UN's Selective Vision on
Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs
Byline: Matthew Russell
Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June 19 -- The United Nations conflicted positions on Somalia
were on display Monday, as Kofi Annan's envoy Francois Lonseny Fall took
questions from reporters. Inner City Press
about the reports that 300 Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia. Mr. Fall said
he's heard the reports, and that it may be because the Islamic Courts militia
were moving toward Ethiopia and Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government.
Inner City Press asked if it is Mr. Fall's understanding that Ethiopia would
intervene to defend the Somali town of Baidoa from the Somali Islamic Court
militia. We have asked the international community to defend the transitional
government, Mr. Fall answered. Does that mean the UN would tacitly approve of
Ethiopian intervention? No answer was given. Nor to questions about whether the
United States was or is funding the warlords. That's about the past, Mr. Fall
said. We should look ahead to the future.
refugees per UNHCR
Inner City Press asked Mr. Fall to confirm
reports that some of the warlords left Mogadishu on a U.S. ship. Mr. Fall said
that he understands that two warlords have left Mogadishu. On the question of
with Australia-based Range Resource, Mr. Fall said that Puntland and the
transitional government in Baidoa reached a deal two weeks ago, and that the UN
urges Somali's to work together to defend their national wealth. But Range
Resource has reportedly used armed men to stake its claim. Mr. Fall's
generalities fell, perhaps understandably, short of the mark in answering these
UN's Wishful Thinking on
So too the response by the UN's refugee agency UNHCR to Inner City Press'
inquiries, last week and this, into the plight of the five Uighurs from western
China who were moved in May from Guantanamo Bay to Albania.
Last Friday Inner City Press asked:
City Press question: This is about some lower profile individuals. There
are these five Chinese Uighurs that were in Guantanamo Bay, and the US released
them, and now they're in Albania. There were reports of the US trying to find
them another place, other than Albania. I don't know if the UN system or UNHCR
has any. do they have any role? Are they aware of them?
Spokesman: I don't know what their status is vis-ŗ-vis UNHCR, but we can
the weekend, Inner City Press emailed UNHCR in Geneva and New York with just
this question. On Monday from UNHCR New York, this response:
vargas [at] unhcr.org
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Mon, 19 Jun 2006 15:12:15 +0200
understanding is that it was a bilateral agreement between the USA and the
Albanian government that enabled the group to enter Albania on humanitarian
grounds. it is also our understanding that Albania will address the concerns of
this group within the framework of their law and in respect of due process. we
have no reason to fear that this will not be done in a fair and transparent
This answer was reiterated, after Inner City Press re-asked the question at
Monday's noon briefing, by Kofi Annan's spokesman's office: "We understand the
Albanian authorities will address the concerns of the group within the framework
of their law."
This seemed and seems strange, given that Albania has
reportedly already denied political asylum to the five Uighurs. In an
interview, Albania's National Commissioner for Refugees Argita Totozani
explained: "Their future is not here," she said. "There is not a Uighur
community (here). They don't speak any Albanian ... There is no integration
possibility for them here. We realized their future is not in Albania."
So Inner City Press has asked:
denial of political asylum because the applicant doesn't speak the language of
the country applied-to in keeping with international law?
keeping them incommunicado in keeping with international law?
comment on the report of Kazakhstan sending back Uighurs to China?
Response is awaited. And while there was no update given about the seven UN
peacekeepers held hostage in Eastern Congo since May 28, Inner City Press has
asked for a response to UK Channel 4's footage of the
destruction of Kazara in Ituri,
and has been told that the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations is looking
into the matter and will provide a response. Other issues have been raised.
UN's Annan Concerned About Use of
Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- The UN's Kofi
Annan, with six months left in his term, answered twenty media questions on
Thursday. Most dealt with the issues of UN reform, and the triple B's of Bolton,
budget and Mark Malloch Brown. As
question 19 out of 20,
from Minute 51:15 through 55:50, Inner City Press asked about the
praise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's
members' initiatives against separatism, in light for example of Uzbekistan's
imprisonment and torture of opponents. The full Q & A is below.
Annan responded that he has been speaking with the High Commissioner for
refugees, Antonio Guterres, about Uzbekistan and both the bulk of those fleeing
and specifically the four Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan; he used the terms of art
enforced refoulement, "particularly if they may be at risk if they are sent back
against their will." The Secretary-General said he has in the past spoken with
the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov; perhaps that is needed again. Mr.
