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UN Human Rights Council Will Have DRC, ICP Asks Of Gifts, Nikki Haley Slams Election

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 16 – When the UN General Assembly voted to elect 15 member to the Human Rights Council on October 16, there was only one contested regional race, for Asia. Five candidates were listed, for only four seats: Afghanistan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Qatar. Malaysia was not elected. But running unopposed, and after distributing gift bags, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was. Afterward, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly about the propriety of these gifts. His Spokesman replied to Inner City Press: "The President believes that the elections should be a competition between candidates – not a competition over who can give the most expensive gifts. Also, by resolution A/RES/71/323, the General Assembly decided that, during the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, which is open to all Member States, “shall start to consider the potential concept and scope of a code of conduct to guide the conduct of election campaigns by Member States, with a view to improving the standards of transparency, accountability and equity”." (Click here for Inner City Press coverage of killings in/by DRC of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.) And US Ambassador Nikki Haley said, "Today’s election is yet another example of why the Human Rights Council (HRC) lacks credibility and must be reformed in order to be saved. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country infamous for political suppression, violence against women and children, arbitrary arrest and detention, and unlawful killings and disappearances, has been elected to serve on what is supposed to be the world’s preeminent human rights body. In fact, the DRC – a country under investigation at the Human Rights Council – ran unopposed. That calls into serious question the General Assembly’s methods of selecting membership in the Human Rights Council." There is more to question at the UN, including the targeting of investigative Press by a Department of Public Information with no accountability. Inner City Press asked early at the UN to cover it, but was delayed at the metal detectors it is required to go through even since the UN evicted it for covering UN corruption. This time, as UN Security demanded that its laptop, already damaged by UN Security, be abruptly removed from the clatter of the conveyor belt, it was damaged again. Once inside, having picked up the minder the UN now requires for Inner City Press, the setting up of Secretary General Antonio Guterres' personal rostrum was visible in front of the Security Council. But “it's unconfirmed,” Inner City Press was told. And as the votes were counted, the UN's announcement was that Guterres' 4:45 pm photo op with Togo's foreign minister Robert Dussey was canceled. The meeting too, as Togo uses tear gas on protesters (and more mass graves are found in Cameroon)? Ah, human rights. Among those running on uncontested slates was Spain, with its recent crackdown on Catalonia (and whose highest UN official Cristina Gallach launched the censorship of Inner City Press that her delayed successor Alison Smale has refused for six weeks to reverse or answer on). The other cake-walk winners: Angola, Australia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine. And so it goes at the UN. Amid the killings by Cameroon's Paul Biya government, Inner City Press on October 11 interviewed the government's ambassador to the UN, Tommo Monthe. He contradicted what UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press, that "Mr. [Francois] Fall and the Government are in discussion about when he can go.  The Government has expressed its willingness to welcome him.  It's now a matter of finding the dates." Inner City Press two days after Dujarric's quote - which Dujarric has twice refused to expand upon - asked Cameroon's Ambassador Monthe who replied of Fall,"Why he should visit Cameroon?” Audio here. While there is still no date for Fall to visit Cameroon, people are being summoned in to see the police, in a campaign of intimidation. Now another mass grave has reportedly been found, in Buea. And as Inner City Press asks the UN about its inaction, and uploads the answers into YouTube and Google News, suddenly it is downgraded without notice in Google News to a "blog," no longer in Google News Alerts about Cameroon UNlike for example Francophone press releases about colonial business in the country, re-Tweeted photo here, and demonetized in YouTube. This is censorship, a newer kind that Biya's ham-handed moves on SCBC - our question is to prove who is behind it. There is a history, for example here, with UN DPI, now run by Alison Smale. Watch this site. Inner City Press asked the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, to inquire into torture in Southern Cameroons, video here, and then submitted to his office a formal request for action. (He said he can act on requests by journalists). Meanwhile Inner City Press' journalism on Cameroon is being hindered in the UN by restrictions continued by the UN Department of Public Information under Alison Small, see here and here and watch this site. Several but not all of the human rights violations by Cameroon authorities on which Inner City Press has asked and reported are confirmed by Amnesty International. So Inner City Press on October 13 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I have a number of other ones, but I wanted to ask you about Cameroon.  