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At UN, No Answers on Sri Lanka Killings or Burma Bombs, Honduras and Niger Elections

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- Even with the UN Spokesperson's office now reducing its public question taking from five down to three days a week, still it refuses or is unable to answer simply queries about what the UN is doing, and its follow through if any on topics on which it has already spoken, ranging from Sudan, Niger and Somalia to Sri Lanka and Honduras (that is, Africa, Asia and Latin America).

  On Monday August 3, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Michele Montas about reports of fighting between rebels and the government in Sudan, where the UN has two billion dollar peacekeeping missions, and about the total rejection in Somalia of an initiative of the UN's envoy to the country:

Inner City Press: there are these reports of the JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] rebels in Sudan engaging the Sudanese army in [inaudible]. Is that something that either of the two UN missions in Sudan can confirm?

Spokesperson Montas: No, I can try to get the answer for you.

Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask you, the Somali Parliament had voted down about 334 out of the 347… this Law of the Sea filing organized by [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah between Somalia and Kenya, funded by Norway. They voted it down, you know, and totally rejected. I wondered if either Ould-Abdallah has a comment and also whether this affects the filing that was made here at the UN for Somalia by Kenya for their undersea rights.

Spokesperson Montas: This I would have to ask the Treaty Department for you, if that changes anything. I don’t have an answer myself today right now.

   On the JEM fighting, the Spokesperson's Office never provided an answer, even six days later. The UN's force commander for Darfur also dodged the question, saying the despite the billions of dollars, the UN can't see such fighting. On Ould Abdallah, after Inner City Press further pursued it, the answer was that the question should be posed to the states involved: that is, Somalia and Kenya and presumably Norway. But it was the deal Ould Abdallah put together that was turned down, by the Somali parliament. On whose behalf is he speaking?

  On Wednesday, August 5, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas about a mass killing in Sri Lanka on which the UN has previously spoken, but on which it is now mute, and for the second time about requests to the UN system for aid for Honduras camping with Mel Zelaya in Nicaragua:

Inner City Press: There are these reports that the camps set up for Hondurans just across the border in Nicaragua where Mr. Zelaya is, that Nicaragua has asked for UN for support to these camps. Have you received any information on this? Has a request been made and has any UN assistance or monitoring mission sent there or taken place?

Spokesperson: Not that I know of, but of course we can check with DPA or the refugee agency whether there was anything done on that account. As far as I know, no, so far.

Inner City Press: Can I also ask, the Human Rights Watch has asked the Secretary-General to set up an inquiry into the killing of 17 Action Contre la Faim aid workers three years ago and also other human rights abuses. They say that the Government hasn’t done anything. The request is specifically to the Secretary-General. Is he aware of that call? And given that he visited the country and said that he’d be monitoring it, what is, you know, what is his response?

Spokesperson: I don’t have any specifics on that. Of course we can try to find out whether there was a specific request that was made officially to the Secretary-General. I can try to find out for you.

   While the UN in the four days that follow provided no answer on Honduras, diplomats from the region tell Inner City Press that assistance is being provided. On the Sri Lankan government's killings and self-exoneration, the UN's silence had become deafening. The UN's top Humanitarian has repeatedly said it's not clear to him that the government has stopped investigating. It's clear to Human Rights Watch, and to even pro-government journalists in Colombo.

UN's Ban with doctorate, but answers not provided by OSSG

   The UN did, we note, provide an answer to a question on August 5, about Sudan, and even inserted the response into its transcript:

Spokesperson: Montas: Yes, Matthew.

Inner City Press: in the trial of Lubna Hussein, the UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] worker that the… both protesters and one of her lawyers were apparently beaten up in front of, or beaten by the police in front of the court. I’m wondering what, even if UNMIS or the UN is monitoring that, if they have any comment on that, and also if there is yet an answer on whether, was she both a private journalist and UNMIS employee at the same time as was reported, or there was some…?

Spokesperson: She was an UNMIS employee. As you know, she said that she would not be claiming immunity and she wanted to have the case tried in court. Of course, we respect what she wants. However, there is an agreement signed by the UN, the peacekeeping mission there and the Government. And we’re still waiting for answers to know whether or not the immunity still holds. And that’s what we have to find out. We don’t have an answer yet. As you know, the trial has been postponed.

[Later, the correspondent was further informed that the United Nations has informed the Sudanese authorities that, as a United Nations staff member, Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein is covered by immunity from legal process. There is an agreed procedure between the host Government and the United Nations for dealing with cases in which the Government believes that a staff member has committed a criminal offence.

