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Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


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Asma Jahangir Had Place in Sri Lanka Probe & Criticized Attempts to Silence By UN, US Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 -- In the hours following the death of Asma Jahangir, tributes and memorials have been published but some aspects of her interactions with and at the UN have not been touched - including many hours later still when Secretary Antonio Guterres issued a statement, and when the US did on February 13, below. In 2014 Jahangir was named, by then-leaving UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, to a panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka, here along with attempts within the UN to cover up the crimes and the housing of Sri Lanka's figure Palitha Kohona:

With Navi Pillay slated to leave as UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on August 31, on June 25 she made an announcement about the HRC Panel on Sri Lanka...Some in the UN even tried to censor Sri Lanka coverage, here. Here's from Pillay announcement:
"Three distinguished experts have agreed to advise and support the team set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, as mandated by the Human Rights Council in March:

Ms Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, previous holder of several Human Rights Council mandates and member of a recent fact-finding body into Israeli settlements."
 The UN has entirely stonewalled Press questions about the new White Flag killings report and the light it sheds on current UN official Vijay Nambiar and former UN official, now Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona.
  It was about a past financial relationship between Kohona and the president of the UN Correspondents Association, who then agreed to an UNCA screening of a Rajapaksa government movie denying war crimes that UNCA tried to censor.
When Inner City Press reported on the background to Kohona getting the Rajapaksa government's denial of war crimes, “Lies Agreed To,” screened in the Dag Hammarjkold Library auditorium, the reaction from the then-president and executive committee of the United Nations Correspondents Association are summarized here. One wag wondered whether the 2009 Bloodbath on the Beach has now been echoed as Blowhards on the Beach, here. In Sri Lanka now the Rajapaksa government blocks websites it doesn't like.