Some of the things that, I guess, I have asked you about, there's now… now, I would assume that you've seen the Amnesty International study, which says that… that hundreds of people are detained without charge, packed like sardines, paying bails, people shot in the legs so they can't protest, people fleeing the hospital to avoid the authorities.  So they obviously got in, were able to gather this evidence and they've called for other international organisations to send people.  Has the UN sent anyone, and if not, why not? Spokesman:  We have… as you know, we have a presence in Cameroon.  We've seen the Amnesty report, which raises a lot of issues of great concern to us, and I should have… hopefully have a bit more for you later. Inner City Press:  Including on the [François Louncény] Fall visit? Spokesman:  Yes.  Well, when I have something on the Fall visit, I will share it with you." Eight hours later, nothing. AI confirmed for example: At least 500 people remain detained in overcrowded detention facilities following mass arbitrary arrests in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, and many wounded protestors fled hospitals to avoid arrest... In Bamenda, the capital of the North-West Region, at least 200 people were arrested and the majority transferred to the prison in Bafoussam. In Buea, the capital of the South-West region, at least 300 people have been arrested since the 1st October protests, including a series of mass arbitrary arrests between 6 and 8 October. On Sunday 8 October, for example, police arrested up to 100 people walking to church in the Mile 16 area of Buea, and entered the building to arrest church staff. In one incident on 3 October in Buea, a police officer threw a teargas canister into a vehicle containing a dozen protestors, who had to smash the window to let in air. In one facility run by a mobile police unit, the Groupement Mobile d’Intervention (GMI), in Buea, detainees were described as being 'packed like sardines.' A young man who was left with multiple fractures after being shot in both legs by member of the armed forces was taken home by his family before he could be stabilised. According to a doctor treating the patient “he had lost more than a litre of blood. I do not know whether he is still alive, he may likely die.' On October 12, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman, now Deputy Farhan Haq, UN transcript here, Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Cameroon.  Stéphane has said a couple times that Mr. [Francois Lounceny] Fall is… he's definitely going.  The Government has welcomed it.  It's just a matter of days.  Yesterday, I spoke to the Permanent Representative of Cameroon, Tommo Monthe, and he said:  “Why should he visit Cameroon?”  So, I'm just wondering, have you gotten… has… has… one, has the UN spoken with the Cameroonian mission here in New York?  Because they don't, at least according to that, seem to be on board with the visit.  And two, when will the visit take place?  And will it include the Anglophone areas? Deputy Spokesman:  We are in touch with the Cameroonian authorities about a visit.  They have agreed in principle to that, and we're working out the dates and arrangements. Inner City Press:  Do you think, because there… there… there are commemorations of the 1 October killings scheduled for this Sunday, 14 October… is… does he intend to go before then?  Does he… is he aware of the potential for a repeat of what took place on 1 October?  Because the… what's alleged now is that people were thrown out of helicopters, that live individuals picked up in the Anglophone areas were flown in helicopters and dropped to their death. Deputy Spokesman:  "We want to make sure that all parties respect the rights to freedom of assembly, the rights to freedom of expression and, at the same time, of course, want to make sure that all protest is carried out peacefully.  Regarding Mr. Fall's travels, we'll provide further details once we have an announcement to make." Eight hours later, nothing. On October 11 Monthe, his usual talkative self, told Inner City Press of the Anglophone zones, "There are three groups: the corporate interest... that's good, that's legitimate... The second group is hooligan, that's casseur, the people who burn the flag... the third group, they are entering political campaign.” Of the recently announced Anglophone candidate to replace Biya, Monthe said, "He will have problem with the secession people.... traitor. People say that his father was a traitor." Inner City Press asked him about documentary evidence of money paid to pro-Biya associations for support during the General Assembly week: 'That guy is now with the tribunal, he said, 'I'm guilty.' He went to PNC Bank, we are no longer with that bank, we sued the bank..." On Inner City Press' questions during GA week to Nigeria's foreign minister, Monthe said: "Nigeria helps us, they do not want Biafra..." We'll have more on this. When Cameroon's President for the past 30-plus years Paul Biya came to meet Antonio Guterres on September 22, before he went back to the Hotel Inter-Continental in Geneva, he was accompanied by his state media and... Inner City Press. Biya, still in Geneva, directed his forces to use water cannons and more in Buea, as they shoot to kill from helicopters in North-West and South-West Cameroon and once again cut off the Internet and social networks, see below. On October 9 Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about raids on churches, gunfire from helicopters, and corporate complicity in censorship. Video here; from the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  I want to ask you about Cameroon.  