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On W. Sahara, "Friends" Defer to French Veto Threat, No Rights Mechanism?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- The untransparent annual UN cat and mouse process around Western Sahara in which the same human rights monitoring mechanism mandate that other UN Peacekeeping missions have is briefly proposed and then now shot down by Permanent Member of the Security Council France has moved into a eleventh stage.

  The threat of a French veto is cited as the reason for the "Group of Friends on Western Sahara" draft resolution not including a human rights monitoring mechanism - which was initially include in "Ban Ki-moon's" report then dropped, again with French fingerprints.

  The irony is that on April 17 after a French, US and Australia sponsored Arria formula meeting with Michael Kirby, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, Kirby said threats of veto should not be allowed to bury human rights proposals. He said a formal meeting (and vote) should be called on referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

  But this logic apparently doesn't apply to Western Sahara, or to France as the veto-wielder.  None of this is noted, of course, in pass-through account by a wire demonstrably engaged in censorship, here. This servile wire, which last time quoted French Ambassador Gerard Araud denying any role, this time doesn't mention him at all.

   On April 15, Araud told another reporters, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent." While UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has been asked to convey to Araud and the French Mission the UN position that accredited correspondents should be treated with respect, here, we note that this servile wire by Araud logic is just as much an agent.

  Araud's anti-press moves on April 15 were of course not reported by this wire -- nor on Western Sahara was the African Union position with which Nigeria's Joy Ogwu answered Inner City Press --rights mechanism needed, video here and embedded below -- in the wire's story.

  Africa is not represented in the Council's "Group of Friends on Western Sahara." Changing that is not a reform you'll hear France talking about, including prospectively at the Council's retreat with Ban Ki-moon on which we'll have more.  Nor is Africa represented or even recognized, it is increasingly clear, on this servile wire. This is how the UN works, or doesn't.

  On April 17, the day of the Security Council first formal consultation on Western Sahara, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Dujarric about a reported crack down on peaceful demonstrators in El Aaiun, then asked Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, Council president for April, about the consultations.

   Dujarric said he had no information about the demonstration or crackdown or any letter received; when Inner City Press asked if envoy Christopher Ross would hold a question and answer stakeout, he said probably not. (None happened.) Video here.

  But Inner City Press asked the Security Council's president for April, Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, if human rights monitoring came up. She said in her national capacity she raised it, saying that a human rights monitoring mechanism should be (belatedly) put in the MINURSO mission's mandate, as it is in the mandate of other UN peacekeeping missions. Video here.

  Before the consultations, French Ambassador Gerard Araud engaged in a long discussion with Morocco's new Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale. Inner City Press, at the stakeout, took and tweeted a few photographs -- Morocco supporters replied with Araud's anti-press phrase of April 15, that anyone they disagree with is "not a journalist;" one even called photographing from the UN stakeout "spying."

  (That Araud was quoted by Javier Bardem that Morocco is France's "mistress" was in the air. Araud talked about suing Bardem, but has not.)

   Another replied to Inner City Press that Ambassador Ogwu shouldn't have said what she said. We're left wondering if Gerard Araud, before he leaves in July, will say in a Security Council consultation, "You're not a diplomat." And what would happen next. Here is what has been requested: that Dujarric convey to the French mission that position that accredited correspondents should be respected, before the arrival of Jacques Audibert.

  The Security Council is scheduled to vote on the MINURSO mandate on April 23, but it could go until the end of the month, when the old mandate with no right monitoring mandate expires. Watch this site.

  Back on April 16 Dujarric refused to explain, when Inner City Press asked, why Ban dropped a rights "mechanism" from the advance copy of his report. Dujarric refused to say with whom, other than Morocco's King, Ban spoke about the matter between April 10 and April 15, when a new draft without "mechanism" went on the UN's website. Video here.

  Moments later, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, April's Security Council president and an African Union member, about the drop of the word "mechanism." She said it will be discussed in consultations on April 17. Video here.

  On April 10, Inner City Press published what was called the advance copy of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on Western Sahara, saying that the goal is a human rights monitoring MECHANISM, see here at Paragraph 100.

