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On Libya, ICC Bensouda Assessing Al-Senussi, Quiet After Leon Bombed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 11, more here -- With Libya descending into chaos, when the UN Security Council met about the country on November 11 it was to hear from the International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

  Bensouda said “the continued failure of the Government of Libya to surrender Saif A1-Islam Gaddafi to the custody of the International Criminal Court is a matter of great concern to my Office and the Court... I will assess my options, including whether to apply for a review of the judges' decision upholding Libya's request that the case against Al-Senussi be tried in Libya.”

  After her briefing, Bensouda to not hold a question and answer stakeout; Inner City Press caught up with her in the hall and asked if she had been given the entire UN "cover up" report on Darfur, or only part of it.

  Bensouda said she had gotten only the summary, and only the day before. Moments later the President of the Security Council for November, Gary Quinlan of Australia, reiterated that efforts are afoot for the Security Council to "take up" the report on Darfur. 

  Still nothing from the Security Council on the car bomb attack near envoy Bernardino Leon. The UK mentioned the attack -- and tellingly their own Jonathan Powell -- during the ICC meeting. But where is a UNSC Press Statement on the attack?

For days after a bombing in Libya near UN envoy Bernardino Leon, which came after Libya Dawn in Tripoli called him not impartial and persona non grata, still the UN in New York had not put out any statement at all.

  Instead, UN Department of Political Affairs' new spokesman merely selectively emailed to some Western media. No statement; nothing on the UNSMIL mission's web site. To new Free UN Coalition for Access, this is a new low in UN (non) communications.

 Back on November 4 when the UN Security Council met about Libya behind closed doors, the Press outside at the stakeout was repeatedly told that Leon would come and take questions at the stakeout.

 This is what the replaced Tarek Mitri did, each time he briefed the Security Council. With Leon being criticized inside Libya it would seem he'd have all the more reason to speak.

  But he did not. When he came out he barely broke stride -- Inner City Press took a photograph, blurred -- while saying the new Security Council Gary Quinlan of Australia would speak later. When Quinlan did, it was a bland "Press Elements."

  Still the scribes churned it. At 8:15 pm Agence France Presse bragged that it had "obtained" a French-drafted request to put Ansar al-Sharia, Benghazi and Derna, on the Al Qaeda sanctions list.

"A copy of the French-led request to the Al-Qaeda sanctions committee was obtained by AFP." Wonder how...

   Reuters issued a breathless report with unnamed diplomats at 8:19 pm. Both have tried to get smaller investigative Press thrown out of the UN - see documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, here and here - and this request by Reuters to censor one of its complaints to the UN from Google's Search.

  Back on August 27 amid airstrikes in Libya, when outgoing UN envoy Tarek Mitri briefed the UN Security Council, the airstrikes weren't even mentioned in his more than six page prepared text distributed by the UN.

  Inside the Council chamber, improvising but only a little bit, Mitri mentioned the strikes, but not who did them. Back on August 19 and once again since, Inner City Press asked the UN if it knew anything about who was behind them:

Inner City Press: Who did the air strikes?  General Haftar?  What's the UN, either Mr. León or Mr. Mitri or whoever is currently in charge, what's their sense of who's doing air strikes in Tripoli?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't… I think we reported back with the Mission yesterday, if there's anything more I'll share it with you.

  But in the days since, the UN has said nothing. Now the Libyan Dawn group  has taken over the Tripoli airport despite the airstrikes and alleged that the strikes have the involvement of Haftar's (or Hiftar's) supporters, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. What does the UN -- or now Bernardino Leon -- know and say about that? Watch this site.

On Leon: To try to counter Libya's lawless power struggle, the UN engaged in one of its own.

  And unlike most of the member states that make up the UN, and most other inter-governmental organizations, this UN does not answer questions, at least not directly.

  After Inner City Press repeated asked about it, including at the UN's noon briefings on August 11 and 13, on August 14 the UN said Bernardino Leon will take over as its Libya envoy on September 1.

  When Inner City Press asked if that is really Leon's starting day, given that he's said he'll go to Tripoli as early as next week representing the UN, Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Leon is merely "familiarizing" himself with the work he will be, and Mitri remains in place until September 1. Really?

  Ignoring the previous questions and the power-play, wire services like Reuters merely retyped ("reported") the UN's August 14 announcement that Leon will start September 1. And now?

 Back on August 1, Inner City Press exclusively reported that UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri was being "pushed out" of the post, including by UK envoy to Libya Jonathan Powell, and cited his brother Lord Powell's extensive business in Libya through Magna Holdings.

