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March 1, 2011: Libya

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On Mines, UN Defends TNC of Libya as on Reprisal, No SOFA in Abyei?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1 -- When the UN held a press conference Tuesday about landmine usage in Libya, one expected them to at least mention that some of the use was by the rebels or Transitional National Council.

  But when Inner City Press asked about the documented usage by rebels of Belgian made PRB-M3 anti-vehicle mines on the side of the main road into Ajdabiya, the UN's Program Manager for the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team in Libya Max Dyck quickly defended the TNC. Video here from Minute 8:15.

  He urged to "take it into context, saying it was "done early in conflict, in March." (Actually, it was filmed as late as April 17, 2011). Dyck continued, "This issue's been addressed with the NTC... That was the only incidence of landmine use by the NTC revolutionaries."

  When Inner City Press tried to ask a follow up question, the Deputy Spokesman did not allow it (while allowing the next correspondent to follow up). Since there were virtually no other questioners, Inner City Press was then able to ask Dyck about his tone: did it mean that to work with the NTC, the UN had to praise it? Video here, from Minute 12:01.

  Dyck did not answer, rather the Acting Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, Justin Brady did, saying that the UN raised it to the NTC as soon as they became aware, and that the NTC attributed it to "local commanders."

  One wonders if this is a predictor of what the UN will do, or not do, in looking into the reprisal killings by NTC forces in Libya: 53 bound bodies in Sirte, a whole village chased away.

(c) MRLee
UNMAS' Dyck & Brady: where have you gone, Maxwell Curley?

  These were questions Inner City Press put to Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky on October 31:

Inner City Press: all of the people have been chased out of a town called Tawerghaand... 53 bound bodies of Qadhafi supporters presumably were found in a hotel in Sirte. So what’s the response in terms of accountability for what would pretty clearly be war crimes?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, as you know — two things really — first of all, the Security Council resolution on this point is very clear. And that’s speaking directly to the Libyan authorities, namely that they were expressing grave concern about continuing reports of reprisals, arbitrary detentions, wrongful imprisonment and extrajudicial executions. And as you will also remember from last week, there was a statement from the Commission of Inquiry on Libya that urges the National Transitional Council and indeed future interim authorities to undertaken independent, impartial, transparent investigations into all allegations of violations of the rights of detainees in their custody and if they deem it necessary, recommends — meaning the Commission of Inquiry — that they seek the support of the interntional community. So I think you can see that there is a body of opinion out there that says that the Libyan authorities will need to investigate all cases of alleged abuse, reprisals and that is precisely what the National Transitional Council has undertaken to do and the interntional community will watch that very closely.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to know, sort of what the role of the UNSMIL Mission would be, particularly in the case of these Tawergha people, they are not dead or at least yet, they are in the desert and they can’t return to their town. Is there some effort being made by Mr. Martin or UNSMIL to actually act on these still pending situations?

Spokesperson: I’d have to check precisely on that. As I think I mentioned last week, there are human rights officers within the Mission, and so let me check to see what I can get for you on that.

  A full day later no answers had been provided, and Nesirky canceled the November 1 noon briefing.

  While the Mine Action Service does some good work, it seemed Tuesday to go out of its way to praise the government of Sudan, blaming all land mines in the country on "non state actors."

  Sudan blocked even the medical evacuation of four UNISFA peacekeepers injured by a mine, four of whom ended up bleeding out and dying.

  But when Inner City Press asked if any Status of Forces Agreement or other safeguard was no in place to evacuate mine removal personally, Brady said to ask the "Office of Military Affairs." Video here, from Minute 17:55.

Footnote: Inner City Press asked about Syria's use of landmine on its border with Lebanon. Brady said Syria is a sovereign country and not a party to the convention. He said it ill-serves the country, but to ask the Permanent Mission of Syria. Video here, from Minute 15.

  So landmine questions are referred by the Mine Action Service to other parts of the UN and to Permanent Missions, while the Mine Action Service takes it upon itself to case the case for the TNC, even as reprisals continue. Still, some good work is done. Watch this site.

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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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