get Google to block access to a leaked anti-Press complaint to the UN from its search. Isn't that censorship?

May 18, 2015

IMF Tells ICP of Burundi On Hold, Nepal On Ground, Ghana & Jamaica

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 14 -- Amid the protests and crackdown after Pierre Nkurunziza was nominated to run for a third term as President in seeming violation of the Arusha Peace Accord, on May 13 General Godefroid Niyombare announced the ouster of Nkurunziza.

  On May 14, Inner City Press has asked the International Monetary Fund's spokesperson Gerry Rice at the IMF biweekly embargoed briefing:

"On Burundi, after the IMF's announcement of $6.9 million in the run up to elections, now with General Godefroid Niyombare saying Pierre Nkurunziza is no longer in power, what is the status of the IMF's funds and program, when will it be reviewed?"

  Rice took this question and replied that the "IMF is following the current developments in Burundi very closely.  The Fund-supported program that was recently approved, it's fair to say that given the current security situation, the timing of our next discussions with the authorities has yet to be determined."

 Tw weeks ago on April 30, the IMF told Inner City Press on Burundi

"Many thanks for your question. Please see our line  below:

'We are continuing to monitor developments in Burundi. Regarding the ECF-supported program that was recently approved, our next meeting with the authorities is tentatively scheduled to take place in June, at which time we will assess progress toward the completion of the 7th review.'"

 So, no more June?

  On May 14 Rice also answered Inner City Press on Nepal, saying an IMF team is "on the ground" and considering all feasible options. Debt relief?

On Ghana, ICP asked "On Ghana, does the IMF have any comment or view on the country upping its monetary policy rate up to 22 percent, and on the decline in value of the cedi? How does this impact the IMF program?"

The IMF responded, after the briefing:

"We welcome Bank of Ghana's commitment to reduce inflation and bring it gradually down to its medium term target, as envisaged under the IMF-supported program. The increase in the policy interest rate decided by Bank of Ghana's monetary policy committee yesterday (May 13) aims at mitigating inflationary pressures, such as those related to the depreciation of the exchange rate, in order to achieve the inflation objective."

On Jamaica, ICP asked "On Jamaica, it is reported that the IMF's “new chief of missions to Jamaica, Uma Ramakrishnan, said yesterday that the missing of the nominal primary surplus target by the country under its Extended Fund Facility is not a big deal.” Can you clarify the IMF's position on the missing of this target?"

 The IMF responded, after the briefing:

Here is our answer on Jamaica:
 
n  The staff team that was in Jamaica from May 4-12 provided its perspective on this in the press release that was issued on Tuesday.

n  Implementation of Jamaica’s EFF-supported reform program remains strong. All quantitative performance targets through end-March were met, with the exception of the target for the primary surplus of the central government, which was narrowly missed as revenue came in lower than projected in 2014/15.

n  While the target was missed in nominal (Jamaican dollar) terms, the primary surplus is still estimated at 7.5 percent of GDP in 2014/15—the central fiscal anchor of the program.  

n  At the press conference, the team explained that deviations under IMF programs do happen, and it was also noted that one missed performance criterion over eight reviews is still an exceptionally strong performance by IMF standards.

n  The staff team indicated that in its view, the authorities remain well on track to achieve the central goals of their economic reform program, and the team explained that a missed performance criterion can be waived by the IMF’s Executive Board under a standard procedure.  

  A question remains outstanding on Tunisia. Inner City Press has asked, "On Tunisia, it is reported that “Tunisia is under a standby agreement with the IMF for $1.6bn, although not all is yet dispersed because of the delays in reform.” Is that an accurate statement, on delay(s)? What are the next steps?" Watch this site.

May 11, 2015

On CAR Alleged Rapes, ICP Asks Samantha Power of CAR Untold, Ladsous v Leaker

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- French soldiers in the Central African Republic allegedly sexually abused children, as exposed in a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report leaked to the French government by longtime OHCHR staffer Anders Kompass. The UN did not, however, give the report to the host country authorities in CAR. And according to UN documents, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous then urged that the whistleblower Kompass be made to resign. (Ladsous denied this.)

  On May 8, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Samantha Power about both issues - the UN's failure to tell the CAR authorities, and Ladsous' "surprising" role, as High Commissioner Zeid put it earlier in the day. Video here and embedded below.


From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: One issue that has arisen that may not even need to wait for an investigation is that the Central African Republic says that they were never told of this, and given that these were their citizens, I wonder if you—does the U.S. think that when the UN system becomes aware of charges such as these, that the host country should be told? There’s also this issue, in the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling, that the Under Secretary General of Peacekeeping was reported, and the UN didn’t seem to dispute it, to have said that the whistleblower should resign or be suspended. And I wonder, this seems like a pretty serious charge. What do you think of that? Do you think that that is appropriate? What do you think of the treatment of the whistleblower who brought it to light?
 