  The UK mission, usually responsive, did not provide comment on written Press questions on this; at UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant's August 4 press conference Inner City Press asked about Powell's and Mitri's relationship, without direct answer, see here.

  Then the UK's Ambassador to Libya Michael Aron has announced, on Twitter no less,  that Mitri is out and Ban Ki-moon has installed a new UN envoy, former Zapatero diplomat Bernardino Leon Gross.

  The UN, at least at its August 8 noon briefing and in emails since, has not announce anything about replacing Mitri, much less by whom.

  Ban Ki-moon's office said that for August 9 and 10, "Spokesperson on call:  Mr. Farhan Haq." So Inner City Press wrote to Farhan Haq, as well as to lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Hello. Now that the UK Ambassador to Libya, and others, have announced that Ban Ki-moon has appointed Bernardino Leon to replace Tarek Mitri as Ban's representative to Libya, head of UNSMIL, this is a request on deadline - today - that your Office confirm that this appointment or nomination has been made.

Has the letter been sent to the Security Council?

Is Leon already confirmed?

If not, how it is appropriate that P5 countries are saying he already has the job? On deadline, today.

Given many of the ongoing Afghanistan leaks are about UN DSS and UNAMA, not UNDP, there will be further questions. But the above is on deadline for today. Thank you in advance.

  But more than four hours later, by "close of business" in New York, the "spokesperson on duty" had not answered, had not even acknowledged receipt of the question.

  What does it mean to be the UN's "spokesperson on duty"?

   Isn't it for Ban Ki-moon to make this announcement? In fact, in 2011 when France had already gotten its Jerome Bonnafont in place to replace its Alain Le Roy atop UN Peacekeeping, Bonnafont's bragging about it in India, where he was French Ambassador, led to Ban rescinding the "offer."
  France countered with three time loser Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press reported each step -- including Bonnafont in July 2011 being tapped for the post, and even congratulation cards to Bonnafont, here, and threats from AFP then the UN Correspondents Association -- and the rest is, well, a type of history (coverage in UK New Statesman, here).

  Ladsous refuses all Inner City Press questions, video compilation here; Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq on August 8, alluding to Ladsous and now UNDP, said it is because of "people skills." Or reporting?

  So Ban has accepted or done nothing to stop this P3 power grab to oust Mitri. But can "his" successor be pre-announced and Ban accept that too?

Footnote: Inner City Press is exclusively informed that UNSMIL deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed also has business, literally: fisshing business. Ban and those in control of this play accept that too? Watch this site.

Background: Inner City Press on August 1 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric what UN envoy Tarek Mitri is doing; Dujarric said he was not aware but would check.

  Inner City Press had reported that Mitri, unlike the other UN international staff who relocated to Tunis, went back to his native Lebanon. Sources in the region exclusively told Inner City Press that Mitri had been hoping for a government post in Lebanon, describing him as less than committed to remaining with the UN.

   Now we can report more. These knowledgeable sources say that Mitri is being "pushed out," mostly they say by the UK's envoy to Libya, former Tony Blair aide Jonathan Powell.

  "Mitri was expected to take on a mostly support function," one source told Inner City Press. "He stood up and said no, headquarters didn't back him up and now he's being pushed out." We'll have more on this.

  It was nine days after Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz at the UN Security Council stakeout told the Press his country wanted international help to protect oil fields and ports, including airports, that the US announced it had relocated its Tripoli embassy staff out of the country to Tunisia.

  Inner City Press asked, where is UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri? He briefed the Security Council from Beirut -- sources tell Inner City Press he has been on vacation there, and this deputy, too, was out of the country.

  Back on July 17 when Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz emerged from the UN Security Council to take questions from the media, Inner City Press asked him to be more specific about what type of “support” force he is asking for.

  Mohamed Abdel Aziz replied that the request is not for a “military” force -- but then went on to say say the force should protect oil fields and ports. If that's not military, what is it?

  Inner City Press also asked Mohamed Abdel Aziz for Libya's current position on the US arresting Abu Khatallah. Compared to the complaints of others, Mohamed Abdel Aziz said that even though under international law it is unacceptable, since Libya can't protect witnesses, maybe it is okay.

  Given the current state of affairs, what is “Libya's” position?

  Meanwhile on July 17 the UN's envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri told the Security Council -- by video from his native Lebanon, while other UN international staff are in Tunisia -- that the fighting has “cast a shadow over the election on 25 June of the 200 member Council of Representatives.” Ya don't say.

 Mitri said that barely forty percent of the 1.5 million registered Libyans went to the polls. He said 12 seats will remain vacant; 41 candidates were disqualified under the post-Gaddafi Law on Political and Administrative Isolation. Final results are supposed to be announced on July 20. Watch this site.


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