In such cases, the Government is required to report the matter to the United Nations, which in turn will conduct any necessary investigation and, upon the Government's request, decide whether to waive immunity. In the present case, the United Nations has not received any request for the waiver of the staff member’s immunity. Immunity is afforded not only to protect the staff member, but the interests of the United Nations in a broader sense. It is, therefore, not up to a staff member to waive his or her immunity. That is the sole prerogative of the United Nations.]

 What the noble sounding answer doesn't address is the UN's failure to invoke immunity this year for two of its staff members in Sri Lanka who were seized by the government and, they say, tortured and asked to point out more people for the government to torture.

   Even on the Sudan, when on August 7 Inner City Press directed a question about Lubna's case to a UN Police officer present at the noon briefing, UNPOL chief Hughes stepped in and refused to let her answer, as he did on Inner City Press' question about peacekeepers repatriated from the UN Mission in Haiti under charges of sexual exploitation and abuse. Video here.

  On August 7, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas' deputy Marie Okabe about Niger and Myanmar, without answer:

Inner City Pres: it’s reported that the President of Niger has won his contested referendum to extend his term in office. Does the Secretariat now have any comment or response to that?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I have nothing beyond the comment that we already had issued on the concerns of these developments earlier.

Inner City Press: Also, Myanmar has announced that they have arrested 15 people who they say were going to set off a bomb while the Secretary-General was in Myanmar. Has that been communicated to the Secretariat? Does he think he was a target?

Deputy Spokesperson: I am not aware of any such reports. I’ve only seen them in the press reports.

Inner City Press: So Myanmar hasn’t communicated to the UN…?

Deputy Spokesperson: I haven’t seen anything.

   And this litany of non answers is without regard to the UN's two week refusal to answer Inner City Press' questions about Congo envoy Alan Doss' documented pressure to get his daughter at UNDP, leading to the pepper spraying and now prosecution of the UNDP worker whose job was taken, click here for that.. When will things improve?

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UN Nepotism from Congo to NY Criminal Court, UNDP Biter Case Set for August 10

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 -- When the UN's top envoy to the Congo Alan Doss wrote in April to ask for leeway to get his daughter Rebecca hired at the UN Development Program, it set off a chain of events leading to the firing and pepper spraying of the person who held the Doss-sought post, and now starting on August 10 his criminal trial for fighting back, allegedly with his teeth. Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive three stories to date on this matter.

   Nicola Baroncini, who until June 22 was the assistant to UNDP's Deputy Director for Asia and the Pacific, told Inner City Press on Friday that he intends to ask for a trial on the changes against him, and to demand the presence of various UN witnesses. These should, he said, including the Special Representative of the Secretary General in the Congo, Alan Doss, whose April 20, 2009 email, first published by Inner City Press, asked for "leeway" in awarding his daughter the position Mr. Baroncini had been filling.

  On August 7, UNDP told Inner City Press that "Ms. Rebecca Doss began working at UNDP on July 1st 2009. The process through which she was hired is currently being investigated by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation. Until that work is completed we will not have any further comments."

   But, as first published by Inner City Press, on April 20, 2009 Alan Doss wrote

"Dear Ligia,

This is just to inform that I have advised UNDP in writing that I will transfer to DPKO effective 1 July 2009. I have also spoken to Martin and advised him that I cannot transfer before that date because the new DPKO contractual arrangements only come into effect on the 1 July. He informed me that the ‘deadline’ for the ALD contracts is 15 May so the period of overlap would only be 6 weeks (assuming Rebecca’s ALD would come into force on the 14th May at the latest). I have asked for some flexibility, which would allow a very long serving and faithful UNDP staff member a little lee-way before he rides off into the sunset.

Becky is very excited about the prospect of going to work for you so I hope that it will work out. With my warm regards and thanks,


   It was improper for UNDP to process Rebecca Doss' "application," declare her on the short list, and offer her the position while her USG father was with UNDP. Beyond that, the contact by a UN Under Secretary General was improper.

  Sources now say that Doss has obtained his daughter other jobs in the past, and they note that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may have something of a conflict in ruling on Doss' behavior, given the hiring of Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee first by the SRSG in Iraq, Steffan de Mistura, then by the head of the UN Office of Project Services in Copenhagen, Jan Mattsson. Attention is turning to the UN system posts of Ban's daughter, Chatterjee's wife.

Since Inner City Press' third story on the matter one week ago, Ban's spokespeople have repeated referred questions to UNDP, which has told Inner City Press that "the hiring is being reviewed." On August 7, Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe specified that UNDP's Office of Audit and Investigation is looking at it. But UNDP no longer has jurisdiction over Alan Doss; Ms. Okabe on August 7 answered Inner City Press' question from a week ago, that Doss transferred from UNDP to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on July 1.