Over the weekend, several churches in Buea and… and other places in the Anglophone areas were raided by the military.  And up to 200 people were arrested, and high bail is being charged to release them.  There's also now some footage of the Government firing from helicopters on unarmed civilians on the ground.  So I'm wondering, does the UN still stand behind this ten dead figure that was used by Prince Zeid last week? What… what's the status of Mr. [Francois Lounceny] Fall going? And… Okay.  Go ahead. Spokesman:  Sorry.  Mr. Fall and the Government are in discussion about when he can go.  There was a team that went last week at the working level from his office.  But we're still in discussions with the Government.  The Government has expressed its willingness to welcome him.  It's now a matter of finding the dates.  As for the number of casualties, I don't have any updated numbers beyond what our colleagues at the Human Rights Office were able to confirm. Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask you, you'd said last week the Internet should be on and social net… social networks.  So I wanted to ask you, there's a French firm, Orange, that has a Cameroonian subsidiary.  And they've said publicly that, when the Government tells them to turn stuff off, they just turn it off.  They're a member of the Global Compact.  And what I'm wondering is, does the UN believe that private telecom companies that a… ascribe to these human rights views as put forth in the Global Compact should, without notice to people and in a sort of a devious way where they say, sorry for the interruption; we're working to get it back on, obey the Government and turn the Internet off on people? Spokesman:  "Look, the Global Compact has processes to which to review whether or not companies should remain members of the Global Compact.  That's existing.  That's up to them to comment on.  Our principled line continues to be that people should have access to the Internet, that the Internet is a critical tool for which people now every… in everyday lives to conduct their lives, not only to have access to information.  As to the regulatory framework in each country and who's responsible for what, I can't comment on, but on a… because I don't know about it, because, obviously, as a matter of principle, we feel people should have access to the Internet." The real world social network of the church is also under attack: for example, on October 8 people in churches in Buea were arrested en masse. Commemorations of those killed to date are scheduled for October 14, see here. What is and will be the role of religious leaders in this unfolding crackdown? Involved in the blocking of Internet and social networks is not only MTN but also France's Orange, which has said "our Group operates in Cameroon through a subsidiary Orange Cameroun which complies with the local legislation and therefore obeys to any national security instruction received from the authorities in accordance with its Telecommunications License." Orange is a member of the UN Global Compact, which offers "blue-washing" of such human rights violations, as first reported by Inner City Press now for a fee from companies like Orange. (As Inner City Press has noted in connection with Kenya, Safricom's Bob Collymore is on the board of the UN Global Compact). The UN's insufficient actions on, some say even complicity with, censorship and now mass killing are growing, and are increasingly being raised, in Geneva and not only at the Inter-Continental Hotel where Biya lives while ordering killings and cover ups. We'll have more on this. On October 7-8, despite belated calls from Geneva and an unapologetic Guterres, restrictions on movement and free association are being extended, for example in Manyu Division, Mamfe Town and elsewhere, see here. Will there be any follow through by the UN on its statements, or just more "welcoming" of Biya? When will the already postponed visit by the UN's Francois Fall occur, to where and with whom, and what will it accomplish? On October 5 Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who earlier this year told Inner City Press the UK did not view the situation in Cameroon as a threat to international peace and security but would continue to monitor it, if the threshold has been reached and the UK will ask for a UN Security Council meeting. Periscope video here. He said no one has asked and the UK continues to weigh the pro and con of putting it on the Council's agenda (along with Myanmar, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Colombia and others). Earlier Inner City Press asked Francois Delattre, the UN Ambassador of France and President of the UN Security Council for October, why he has not yet convened a Security Council meeting amid the killings of civilians and cutting off of social networks in Cameroon. Periscope video here. Delattre said the French Foreign Ministry's spokesperson has spoken earlier in the day, again calling for dialogue. We'll have more on this. Guterres' spokespeople have three times refused Inner City Press' request for the UN's estimate of how many people have been killed by Paul Biya's forces since Guterres offered him praise on September 22.


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