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After Sudan's Harun Is Filmed Threatening War Crime, Ban's UN Says It's Up to ICC to Respond

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- On film, the governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Harun said, "You must hand over the place clean. Rub it, crush it and sweep it. Don't bring them back alive. We have no space for them." Given the similarity to Gaddafi comments that led to UN rebuke and NATO bombing, Inner City Press on April 2 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman:

Inner City Press: footage has come out over the weekend of Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of Southern Kordofan, shown in very clear video fashion telling troops in Southern Kordofan to take no prisoners and to clean them out, and a general stands next to him and says, “let’s eat them raw”. And many are saying that this is proof of a war crime and obviously into some [inaudible] back to the UN actually flying Ahmed Haroun to Abyei and back. Does the UN, given its continuing interest in this area, Southern Kordofan, and its role in the past with Ahmed Haroun, have any view of this tape and what should happen now?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, listen, as you know, we don’t have direct full access to Southern Kordofan in the fashion that we would obviously like. So, it is very difficult for us to have a full picture of what is happening on the ground. We are obviously extremely concerned about the reports that are coming out of there. I think it is a bit of a stretch to be linking what may or may not be happening now with previous engagements of the kind that you mentioned — transporting this gentleman by helicopter. But, I understand what you are saying. I don’t have anything further on that particular point, except simply to stress that we are concerned about the reports that are emerging from there. But, we don’t have the direct access that we would need to be able to really understand fully what is going on.

So, the UN sought not to respond to what Harun was filmed saying, and even to avoid commenting on what is going on in South Kordofan by citing its lack of access. Did the UN have more access to Benghazi? Or to Syria now?

While the UN, which as noted has offered free helicopter flights to Harun after he was indicted by the International Criminal Court, had nothing to say, even Cathy Ashton of the European Union issued a statement:

"I am alarmed at video footage showing Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of Southern Kordofan, urging Sudanese soldiers to take no prisoners during fighting in Southern Kordofan and a Government of Sudan spokesman defending these statements. A deliberate policy of taking no prisoners during armed conflict constitutes a war crime. The Geneva Conventions prohibit ordering that there shall be no survivors. The Government of Sudan must ensure that the Sudan Armed Forces abide by international humanitarian law at all times."

  And so on April 4, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Nesirky about it again. This time, Nesirky said "there's a couple of points here. There appears to be some controversy around the video itself.... as a general principle any incitement that could potentially lead to war crimes we would not welcome... There are already outstanding accusation against Mr. Harun, that's within the bailiwick of the prosecutor of the ICC, it's for them to deal with that."

  So that's why Gaddafi's "rats" comment got him into trouble? He hadn't yet been indicted by the ICC?

  This takes place in the context of Ban Ki-moon being slow to criticize his envoy to Darfur Ibrahim Gambari for taking photos with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir at a wedding reception for Chad's Idriss Deby and the daughter of Musa Hilal, founder of the janjaweed militia. Then after Ban issued wan and belated criticism, and Gambari said in essence that he would do it again, Ban said nothing.

In further context, Ban has had nothing to say as Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, whose 58th Division is depicted engaged in war crimes in Ban's own Panel of Experts report, was named to Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. It was a decision of member states, Ban told Inner City Press, and nothing since. From photos with Bashir to no comment on Silva and now Harun: this is Ban's UN.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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