   On August 7, Inner City Press asked the head of DPKO, Alain Le Roy, what he thought of the chief of the Congo peacekeeping mission bending rules to get his daughter hired by the UN. Mr. Le Roy, too, said that UNDP must answer, while noting that he has read Inner City Press' story. Others have as well, and questions are multiplying. Video of August 7 noon briefing here.

Alan Doss, at right, with Alain Le Roy, requests for hiring leeway not shown: Rule of Law?

   Back on August 3, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas:

Inner City Press: Michele, on Friday I had asked Farhan a question about Alan Doss and when he became a DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] staffer and not a UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] staffer. He told me UNDP would answer. I still don’t have an answer. Since it seems to be a Secretariat question, it involves, it’s an e-mail that Mr Doss sent [inaudible]… that job --

Spokesperson: No, I think it’s a UNDP question.

Question: But isn’t it, I mean, the date on which he became DPKO is actually relevant to that inquiry and it seems like that is something that the Secretariat would know, since he --

Spokesperson: Well, at this point I don’t have anything new for you on this, and we have been saying that UNDP should handle that.

Question: But I sent them an e-mail as soon as we finished on Friday, but I don’t have… I guess I am just pleading with you maybe to put a squeeze on?

Spokesperson: Yes, okay, I will ask whether UNDP can answer you.

Question: And I know that the Secretary-General met with Helen Clark this morning. Is there any readout? What did they discuss?

Spokesperson: No, just internal matters.

Question: Including this most recent issue of [inaudible]… not just the biting incident, but the job search?

Spokesperson: I don’t think such minor issues come up in discussions of that sort.

Question: [inaudible] the envoy of Ban Ki-moon actually writes in and says “give my relative a job”; this doesn’t seem to me to be that minor. The biting might be kind of comical, but I mean, I don’t know if you’ve followed that issue, but I’ve just wondered…

Spokesperson: Yes, of course I have read about it, but…

Inner City Press: You don’t think it arose?

Spokesperson: I don’t think so. Thank you all so very much.

   Helen Clark has yet to hold a press conference at the UN, despite holding the post for more than 100 days. On August 5 Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: In the Council today they’re talking about peacekeeping and leadership. I just wanted to know, on the question that arose about Alan Doss and when he became a DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] employee. You’ve said, Farhan said Friday UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] would answer it. You said Monday that they’d answer it. But, still they haven’t answered. So, that’s why I am asking. It seems like it’s a straight factual question and that the information is in this building. Do you have an answer to that?

Spokesperson: All I can tell you is that UNDP is reviewing the issue, that’s all I have really. I don’t have a definite answer for you. I know that UNDP is reviewing the issue, that’s all I can say at this point.

Question: But doesn’t DPKO know? I mean, the e-mail that was released said that he asked, he said that 1 July he was going to transfer to DPKO from UNDP, but he wanted them to hire his daughter prior to that and sort of play with the rules. So, it’s just factual, while they review that, that’s fine. But it seems like DPKO or your office should be able to know when someone…

Spokesperson: Well, we’re trying to ascertain the facts, that’s what I am saying, Matthew. I am not evading your question, I just don’t have the facts yet. And if I have them, I will give them to you as soon as I have them. In this specific case, as I said, I was told by UNDP that they are reviewing the case. That’s all I was told today. I asked the question.

Question: I mean, the guy who sort of raised this complaint that the job was improperly given has like a criminal trial date on 10 August, you know, that’s going to be released. He says that there is some connection between these two.

Spokesperson: Well, you know, I have to say about that incident, you know the one that you have mentioned several times here. There was a serious nature to the security incident that took place on 22 June in the DC-2 building. And the incident resulted -- and I found that out yesterday -- resulted in the injury of one of our UN officers, whom I might add was transported to the hospital because of the severity of his wound. So, I was not aware of that fact when I spoke to you yesterday. Now I know that the man was hospitalized. He has since had to do several tests for specific diseases as a result of the wound, which was extremely stressful for everyone involved. He was out on sick leave after the incident, based on the hospital’s request. So this is what I have. It was much more serious than was originally reported to us. And so I just wanted to underline that fact.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] I had asked Farhan, maybe now that you know this you can tell. The dispute seems to be whether security used pepper spray on the individual prior to what appears to be a biting or vice versa. Do you have any information on that?

Spokesperson: No, I don’t have the details on whether pepper spray was used or not. It was a violent incident and the individual was violent, as I can testify. The person was bitten.

The court return date is Monday, August 10. Watch this site.

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 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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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