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March 1, 2011: Libya

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At UN, Ban Slams Gaddafi Like Gbagbo, Defers on Opponents' Abuses, Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 14 -- The UN always says that it is watching, but only sometimes it denounces. So it is in Libya.

  Abuses by Gaddafi forces, still prevalent, have been condemned from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on down. But amid reports of looting and beatings by anti-Gaddafi rebels, the UN in New York stands silent, trying to pass the buck to more distant parts of the UN system.

On July 13 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: the Libyan rebels are, according to the [reports], responsible for looting and beating people in towns they have taken over in their drive towards Tripoli. These are towns viewed as supporting [Muammar al-] Qadhafi. There have been many UN statements on abuses by the Qadhafi forces. What’s the UN system’s response to these pretty well-documented reports of abuses going the other way?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I would have to check with the relevant folks, for example in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs who have people on the ground in Benghazi. I think it is self-evident that we would condemn abuses, human rights abuses from whichever quarter. But I would want to add there that it is obviously important that the relevant people who would monitor these things — I am thinking of our colleagues who deal with human rights in particular — to be able to comment in detail on that.

This was followed up on:

Question: On this situation that you were just talking about in Libya, that I think Matthew asked you, about the rebels are now being accused of perpetrating attacks against the civilians…attacking civilians inside Libya and that is creating another problem.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I have my work cut out being the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, but I am certainly not the spokesperson for Matthew Lee. So you might want to check with him what he was asking me. But the point that I was trying to make was that human rights abuses by anybody should be condemned and need to be investigated. And it is for the relevant people within the United Nations, particularly those who deal with human rights, to look into this.

  This answer implies that Ban Ki-moon does not “deal with human rights,” and doesn't answer why Ban himself would condemn actions by Gaddafi forces, but defer to other “people in the UN.. who deal with human rights” to address documented abuses by anti-Gaddafi forces.

  A similar dynamic played out in Cote d'Ivoire, where Ban himself criticized the use by Gbagbo forces of heavy weapons, while deferring to other in the UN system on murders by pro Ouattara and Soro forces in Douekoue and elsewhere.

  Even worse is this UN's performance on Myanmar, where Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, ostensibly in charge of the UN's Good Offices role in Myanmar, has had nothing to say as the Burmese government has launched attacks against the Kachin people, and is now documented to be using Karen captives as slave labor and human shields.

Ban & (Myanmar) Special Adviser, human rights not shown

  On July 13 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky:

Inner City Press: on Myanmar, there has been a report issued documenting the use by the military there of convicts pressed into service, some people call it slave labor or... human shields. It’s a report issued by the Karen Human Rights Group. Is it something that the UN system, particularly the good offices mandate, is aware of, and is it the type of thing that it would be raising to the Government to not be using convicts as human shields for its military?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I would be confident that our colleagues who deal with this topic would be aware of any reports that come out and would want to study them carefully. I don’t have any further details on what they may or may not do, having studied those reports.

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot. I am always trying to figure out what the scope of that good offices office is. I understand, like in almost any country in the world, the Office of Human Rights, the Commissioner, that there is some UN monitoring process. But this seems to be a country that there is a particular GA-mandated unit headed by the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff. So, when you say “our colleagues”, is that the Office you’re referring to, or is it a more general --

Spokesperson: As you yourself pointed out, there are different parts of the UN system that would be dealing with different aspects of what transpires in Myanmar, or indeed in any other country. And as you well know, there is a country team in place in Myanmar. And outside of Myanmar, there is indeed the good offices mandate and there are those, including in the Office of the High Commissioner, who would be looking at Myanmar through that particular prism of human rights. And they of course coordinate with each other. They don’t work in isolation. If I have anything further on that, of course, I would let you know.

  But a full 19 hours later, nothing had been said. Earlier in the week Ed Luck, Ban's adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said that if inconsistencies or double standards are seen in the Secretariat's actions and statements, it should be brought up.

  So it is, from Libya through Cote d'Ivoire to Myanmar. Now what? Watch this site.

* * *

On Libya, UN Stonewalls on Flights of Volunteer Envoy, Confirms Vandewelle

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- The UN's engagement on Libya has come slightly more into focus, though still vague on money. On Monday, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's envoy on Libya Abdul Ilah Al-Khatib told Inner City Press that he is still a “proud” Senator in his native Jordan, and works for the UN only as a volunteer.

On Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm that Khatib demands and receives UN planes to fly from Jordan to locations other than Libya, and that he has UN-paid staff in Libya. Nesirky defended the flights without yet providing information, including if the planes come of the UN missions in the Congo or Sudan:

Inner City Press: At the stakeout yesterday, Mr. [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib clarified and said he is now, he is a volunteer and remains a senator in Jordan. And I just, I don’t want to belabour it, except to say that some say there is still kind of a… the issue of serving both the UN and a Government at the same time, they’re not sure there is a precedent for that and think that OLA [Office for Legal Affairs] may have criticized it. And also I wanted to know whether in fact he’s flown, requests or demands a UN plane to fly from Jordan to various meetings not in Libya and also has UN staff in Jordan. What’s kind of the cost and what’s the… is the thinking, if he doesn’t personally receive a salary, there is no possible conflict of interest with being a sitting politician in a country in the region?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I think Mr. Al-Khatib can speak for himself on that particular topic, and evidently did so yesterday. That’s the first thing. Second is that, of course, a special envoy working on a topic as high profile and complicated as this one could be expected to have people supporting him from the Department of Political Affairs, and that is certainly the case.

Inner City Press: his staff is someone that worked for him in the past? Was it a UN staff member forwarded to Amman? ... Is this a new trend?

Spokesperson: Well, let’s not extrapolate from one particular case. This is an important role that Mr. Al-Khatib has and is carrying out. He is widely respected in the region; he knows the players in the region and evidently has access to them, too. And that’s clearly, in the present circumstances, rather important. He obviously also needs to travel, not just to Libya but to other countries in the region. And another one would be, for example, the Contact Group meeting that’s going to take place in Istanbul. That’s quite normal and understandable for someone who is working on a topic in a role where he is precisely supposed to be coordinating and liaising between different groups and seeking to mediate a solution to this crisis.

Inner City Press: Do the planes… just one last thing, do the planes come from UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] or from [MONUSCO in the Congo]

Spokesperson: I’d need to check what planes are used, if any. I would need to check on that. I don’t know the answer.

  Seven hours later, no answer had yet been provided.

Ban meets his envoy, now a volunteer, UN planes & staff not shown

  One answer that Nesirky's office did belatedly come up with concerned the UN's hiring of Dartmouth profession Dirk Vandewelle. Twice Nesirky's deputy Farhan Haq declined to confirm the hiring, which a UN source told Inner City Press was "pathetic." On Tuesday, Nesirky's office belatedly sent this:

Subject: Your question on Dirk Vandenwalle
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your questions from last week, we can confirm that Dirk Vandenwalle is working with Ian Martin's team dealing with the transition in Libya. He was hired as a consultant.

  But as what cost? And as some wonder, why would a Special Adviser need Political Advisers? Watch this site.

* * *

While France "Parachuting" Weapons into Libya is Criticized, UN Committee Does Not Act: Not "Masochistic," Chair Says

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- During an hour-long meeting of the Libya Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon, France's admitted dropping of weapons into Libya's Nafusa Mountains was criticized by Council members including Russia, South Africa and India, as violating the arms embargo in Resolution 1970.

  But afterward when Inner City Press asked the Committee's chairman, Portugal's Permanent Representative Cabral, if the committee's requirement of consensus means that France could block any formal condemnation of its actions, Cabral said “we're not a kind of masochistic society.”

  One of the representatives criticizing France, who told Inner City Press that on this topic four spoke against France and three to varying degrees in support, said that “if a Permanent member violates sanctions, what can you do?”

  The representative pointed to paragraphs 13-16 of Resolution 1970 and said that if France thought that its provision of weapons into Libya was legal, it had a procedure to use, but didn't.

  Another delegation went further, saying that France “parachuted” weapons in, not knowing if they might fall into the hands of Al Qaeda, and asking, “why not weapons of mass destruction, too?” This representative said of Cabral, “He has to be serious, this is a precedent -- if you are not going to enforce them, why even have a committee on sanctions?”

  Inner City Press asked Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative what had been accomplished in the meeting. Pankin distinguished between interpretation -- “legal stuff” -- and the practical, that objections were voiced and “I hope we will not have such a [case] again, that's the most practical.” We'll see.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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