Ambassador Power: "I think, on a lot of these issues, we’re all going to be better off if we allow an impartial investigation to take hold. And, I think, you raise a really, really important issue about host country involvement, and we’d want to, again, get the facts on that. Certainly, it is the case that the host country itself, of course, has the sovereign responsibility for the protection of its citizens, and so, looking at what role Central African Republic authorities played or didn’t play has to be part of this.
 
"And then, in terms of the individual who disclosed the allegations, who worked for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, again, it’s extremely important that any individual who comes into possession of allegations of this gravity acts swiftly. It is also extremely important that victim and witness safety be a very significant, a primary consideration as well. And so again, the impartial investigation will look at the handling and how both the issue of speed and the issue of victim and witness protection—how those issues were handled."

  It is an answer that may move things forward. Ladsous, it should be noted, just this week snubbed a Joe Biden-linked Hemispheric peacekeeping conference in Uruguay, wasting an $8,000 first class plane ticket and angering many troop contributing countries. He refuses to answer Press question, for example on rapes in Minova, DRC and Tabit in Darfur.

   As noted, on May 8, High Commissioner Zeid held a press conference, and twice refused to comment on why Ladsous was said to have pressured to fire or suspend the whistleblower.

  Inner City Press has covered Ladsous' role from the beginning, and highlighted his appearance in Paragraph 9 of the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling reinstating Kompass. On May 7, Ladsous told Inner City Press, "I deny that" - then refused to take questions.

 Zeid was asked, and first time said he should first give his view of the pressure to the investigator, not the media.

 The second time, he said he was surprised to read it -- his Office did not contest that part of the ruling, effectively admitting it -- and that the head of UN Peacekeeping should not have been intervening about a non-UN force.  Video here.

 Neither he nor the questioners in the room in Geneva said the obvious: Ladsous is a longtime French diplomat; it is not rocket science to read Paragraph 9 as him (inappropriately) still working for "his" country.

May 4, 2015

On Rapes in CAR, Transcript of UN Refusing Say Why Never Told CAR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1, video here -- French soldiers in the Central African Republic allegedly  sexually abused children, and after more than nine months, no action has been taken. On May 1 from Geneva the spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zaid, Rupert Colville, sought to explain or bolster the reputations of the Office, and of France.

  But Colville did not address, much less explain, why the UN did not tell the Central African Republic authorities about the alleged rapes of their citizens by French soldiers. Later on May 1, an African Permanent Representative sought out Inner City Press to say that "CAR is very mad the UN didn't tell them." He noted that the UN deputy spokesperson called Inner City Press "rude" for asking why.

  At the UN's noon briefing in New York, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq read out loud from Colville's statement. Inner City Press asked questions, video here and now transcribed by the UN, here:

Inner City Press: ...what Rupert Colville had said about the alleged child rapes in Central African Republic.  I read it all, and it didn't answer some of the questions that are public about it, which include the following:  The Central African Republic authorities have said that they only learned of these events and charges by reading The Guardian.  And so what I wanted to know, it seems pretty extraordinary that the UN would collect evidence of rape in a — in a host country in that case.  Was it not provided?  Is that true that it wasn't provided to the home country people?

Also it's reported that similar allegations are against peacekeepers, quote-unquote, from Chad and Equatorial Guinea.  I don't see that addressed in his statement.  My question is, is the UN equally satisfied or happy with the follow-through by those two countries?  And finally, he talked about an OIOS investigation of Mr. Kompass, but he's previously confirmed in writing a previous, prior OIOS investigation of Mr. Kompass for releasing to Morocco about Western Sahara.  And I wanted to know, does the UN feel any responsibility — if the leaking to France is as bad as Mr. Colville says, why was nothing done about the first leaking to Morocco?  And what's the status of that investigation?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  Both investigations are under way.  We, of course, in terms of what response we would have would rely on what happens when each of those investigations are completed.  Those are separate issues, one involving Western Sahara and one involving Central African Republic.  And we'll to await the results of each.

Now, in terms of the Chadians and Equatorial Guineans, we've seen these orders.  The information that we have was handed over to the French authorities and therefore that investigation would need to go to them.  As you may be aware, there were, I believe, Chadian and Equatorial Guinean troops in the precursor to the UN force, what was called at that point MISCA.  Neither of those contingents wound up in the UN mission, MINUSCA.