Annan said he's increasingly concerned with the "excesses" he's seen in the
fight against terrorism. "It's been too easy for some governments to put the T
word on someone and then move against them and expect that nobody asks
questions," he said, an apt description of China's use of the "E.T." word, East
Turkestan, as well as the usual lack of questions about Xinjiang and places like
it at the UN.
On Inner City Press's second
question, which Mr. Annan called the third, whether he support and will
implement a Freedom of Information Act during his final six months, Mr. Annan
asked for clarification, which was given by reference to the UN Staff Union's
report on internal justice and even the calls for transparency from US
Ambassador Bolton. "Yes,"
the Secretary-General said, "I think we
should be more forthcoming."
He mentioned that some documents would have
to be withheld, concerning confidential communications with heads of state.
That should be no obstacle or excuse: all FOI laws have exemptions, for
pre-decisional and other information, within an overarching presumption of a
fight to information, such as that contained, too vaguely, in Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if
he might work with Kofi Annan on a Freedom of Information mechanism. The
response was not yes, but neither was it no. Amb. Bolton referenced his meeting
Wednesday with the Staff Council, and said he'd follow up.
In more marginal news, just before the
Kofi Annan briefing, journalists were cleared from Room 226 so that a
bomb-sniffing dog could go through. Later by the 46th Street entrance, the dog
and his handler were interviewed. The former's name is Storm. Meanwhile Sandy
Berger floated off the UN grounds with a big name tag on, and no documents in
sight. In the basement, the plasma TV sign for a meeting of the Friends of the
International Criminal Court said, "Closed meeting." Some friends...
Later at the Security Council stakeout, the Palestinian Permanent Observed
answered Inner City Press' request for an update on whether a funding mechanism
for the Palestinian Authority, previously discussed at the UN, has been found.
No, was the answered, talks remain ongoing in Brussels.
Pakistan's UN envoy Munir
Akram played diplomat upstairs before the UN Correspondent's Association. When
Pakistan come forward with its candidate for Secretary-General, now that India
has? It is complicated, he said, while stating that no country with eyes on a
(permanent) Security Council seat should also field a candidate for Secretary
General. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Akram about Baluchistan, the few
English language articles regarding which invariably use the adjective restive,
as well as about
mass evictions of the poor in Karachi.
On the former, Amb. Akram spoke
dismissively of "three Sardars" who used to work with the government, but who
then wanted more money. Amb. Akram said that their
Baluchistan Liberation Army
has funding and arms from "outside sources." When Inner City Press pointedly
asked if that means India, Amb. Akram declined to answer. The evictions, he
said, probably relate to attempts to give the poor more rather than fewer
property rights -- a position
not shared by close observers.
Finally, Inner City Press asked Amb. Akram if Pakistan would consider as its S-G
candidate the human rights lawyer, previously UN Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir. "I suppose not,"
Amb. Akram answered dryly. Later over a Pakistani lunch he spoke of Somalia,
calling it "Taliban Two." Given the links between Pakistan's ISI and Taliban
One, the irony was as pungent as the spinach, yoghurt and rice. Let the Games
June 15, 2006 Question and
City Press question:
This is a question about Asia and human rights. The media in China and Central
Asia reported your remark earlier this week that you praised the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization in its meeting for its work against terrorism,
extremism and separatism. And it said that you praised this, as I am sure you
know, UNHCR has criticized Uzbekistan for requiring that people be deported and
locking them up. China has cracked down on its Uighur minority. So I wonder if
you have any guidance for the balance between human rights and fighting
terrorism and, totally separately, whether you would consider supporting a
freedom of information act at the United Nations in the six months that remain
to you, maybe even imposing it in the Secretariat, as an experiment? Those are
two different questions.
Secretary-General: May I ask for
clarification on your third question? What do you mean by ďfreedom of
information act at the UNĒ?
Inner City Press clarification:
Okay, Iím sorry. The Staff Union report that just came out suggested that
documents be made available not just on a whim, but as a right, to the media or
to the public, as many Member States have such a law. I think Mr. Bolton has
said, and a variety of people have said Ė and I think you even said in your
reform proposal that you would favour something like that. So I just wanted to
hear whether you would actually implement it.