  Now, the revised report is on the UN's website, with the mechanism dropped. Click here, at Paragraph 100. Earlier on April 17, despite a slew of questions about Western Sahara coming in to French Ambassador Gerard Araud as he held a press conference on human rights, he did not answer those questions nor take any question from Inner City Press. The only critical question Araud took, perhaps by mistake, he replied to, You are not a journalist, you are an agent.  Video here.

  (Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Dujarric on April 16 if this was appropriate. Video here. He said accredited correspondents should be treated with respect, but declined even when Inner City Press noted that French foreign minister Laurent Fabius did the same thing to say he will convey this "respect" position to the French Mission, or Araud's replacement Jacques Audibert, click here for that)

  On April 15, Araud called on France 24 and a Reuters reporter who quoted Araud without mentioning that Javier Barden reported Araud as calling Morocco France's mistress. (Araud talked of suing, but never did.) Nor did Reuters mention that the head of UN Peacekeeping, atop the Western Sahara mission MINURSO, is Herve Ladsous, a long-time French diplomat including at the UN during the Rwanda genocide of 1994.

  So a human rights monitoring mechanism is out, at least from Ban Ki-moon report.

   Morocco's King, after in essence threatening to end the UN mission if human rights monitoring mechanism is included, is now reportedly slated to visit Dakhla, as early as tomorrow. Click here.

   And as the pace picks up, here is another letter going in to Security Council members, this time from humanitarian groups working in Western Sahara, here.

   This comes just after the King announced a new Ambassador to the UN, replacing (and some say blaming) Ambassador Loulichki.

   The new Ambassador will be Omar Hilale, most recently a hardliner on the human rights issue at the UN in Geneva. This comes as France is slated to replace its Ambassador Gerard Araud with Jacques Audibert in July. So for both Araud and Loulichki, this month is a last campaign against a rights monitoring mechanism.

  Araud was slated to give a press conference on April 15, ironically on human rights, on topic on which he convened a closed door meeting at 10 am on April 15, from which even some UN member states were banned.  Araud should have been expected to address these issues -- but he and his spokesman Frederic Jung did not take any question from Inner City Press, and Araud attacked the lone critical question he selected.

   Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access on the morning of April 11 put online the first advance copy of the "Report of the Secretary General on the situation concerning Western Sahara," to be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/2014/258, here.

  On April 12, the Moroccan government -- but not the UN -- issued a read out of a call by the King of Morocco to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the day on the topic of "the Moroccan Sahara," emphasis added:

Tetouan - HM King Mohammed VI held on Saturday a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, says a release of the Royal office.

The talks covered latest developments and the present timetable related to the Moroccan Sahara issue, says the release. On this occasion, HM the King reiterated Morocco's constant commitment and constructive cooperation to reach a final political settlement to this regional dispute, within Moroccan sovereignty.

HM The King further drew the UN secretary General's attention to the imperative need to preserve the negotiations parameters as they were defined by the Security Council, safeguard the presence framework and modalities of the UN involvement and avoid biased approaches and risky options, the statement goes on.

Any straying from this track will be fatal for the ongoing process and holds dangers for any UN involvement in the issue. The conversation also covered HM the King's sustained actions and laudable initiatives for the stability and development of the African continent.

   Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN:

"The Moroccan government has issued its own read-out of their King's telephone call to the Secretary General, this is a request for a UN readout of the SG's call, in light of what Inner City Press asked at the April 11 noon briefing... There are other questions outstanding, as you know, and I have others, but asking this after the Moroccan government's readout, for the UN's read-out."

    Without providing any UN read-out, Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric replied, "I can confirm that the call took place."

  Inner City Press and FUNCA asked Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq more pointedly:

"If not the still requested UN read-out, will you comment on Morocco's statement that the "King further drew the UN secretary General's attention to the imperative [to] risky options... Any straying from this track will be fatal for the ongoing process and holds dangers for any UN involvement in the issue" -- since this seems to be a threat to try to terminate "UN involvement" in Western Sahara if an option such as a human rights monitoring mechanism were included in MINURSO, do you have any comment? And, can you state which side initiated the call, and if the advance copy of the Secretary General's report on Western Sahara which I asked about at Friday's noon briefing was discussed?"

    Ban's spokesman Dujarric an hour later replied: "No further comment."