And — and I believe — neither of them was rehatted, in other words, as UN contingents. And your first question —

Question: Did the UN tell the CAR authorities, and if not why not?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  Right now, Rupert has been handling, as you have seen, questions about the timeline.  And as he made clear, some of the questions about the timeline are pending the results of the actual investigation into this.  So he's been trying to provide as much details on that.  But — but certainly the idea was to provide the information to the people who could prosecute the people who we thought may have done wrong in this case.

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot.  Whether or not the Equatorial Guinean and Chadian forces remained in MINUSCA, if the UN heard allegations of child rape by those forces, doesn't the UN then tell at least that country that they were abused?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I can't comment on evidence that was collected.  I'm not aware of the extent of evidence that was shared, and I don't know whether it includes these nationalities or not.  That will become clear as course of these investigations proceeds.  So I will have to wait until those investigations are done.

Inner City Press:  One more on press freedom.  I want to ask you this because it's talked about a lot in this room.  There's a paragraph of Mr. Colville's statement where he says he expresses extreme concern that the unredacted copy of the report is given to media, urges media what to do with it, but he also says as his example that reporters have contacted some of the victims.  And what I wanted to know is, on what basis does he believe that's from the report?  Is the UN saying, don't actually investigate this case, which some people believe the UN or the French covered up for nine months?  Is the message to reporters don't speak to people that claim to have been victimized or don't use the report to —

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no.  The message is what he actually said.

Inner City Press:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesman:  So I would go back to what his words were, which I have in front of me.

Inner City Press:  A person named in the documents was contacted.  But the question is, [how does the UN know how the reporter and victim connected]

[overlapping talking]

Deputy Spokesman:  His concern is that the names of these children is out there in the public.  It's obvious that it's out there because people are contacting them.

Inner City Press:  But there are reporters who actually can find victims without the UN's report —

Deputy Spokesman:  It's possible they’ve done it in a different way.  Our priority is to protect children.

Inner City Press:  So —

Deputy Spokesman:  Children, who at the end of the day, live in the Central African Republic and could face —

Question:  But then why didn't —

Deputy Spokesman:  — danger and —

[overlapping talking]

Deputy Spokesman:  Please stop talking over me while I'm giving you the answer.

Inner City Press:  I —

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm sorry.  This not a debate.  This is a briefing.  No, seriously.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  It — I have another question.  Finish what you say.  Then I'm going to ask a question because you just said —

Deputy Spokesman:  You must have been the most obnoxious child.

[laughter]

Matthew, you're asking a question, you're talking over me while I answer.  That's not how briefings go.

Inner City Press:  I asked questions yesterday you haven't answered yet.  What happened to Conference Room 3?  Do you have an answer to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll get back to you, but you still haven't let me answer the question I was doing.  You seem actually more interested in talking over me than in getting the answer.  The answer — what was it again now —

Inner City Press:  Did you tell Central African Republic about the rape charge?

Deputy Spokesman:  The — the point — the point is that they told it to the authorities who were in a position to actually deal with the question of wrongdoing.  So that — that is where — that is where the report went.

Regarding Rupert Colville, which is what we were talking about before you rudely interrupted me several times, his concern is that these children who are in a very dangerous country, their names are now out in the public, and so obviously their names are now out in the public because these reporters are contacting them for whatever reason, and the worry is a worry about their safety.

Inner City Press:  My only — this was the question that I was asking.

Deputy Spokesman:  For God's sake, Matthew!

Question:  You said you'd finish and I'd ask a question.  It's a very simple question.

[overlapping talking]

Inner City Press:  Can I ask a question on this?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ladies and gentlemen, is there a point for me to continue with if he continues like this?  I leave it to you.  One of your colleagues is shaking their head no.

Inner City Press:  Let's take a poll then.

UNCA rep:  Yes, let's take a poll.

[overlapping talking]

Inner City Press:  On World Press Freedom Day and I have a question and this is the question.  Can I say it?

UNCA rep:  No.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  First of all, press freedom has to do with your rights to go about your work.  You're actually constraining other people's right to go about their work by shutting me down.  You realize that, right?  There are other reporters in this room who are not you.

Inner City Press: Sure.  I understand that.

Deputy Spokesman:  All right.  And you respect their right to receive information —

Inner City Press:  I don't have an answer.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  — without hearing some other guy talking from the crowd over me, right?

Inner City Press:  It's a yes-or-no question.  Did the UN tell the Central African Republic authorities of the rape of their citizens?  And if not, why not?  That's it.

Deputy Spokesman:  As I've said, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is trying to prepare the timeline.  As Rupert has made clear from Geneva today, some of that remains pending an investigation.  I would — I would have to urge you to wait for the result of that investigation to go out.