Secretary-General: I think, on the
question of effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human
rights, my position is very clear: that there can really be no tradeoff between
effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights of the
individual, and that if we undermine human rights, if we undermine the rule of
law in our fight against terrorism, then we are giving the terrorists a victory
they could never have won alone. And this is why Iíve been quite concerned about
some of the excesses Iíve seen around the world when it comes to the fight
against terrorism. Itís been very easy for many Governments to just put the
T-word on someone and then move against them, and expect that nobody asks
questions. So we have to be very, very careful not to undermine the basic rule
of law in the fight against terrorism.
As to my message to the others, I think it was a
gathering that was going to talk about security and the fight against terrorism,
and it was to encourage them in that direction. Iím very much aware of the High
Commissionerís difficulties with the Government you mentioned. Iíve had the
opportunity to speak to the President myself at the time when the bulk of them
were allowed to leave. And we are working on the four, and in fact the High
Commissioner, Mr. Guterres, spoke to me about it, that we should make sure that
thereís no enforced refoulement, particularly when they may be at risk if they
are sent back against their will. And not only that: he has made arrangements
with other Government that are willing to accept these four. So, itís not that
they will be stateless; we have homes for them. So we are asking the Government
to hand them over to the High Commissioner for Refugees; and Mr. Guterres has
worked very hard and has homes for them, and I urge the Government to let them
On your freedom of information act Ė or, freedom
of information in the sense of making information available Ė I think, as an
Organization, we are pretty open. In fact, sometimes I say this is one of those
buildings, [if] you have two copies, consider it published. And itís all over.
But I think we should be more forthcoming. We should release as much information
as we can. Of course, there are certain informations that you cannot release,
because it does cause problems. Sometimes, some of you have asked
me what is the nature of your conversations with this
President or that Prime Minister or others, and Iíve had lots of confidential
discussions and others that I cannot release till much later. And so, we do have
rules where certain things are embargoed for a certain period. But beyond that,
we should be open and forthcoming. [Q19 of 20 in
UN Waffles on Human Rights in
Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- What is the place of human
rights among the UN's other goals? If Central Asia is the test, the results are
decidedly mixed. Wednesday at the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman read out
a statement from the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, urging the Kyrgyz government not
to deport four Uzbeks who "arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of
the violent events in Andijan in May 2005." Uzbekistan's Karimov regime has
pursued all opponents, getting a dozen returned for example from Ukraine.
Inner City Press has repeatedly asked
UNHCR headquarters in Geneva for some update on those deported from Ukraine.
"There is no update," has been the response. Another refugee from the region,
imam Hseyincan Celil who was pursued for raising his voice for China's Uighur
minority, was disappeared in Uzbekistan in April and has not been heard from
radio report here;
His relatives fear he will be deported or "refouled" to China, for more
permanent disappearance. Nevertheless, UNDP has said that Uzbekistan is making
much progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.
& Hu Jintao
If UNHCR is the left hand and
UNDP is the right, Kofi Annan's Secretariat is supposed to be the heart or head
or both. But on Monday, the Secretary-General sent an unequivocal message of
congratulations to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a entity through which
China has gotten deportation and "refoulement" commitments from the Central
Asian states and Russia, and soon perhaps others. As
Mr. Annan praised the SCO's efforts against "terrorism, separatism and
extremism." Of course, Uzbekistan's Karimov would say his pursuit of opponents
is just that, part of the war on terror. That's what China says of the Uighurs,
using the loaded term East Turkestan.
At Wednesday's noon briefing,
Inner City Press
asked the spokesman about
this, and about Undersecretary General Gambari's current trip to Tajikistan. "Is
the issue of human rights being raised?" Perhaps Kofi will be addressing these
issues this week, mid-way through his last year as S-G.
Ambassador Bolton's meeting with the UN
Staff Union, which Inner City Press Tuesday night predicted, from hallways
sources, would take place in the Indonesia lounge on Wednesday, did in fact take
place. It was after 3 p.m., however, and not at 10 a.m. (parallel universe
reported on below). At 3:45, the president of the Staff Union and the ubiquitous
Judge Geoffrey Robertson emerged, saying it was a good first meeting. Judge
Robertson added, in response to Inner City Press' question about what other
member states they'd meet with, that there would be several.
John Bolton stepped up to the impromptu Fox News camera and graded Mr. Annan
incomplete. At a stakeout on the Hariri investigation earlier on Wednesday,
Professor Bolton said that Mr. Brammertz' characterization of Syria's
cooperation as "generally satisfactory" was only praise in a pass - fail grading
system. He was also asked by AP about his previously-highlighted remark that
Malloch Brown's speech was the worse mistake by a senior UN official since 1989;
AP asked him to contrast to Rwanda. Bolton called that "incompetence and a lack
of political will," versus the speechmaker's "flat out mistake."
Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton
if the United States supports a Freedom of Information Act at the United
Nations, and John Bolton appeared to say yes. A flamboyant colleague points out
that the Deputy Secretary-General began speaking of a UN FOIA six months ago.
Another, of pragmatic stock, says that it's not who speaks first, but who gets
the job done. We'll see.
From the Department of Parallel
Universes, in the Indonesia Lounge mid-morning Wednesday, at least three
candidates for election to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women were campaigning by meeting with representatives of the voting
member states. The candidate from Slovenia had a staffer from the Slovene
mission working the phones. "Myanmar can't make it? We have a lunch at one.
Vietnam? Excellent." To those she met with, she made the identical small talk.
"I lobbied you on the Human Rights Council, and now I'm back asking for this.
But my candidate -- I mean, our candidate -- has a long history of advocating
In opposition to these smooth campaigns,
on a couch with a phone was a slight woman of proud bearing, alternately
speaking Arab, French and English. She met with a staffer from Ireland's
mission, and asked him about the status of woman in his country. In response
later to a reporter's questions, she explained that in her previous service as
vice-chairperson of CEDAW, she noticed that while predominantly Muslim countries
were invariably questioned about women's rights to abortion and in marriage,
such questions were rarely put to the representatives of "Christian countries."
And so she asked the questions, even to countries whose vote she seeks for
Her name is Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani, a
lawyer in Algiers who had been in New York since mid-May. Of her service on
CEDAW she says that the problems of women in the developed and the developing
worlds are not the same. "They asked Eritria for employment statistics, when
the average woman has six or seven children and lives only into her 40s, often
dying of AIDS." As she spoke on this topic, on a bench in the basement outside
Conference Room 2, there were tears in her eyes. "The world can get along," she
said. And hearing her, one believes it.
Near press time, the Chief
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court emerged from the Security Council
to take the press' questions. Inner City Press asked his position on arresting
Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and the three -- or two -- other Lord's Resistance
Army indictees. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo repeated that Sudan has agreed to make such
arrests. A colleague just back from Juba pointed out that "it is not Sudan, it
is not the central government there." The colleague's
reporting was detailed,
and raised during her absence in perhaps garbled form, to move the story
Press asked directly what the Chief Prosecutor thought of the photograph of
South Sudan's vice president handing Joseph Kony money, variously described as
five or twenty thousand dollars. Trailing down the second floor hallway Mr.
Moreno-Ocampo and his former spokesman, Inner City Press asked about Peter Karim,
who according to DPKO holds the seven Nepali peacekeepers. What will happen next
remains to be seen. Meanwhile in DR Congo, not only do the seven UN peacekeepers
remain in captivity -- now there is
A colleague reporter just back from Kinshasa recounts that the plight of the
peacekeepers was not mentioned after the meetings with President Kabila, nor
with this "ex-warlord" vice presidents..
Other Inner City Press
reports are archived on
AIDS Ends at the
UN? Side Deals on Patents, Side Notes on Japanese Corporations,
Salvadoran and Violence in Burundi
On AIDS at the
UN, Who Speaks and Who Remains Unseen
Corporate Spin on
AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence
(May 31, 2006)
Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's
Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the
The Silence of
the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank
Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins
Child Labor and
Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu
Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security
Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens
at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from
Turkmenbashi's Single Book
Ripped Off Worse
in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in
Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds
Burundi: Chaos at
Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated
by Forty Until 4 AM
In Liberia, From
Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which
China's Asked About
Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the
Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come
Through the UN's
One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations,
Even Nuclear Areva
Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks
Mine Your Own
Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the
Human Rights Are
Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still
Iraq's Oil to be
Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear
At the UN, Dues
Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions
Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala
Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if
Iraq's Oil is Being Metered
Cash Crop: In
Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in
The Shorted and
Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't
Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance
Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship
In the Sudanese
Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says
Empty Words on
Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia
What is the Sound
of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War
Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of
Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia
Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives
Who Pays for the
Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN
Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference
Other Inner City Press
reports are archived on
For reporting about banks, predatory
lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click
here for Inner
weekly CRA Report.
Inner City Press also reports weekly concerning the
global inner cities, and more recently
on the United
Nations, where Inner City Press
is accredited media. Follow those links
for more of Inner City Press's reporting, or, click
for five ways to
with or for more information.
Copyright 2005-2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editors [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540