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UN Relies on ICC-Indictee in Sudan, Dodges on Mining in DRC, Haitian Whispers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- When the UN was asked Thursday about Sudan barring international aid groups from Southern Kordofan, it cited to its meetings with the International Criminal Court indicted governor of the state, Ahmed Haroun.

When asked about a UN staff member in the Congo charged with illegally transporting casserite, the UN stress it cooperated with the local authorities, who convicted the UN staff in one day (the UN could not say if the staff member even had a lawyer.)

And when asked about a petition to act against evictions in Haiti, the UN said publicly it didn't know if it got the letter -- then answered only by its internal announcement system, with no notice to the Press which asked the question.

To this has the UN descended: relying on and transporting ICC indictees, dodging on its staff's transportation of illegally mine casserite, and belatedly whispering assurances against evictions.

  Some argue that if the UN at its headquarters in New York is unable or unwilling to answer questions, they should be directed to the peacekeeping missions in the field. But questions e-mailed to UNAMID in Darfur have not garnered any answers.

In each of these countries, the UN has expensive peacekeeping missions. But since August 10, its Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been headless. Alain Le Roy left; fellow Frenchman Jerome Bonnafont is already being congratulated by French politicians like Jean-Marie Bockel for getting the post, but the UN refuses to confirm.

From right: Haq, Ban, Pascoe & Kim, Sudan, DRC & Haiti answers not shown

From the UN's transcription of its August 25 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: in Southern Kordofan, there has been an announcement by President [Omer al-]Bashir of Sudan that no foreign aid groups can enter, that all aid will be delivered through the Sudanese Red Crescent... other than UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan], there is still some, I guess, an OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] desire to be there; is there any response to this, do they think that’s a legitimate way to deliver aid there?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Well, certainly we have repeatedly asked for humanitarian access in Southern Kordofan and I would stress the need again for such humanitarian access. As you know, we did have a humanitarian team go there just a few days ago and provided some details about their work at the time, and we are hopeful to get some further details from that team now that their work is concluded.

Inner City Press: But it seemed like the announcement at that time was that there had been these meetings with Ahmed Haroun, that everything was on track and then Bashir has now said there is no foreign aid workers allowed in --

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I wouldn’t respond to media reports about such comments. Our basic point is that we do need continued humanitarian access, and we’ve pressed for that in the past and we’ll continue to do so.

Inner City Press: Can I also ask, a very fast trial in the Congo of the national staff member found transporting cassiterite to Rwanda. He has been sentenced to three years, and I wonder, what has the UN learned from? What precautions are going to take place that other MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo] members don’t engage in transporting of illegally mined substances?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know about this, the important point is that MONUSCO, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, did fully cooperate with and support the national authorities in the investigation of this incident. And we also did launch our own investigation into what appears to be a serious breach of the Mission’s ethics, rules and regulations, and we’ll see what the results of that investigation will be.

Inner City Press: Looking at it from a different perspective, it’s a trial that’s done that quickly; is that… is that within the UN’s view of sort of due process? He was charged last week and has now been sentenced to three years after a one-day trial. Is that, did the UN provide him with any legal assistance or just, did he have a lawyer?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, like I said, we cooperated with the national authorities in this. We have people on the ground so we can see whether the trial was conducted properly. But in any case, both the Congolese authorities and the UN had been investigating this incident. Our investigation, like I said, continues, and the basic point is, as Roger Meece pointed out, any allegation of a member of staff being implicated in such illegal activities will be fully investigated and appropriate action taken, in full cooperation with the Congolese authorities.

Inner City Press: May I also ask a question about Haiti? Here is a letter from many human rights groups to Ban Ki-moon, Navi Pillay, Nigel Fisher, asking the UN to get involved in calling for a moratorium on evictions in Haiti. I am wondering if you’ve… if — it’s dated 23 August — has the letter been received, and what is… what is… what does MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] say about the evictions that have been taking place in Haiti?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all I’d have to check whether the letter has been received. So, we’ll check on that. Have a good day.

Then the UN added to its transcript, hours later without e-mailing any answer to Inner City Press, the following:

[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later added that it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect internally displaced persons, as per international human rights law and also the Guiding Principle on Internal Displacement. Forced evictions are not acceptable and we have been advocating tirelessly with local authorities and landowners to ensure implementation of international best practices and human rights standards.]

To this has this UN descended. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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