  Haq never answered te question. Clearly, Colville already knows if OHCHR gave the report to CAR or only to France.

 Inner City Press also asked about the UN's investigation into OHCHR staffer Anders Kompass having leaked information about Western Sahara to the Moroccan government, and why that investigation took so long that leaking continued, to France of its victims' names. Haq would not say which investigation began first, a key point. We'll have more on this.

  Haq said that Inner City Press was rude for asking and was cutting him off, and turned to the representative of the UN Correspondents Association to support him, and then to ask question of which he approved. The UNCA representative began by saying that who the UN told, and when, wasn't important.

  Haq said, this is how questions are supposed to be asked -- apparently, the questions the UN wants, from the partners it selects, ignoring the UN's own role in problems. It was World Press Freedom Day at the UN; the Free UN Coalition for Access will have more on this.

April 27, 2015

As Talk of Next SG Starts, ICP Asks of USG Set-Asides, Ladsous As Nadir

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization? That was the question on April 24 across the street from the UN at the International Peace Institution in a panel moderated by former Indian Ambassador to the UN, and former Security Council member, Hardeep Singh Puri.

   The post is said to be slated for the Eastern European Group, and the question and answer (or comment) portion was top-heavy with the Permanent Representatives of Croatia and Slovakia (also the chair of the Budget Committee) and the Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia laying out of the positions of the ACT group, echoed by Costa Rica.

   Inner City Press asked what about improving the transparency and place of merit in the selection of Under Secretaries General? Recently UK Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to put Andrew Lansley of National Health Service infany atop the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was defeated as reported in detail by Inner City Press, see credits in the Telegraph and UK Channel 4.

  But, the position has stayed with the UK in the person of Stephen O'Brien (deemed better than the initial candidate by panelist Edward Mortimer).  Should USG positions be “owned” by P3 countries, like France has owned UN Peacekeeping four times in a row (following a horse-trade for Kofi Annan becoming Secretary General) and the US has held Political Affairs twice in a row?

   While Political Affairs USG Jeffrey Feltman came directly from the US State Department with the baggage that may carry, particularly in the Middle East, the most extreme example is Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping, video here, Vine here.

  When asked by Inner City Press about his history and qualification adopted the position of refusing all questions from Inner City Press and having his spokespeople, at least one of whom was present at IPI on April 24, go so far as to grab the UNTV microphone to avoid questions.  Ladsous went so far as to say "I don't answer you Mister" at IPI itself, video here.

  On the overall USG question Jean Krasno of the City College of New York favored “selecting candidates for these positions on merit rather than geographical. We want the highest quality people, serving in an impartial matter.”
Natalie Samarasinghe of the UN Association of the UK said, On the USG issue, we want an SG who has the freedom to make merit based appoints. At the moment as you have seen it is very unevenly applied. We need to condemn it. That pressure is very positive.”

  Mortimer said he was among those who wrote to Ban Ki-moon (selected by the US and China, more than one attendee said, some citing John Bolton's book) about Cameron's first nominee for OCHA. He said that Press oversight is important.  Puri said a good SG would pick good USGs. We'll have more on all this.

April 20, 2015

For Yemen UN Post, Saudis' Fisherman No Disclosure, UN Vows to Check, A Female?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 --  How weak and untransparent is today's UN?

 On April 15 Inner City Press reported that despite UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's claims to stand behind the UN's envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who refused to call Saudi airstrikes positive, Ban was planning to replace him.

  After that Inner City Press report, the UN Spokesman sent out this a canned statement that Benomar "expressed an interest in moving on" and would be replaced in due course. But by whom?

  On April 15, Inner City Press named the name which was floated by Saudi and UN sources, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and linked to its February 15, 2015 exclusive report on this individual's previously "incompetence" in Yemen, and side fishing business. There is yet more on both of these below.

 On April 17, Inner City Press Ban's Office of the Spokesperson WHY there is no public financial disclosure for Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and to confirm or deny he has links with businesses -- fishing - with Gulf funders. The response was, We will check and get back to you. Video here. We are waiting.

April 13, 2015

In CAR, Ladsous' DPKO Uses Live Fire, Death As In Mali, Withheld As In Haiti?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 10 -- When UN Peacekeepers are determined, by the UN itself, to have shot at civilians by using inappropriate force, what accountability is there? None, with Herve Ladsous atop UN Peacekeeping. But even the supposed reporting in the incidents is inconsistent, misrepresented and withheld.