   At noon on April 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric who has input into Ban Ki-moon's reports, for example if not only the first but the final "Ban" report on Western Sahara will urge a human rights monitoring mechanism. Dujarric refused to explain the process, saying wait until it's over, it is not final until it is final -- not a good sign, some say. Who wrote the first report? Who is changing it? Who CAN change it? Inner City Press asked, without answer. Video here, and embedded below. UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about the Secretary-Generalís position on Western Sahara. Thereís an advanced copy of the report, the Secretary-Generalís report that was circulated that would be ultimately a more formal document, but it seems to say the goal is a human rights monitoring mechanism, and now there are reports that thatís going be changed. The word mechanism will drop, can you describe what the process is on reports such as this that are ascribed to the Secretary-General. Who has input into them? Once they are sent around are they final, and if they are not, who has input in this case to change them?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: All Secretary-Generalís reports are ultimately signed off by the Secretary-Generalís Office. Any relevant department or mission would have input into it but a report is a final report once itís final. So I would ask you to wait a day or two until the report is issued, and then we can... you know nothing is final until itís final.

Inner City Press: Because the consultations would be on the 17th, everything is moving, this is the month to do it. So I wanted to know, since there is a document thatís ascribed to the Secretary-General that says monitoring mechanisms, I just wanted to ask you, does Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon favour human rights monitoring mechanisms?

Spokesman Dujarric: Again, once the report is out, and itís final, it would be the Secretary-Generalís report. Until the report is out, we are not going to comment on it. And once itís out, it is the Secretary-Generalís word, so thereís really nothing to add

  That's called stonewalling in advance, that there will be nothing to add. On April 14, Dujarric not only refused Inner City Press' request for further information about Ban's call with the King: he would not explain why a UN read-out of Ban's call with the acting President of Ukraine was provided, but not with Morocco's King.

   In Paragraph 100 on Page 20 Ban's (first) report says, or said, that the goal is "a sustained, independent and impartial human rights monitoring mechanism."

  Amid changes, a Western wire -- which has engaged in censorship at the UN, here -- quoted French Ambassador Gerard Araud that "France formally denies any interference with the UN Secretariat."
  
   This servile wire did not even mention that it can be done within the UN Secretariat, where the Department of Peacekeeping which runs MINURSO is headed by Herve Ladsous, a long time French diplomat. Nor does it mention Araud being quoted by Javier Bardem that Morocco is France's "mistress" - if only to run Araud's denial and litigation threat.
We will be watching for that.

  As a part of this watchfulness, Inner City Press had published a letter just submitted to the President of the Security Council by "a number of Nordic organisations, from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden," urging the inclusion of human rights monitoring in MINURSO's mandate.

  Even former UN envoy on Western Sahara Peter van Walson has written to French president Francois Hollande urging France to stop opposing human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.

  Also new this year is the discomfort caused by Spanish actor Javier Bardem asserting that French Ambassador Gerard Araud told him that Morocco is like France's mistress.

  French foreign ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal has reportedly confirmed that Araud met with Bardem in 2011; Araud has said he would seek permission to sue Bardem. (There is a pattern here.) Now, Jacques Audibert is said slated to take over for Araud by July.

  So this will be Araud's last campaign opposing human rights monitoring in Western Sahara. Earlier on April 10 Araud spoke at the Security Council stakeout about Central African Republic but when Inner City Press asked about the Chadian troops there, charged by the High Commissioner for Human Rights with killing 30 civilians, Araud told Inner City Press to Ask Chad's Ambassador.

  US Ambassador Samantha Power moments later answered Inner City Press' question about the withdrawal of Chad's troops from CAR, video here.

  The April 10 advance copy of the "Report of the Secretary General on the situation concerning Western Sahara" consists of 104 paragraphs and a map.

  To begin with -- Inner City Press will have more than one report on this Report -- there is a recognition of "demostrations aimed at drawing attention to human rights concerns, socio-economic issues and political demands, including the right to self-determination. These were swiftly dispersed by Moroccan security forces. On most such occasions, there were credible reports of heavy-handedness on the part of security forces as well as violence, such as stone-throwing, on the part of the demonstrators."

  The Report says "of particular note was a demonstration that took place in Laayoune on 5 May 2013... Protesters expressed dissatisfaction that Security Council resolution 2099 (2013) did not include provisions to include human rights monitoring in MINURSO's mandate."

Will it be different this year? Watch this site.


 

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