  Jahangir opposed these things. As Inner City Press reported, Jahangir was in the running to succeed Pillay - but Prince Zeid of Jordan, now himself to leave, was handed the post. Who will follow Zeid? (Jahangir had also been in the running in 2012 for the UN's Children and Armed Conflict post, here). The US State Department on February 13 issued this: "We join Pakistan and others around the world in mourning the untimely death of Pakistani human rights and democracy advocate, Asma Jahangir.  For years, she courageously defended the rights of those who did not have a voice, and championed the rule of law, democracy, and human rights including freedom of religion or belief.  Her work in Pakistan, including as a founder and chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and with the United Nations and groups such as the International Crisis Group and the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, made her a global icon in human rights. Most recently she served as the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, tirelessly fighting on behalf of the Iranian people as they demanded freedom, dignity, and respect for human rights.  As the third UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, she improved the world’s understanding of the plight of religious minorities worldwide through her in-depth research and sustained engagements and fought for the protection of the persecuted.  Her death is a great loss to the world and she will be missed as a champion of her country, its people, and the millions more around the world on whose behalf she spoke." Antonio Guterres issued this, through his (and Annan's and Ban Ki-moon's) spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "We have lost a human rights giant. News of the death of Asma Jahangir today is echoing within her native Pakistan and across the world. She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality – whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a Special Rapporteur. Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind. I convey my heartfelt condolences to Asma’s family, friends and colleagues, including in the United Nations and civil society within which she was such a leader. Asma will not be forgotten." In October 2017 Inner City Press asked Jahangir about a stand-off between representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia during her presentation on Iran to the UN's Third Committee. Alamy photo here. She called it “disappointing,” see here along with account of censorship in the UN, in the midst of this chronology: During the UN Third (Human Rights) Committee's presentation on Iran by Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir on October 25, Saudi Arabia complained that Syria was talking about it, and not Iran. When the chair of the committee asked Syria to "focus" on Iran, the Syrian representative began to contest if Saudi Arabia had appropriately made a point of order. Things grew heated and soon the Syrian representative had his microphone cut off - leading him, predictable, to speak louder - and face a threat that UN security would be called. Finally the meeting was suspended for ten minutes. Inner City Press, which due to UN censorship had to get a UN minder to reach the meeting it was covering on the second floor, could due to the same restrictions not get down to the Third Committee right away. When it did, this Periscope video from the photo booth shows the scene. On October 26, Inner City Press asked Asma Jahangir what she thought of what happened. She said she was "disappointed," that the UN is a "house of diplomacy." Well, the UN is willing to physically remove the investigative Press and throw its files out onto First Avenue, here. When UN Special Rapporteur David A. Kaye held a short press conference at the UN on October 25, he called for the UN to institute an access to information policy. Inner City Press asked him to specify what the UN Secretariat of Antonio Guterres can and should do on its own, without waiting for or blaming the General Assembly. Inner City Press also asked him about the UN new October 20 threat to review its accreditation, including for ill-defined violations on an unspecified date on the UN's 38th floor. Video here.  Rest in peace. As North Korea says it can't pay its 2018 UN dues because of sanctions on its banks, there are 14 other UN member states at least two years behind in their dues payments, according to Secretary General Antonio's letter less than a month ago. While four of these countries got exemptions from losing their voting power in the General Assembly, ten were stripped of their votes, including oil-rich UN Security Council member Equatorial Guinea. The other countries listed as denied votes for failure to pay are Libya, also under UN sanctions; Venezuela, Suriname, Grenada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Marshall Islands, Central African Republic and Yemen, being bombed by Saudi Arabia. The four that got exemption and can still vote are Sao Tome and Principe, Comoros, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau, the latter two also on the agenda of the UN Security Council.  While the Democratic Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name, last year paid its UN dues as a "swap," for this year's $180,000 it has told the UN that sanctions are prohibiting the transfer and asks that the UN take action. Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk wrote to UN Department of Management chief Jan Beagle, in a letter obtained by Inner City Press and available in full here on Patreon, that "Last year we paid our contribution to the UN in the form of swap with the operation expenses of the UN agencies in the DPRK, purely out of its position to honor its obligation as a UN member state, but it is an abnormal method which cannot be applied continuously in view of our state law and regulations. I would like to kindly request the UN Secretariat to take measures, in
conformity with its mission with impartiality and independence as lifeline, to secure promptly the bank transaction channel through which the regular payment of the DPRK’s contribution is made possible." We'll have more on this. Back on January 17 when the UN's Committee on Relations with the Host Country met, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea read a three-page statement condemning the US for issuing his Mission to the UN's tax-exempt card in the name "North Korea" and not Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He said, "We presumed it would be only a kind of technical mistake by the U.S. side, and returned the card back to the U.S. mission, while requesting them to correct that serious mistake." The statement, which Inner City Press has exclusively obtained immediately after the meeting (photos here, full PDF of letter via Patreon, here) continued that the U.S. mission replied, "It seems to be a glitch in our database, we'll reach out to our office in DC." That was on December 13, the statement said, continuing: "on 14th December there was an explanation from the U.S. mission informing that, quoted as 'Our DC office has indicated that all country / mission names on OFM credentials for Democratic People's Republic of Korea indicate North Korea which is the conventional short abbreviation. The short name for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is North Korea, so the tax card will remain the same." The statement concluded by condemning "such reckless political hostile policy" and demanded an apology. Watch this site. Throughout 2016 New Zealand documentary maker Gaylene Preston and her crew staked out the UN Security Council along with Inner City Press, awaiting the results of the straw polls to elected Ban Ki-moon's sucessor as UN Secretary General. Preston's focus was Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister then in her second term as Administrator of the UN Development Program. Preston would ask Inner City Press after each poll, What about Helen Clark's chances? Suffice it to say Clark never caught fire as a candidate. Inner City Press told Preston, as did many other interviewees in her documentary “My Year with Helen,” that it might be sexism. But it might be power too - including Samantha Power, the US Ambassador who spoke publicly about gender equality and then in secret cast a ballot Discouraging Helen Clark, and praised Antonio Guterres for his energy (yet to be seen). Samantha Power's hypocrisy is called out in Preston's film, in which New Zealand's Ambassador complains that fully four members of the Council claimed to be the single “No Opinion” vote that Clark received. There was a private screening of My Year With Helen on December 4 at NYU's King Juan Carlos Center, attended by a range of UN staff, a New Zealand designer of a website for the country's proposal new flag, and Ban Ki-moon's archivist, among others. After the screening there was a short Q&A session. Inner City Press used that to point out that Guterres has yet to criticize any of the Permanent Five members of the Council who did not block him as the US, France and China blocked Clark, with Russia casting a “No Opinion.” And that Guterres picked a male from among France's three candidates to head UN Peacekeeping which they own, and accepted males from the UK and Russia for “their” top positions. Then over New Zealand wine the talk turned to the new corruption at the UN, which is extensive, and the upcoming dubious Wall Street fundraiser of the UN Correspondents Association, for which some in attendance had been shaken down, as one put it, for $1200.  The UN needed and needs to be shaken up, and hasn't been. But the film is good, and should be screened not in the UN Censorship Alliance but directly in the UN Security Council, on the roll-down movie screen on which failed envoys like Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are projected. “My Year With Helen” is well worth seeing.


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