  Only recently, Ladsous' peacekeepers have fired at unarmed demonstrators in Haiti and in Mali, killing three civilians. Now in Central African Republic his "peacekeepers" used live fire in Kaga-Bandoro; one protester died.

  Ladsous' MINUSCA mission has three times refused to send its statements to Inner City Press, unlike for example the (DPA-run) missions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions about shootings of civilians; his mission(s) won't sent out statements.

 But at the April 10 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the peacekeeper's gun fire "into the air" was responsible for the protester's death. Dujarric said there will be a report; Inner City Press asked it will be publicly released, unlike in Haiti.

  Dujarric said its findings will be summarized. But this wasn't done in the case of the Haiti shooting. Given the Ladsous French connection in all this, will this report be released, or even summarized? Watch this site.

 (Dujarric also said he didn't know what the protest against the UN in CAR was about - really? - just as the portion of teh Mali report presumably about Ladsous' missions deal with the MNLA was not part of the summary.)

From the UN's April 6 noon briefing transcript, video here

April 6, 2015

For Yemen Aid Access, Saudis Want UNSG Support for Offensive, ICP Learns: 2 Hours for a Statement

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 4 --  When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked Saudi Arabia for a two hours a day pause in its military offensive on Yemen, Saudi Arabia replied, only in exchange for a UN statement of support for the military offensive, Inner City Press has reliably and exclusively been informed.

   While Ban Ki-moon has not given in to this -- yet -- it is surprising to some that his team did not go public with this attempt to condition humanitarian access on a political statement.

  Why for example hasn't outgoing UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos spoken out? Where is her successor, Stephen O'Brien, also of the UK? (Inner City Press' exclusives on that UK to UK hand-over of a UN post were credited during the process by for example Channel 4, and after by the Telegraph.)

   On Saturday April 4 an urgent UN Security Council meeting began at 11 am, on a proposal for Russian draft resolution for "humanitarian pauses" -- and evacuation.

  Nearly an hour after the meeting broke up, April's Security Council president Dina Kawar of Jordan came to the stakeout and gave a summary, or two (as President and in her national capacity) and took two questions, including one from Inner City Press (the US did not raise the issue of evacuations in the meeting).

 Here's what Ambassador Kawar said as Jordan's Ambassador:

“As you know the GCC has been engaged for some time on a draft resolution that deals with the political situation in Yemen. We will continue our efforts to reach a consensus on that. We should not forget the root causes that led to the current grave situation and humanitarian situation in Yemen is due to the failure of the implementation of Resolution 2201 by the Houthis.”

     “We just met. We have arranged for meeting on the side between a few members of the Council and the GCC, we are working on that all day today. We hope that by Monday we can come up with something.”

  Inner City Press asked Kawar if any UN Security Council member raised the issue of evacuations. She said, evacuations are under way. Inner City Press asked if the US had raised the issue of evacuations in the meeting. She said, No, the US did not raise it.

 Here is what Ambassador Kawar said as UNSC President:

The Council met this morning upon a request from the Russian delegation. The Council members reaffirmed their views on the importance of the full implementation of the Security Council's resolutions on Yemen in particular Resolution 2201. The Council members also reiterated their concern over the grave humanitarian situation that Yemen has been facing for a while.

The Russian delegation circulated a draft resolution to the Council members regarding humanitarian pauses in Yemen and expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Yemen since a long time. The Council members need time to reflect on the Russian proposal.”

   The meeting ended at just after noon at 12:30. Saudi Arabia's ambassador and an entourage arrived outside the Security Council. Inner City Press asked him if Saudi Arabia has spoke with the US about allowing safe evacuation of Americans.  Video here

March 30, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  I have no personnel announcements, Rathke said, twice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2015

On Yemen, Emergency UNSC Meeting After 5 Weeks & Bombings

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Scoop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 9, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 On February 27 Inner City Press asked, video here:

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

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 23, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

Inner City Press:  And that usually means meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   But there are many unresolved questions; watch this site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 9, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 30, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

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

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

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

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

  Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

January 26, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Country by Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 19, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Follow Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  How about flogged?

Spokesman Dujarric: Oh, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

January 5, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

 So what happened?

December 29, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

  And what was that?

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the time frame for the investigation?

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

Excessive use of force and police brutality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

November 17, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

  From the IMF's subsequently released transcript:

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

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

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

  So where's the money going to come from?

November 10, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

November 3, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Ah, the UN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

October 27, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More here.

October 13, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up to Exclusive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  We repeat, now also on behalf of FUNCA:

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

September 27, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 22, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 15, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 8, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

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

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

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

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

September 1, 2014

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
Follow @innercitypress Follow @FUNCA_info

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: