Dodges on Biting, Bout, Boat and Bangladesh, Flubs Iran
Letter and Shriver Condolence
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 15 -- Even with the UN's Office of the Spokesperson
last week holding only three rather than the normal and expected five
press briefings, they still
left unanswered questions about the brewing
and biting scandals, mercenaries
and war crimes inquiries in Bangladesh,
Sudanese flogging and non-Somali piracy, an arms trader's
non-extradition and a case of extraordinary rendition.
mis-answered by their own terms questions about Ban Ki-moon's letter
to Iran's Ahmadinejad, flubbed another letter of condolence
concerning Eunice Kennedy Shriver, twice misplaced Ban's vacation as
being in Seoul rather than Jeju Island.
on Monday, August 10 all concerned what's now being called
first reported by Inner City Press. Deputy Spokesperson Okabe said
that the underlying dispute, about Ban's envoy to the Congo Alan Doss
having writing to the UN Development Program urging that his daughter
Rebecca be hired and that he be shown "leeway" to shift his
contract to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to evade
anti-nepotism rules, is being investigated by UNDP. Inner City Press
City Press: You did say that the whole thing is being investigated
by UNDP’s office of audit and investigations. [inaudible] some of
the complaints about Alan Doss is no longer affiliated with UNDP as
of 1 July. I know that, I mean the person who filed the complaint
with OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services), is this something
that OIOS can look into? Who has jurisdiction over Alan Doss and
basically the issues that have been raised?
Spokesperson: Right now we’re all awaiting the outcome of the
investigation that UNDP is conducting into the matter, as he was
affiliated with UNDP at the time.
in the week,
UNDP suddenly called it a joint UNDP - OIOS investigation. Ms. Okabe
then e-mailed Inner City Press, requesting a re-characterization of
12 referral of questions to the New York County District
Attorney as concerning only biting and immunity and saying that
expects a report on the nepotism matter upon his return to New York
on August 18. Then at the August 14 briefing, or at least in the
doctored UN summary, she added " a report [on what has been done
to date]." We'll see.
question that did get answered -- we noted these for better or
worse -- was Inner City Press' August
12 question about the Congo as
a non-family post:
City Press: it has to do with MONUC (United Nations Organization
Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. Can you ask them whether -- that’s a quote: “a
family or non-family post”, i.e. whether staff members can
bring family members to the country or not? I mean, I know at one
point, at least as recently as I know, it was a non-family post, but
I just want to make sure from you, whether there has been some
Spokesperson Okabe: Well, the UN, without getting into too much
detail, just to give you an idea of how duty stations work even in a
given country, different locations in a given country may have
different security levels. So, you know, while it may be a
non-family duty station in one part of the country, you know, it
doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole country is under the same
then asked specifically about Kinshasa. At week's end this arrived:
further to your question on Wednesday, please note that DRC is a
non-family duty station for all UN missions, programs and agencies.
Until the country was placed at Security Level III a few years ago,
agencies (not the Mission) classified it a family duty station but
that changed after DSS revised its security level following violent
unrest after the past elections."
following up on this. Also
on August 12, Okabe left unanswered
questions about the restrictions on travel imposed on Lubna Hussein,
slated to be flogged for wearing pants. Ms. Hussein is or was a UN
staff member, while also writing for a private newspaper in Sudan --
the UN has repeated failed to clarify her status. On the travel
restrictions, too, no answer came:
City Press: In Sudan, Lubna Hussein has now been barred from travel.
One, does the UN have any comment on it? And two, what’s her
status currently with the United Nations? They say that she’s
quit, therefore renounced her immunity. What’s the UN’s…?
Spokesperson: You know… let me find out more about it. I don’t
have any further guidance on her today, so let me find out from the
Peacekeeping Department and our Mission.
But three days
later, nothing had been provided. Nor to this:
City Press: Sri Lanka has arrested, either in Malaysia or in
Thailand, it’s unclear, an opposition leader Mr. (Patmen?), also
known as KP. [inaudible] may extraordinary rendition, i.e., he was
arrested, there was no extradition trial and now he is back in the
country. Has the UN said, some people say he’s been tortured but,
does the UN have anything to say about that?
Spokesperson: I don’t think we’ve received ay reports on that,
but we’ll look into that for you.
been provided, even though a senior Ban advisor from the 38th floor
unprompted told Inner City Press that they had been expecting the
question about extraordinary rendition. Extraordinary.
Okabe did answer, at length,
that "a letter did go out to
President Ahmadinejad. As the Spokesperson Michele has been asked a
number of times, yesterday I did confirm to those who asked that a
letter did go out, as is customary at the time of the inauguration of
a Head of State. But it is not accurate to refer to this as a
congratulatory letter. Is that what you’re asking?"
Okabe had initially confirmed to Reuters that a congratulatory letter
went out, then tried to get them to remove the word. The vituperation
ultimately made the UN look even worse, as Reuters ran a second story
saying that the UN had reversed itself. Then the Iranian government
began releasing the letter in pieces to, among others, the Fars News
Agency, and it appeared to most to be congratulatory. Why not simply
release such letters and let the public decide?
UN's Bans with mascots on August 12, dateline Yeosu (not JeJu, not
track, following the death of Special Olympics founder and all around
philanthropist Eunice Kennedy Shriver, by week's end the UN Secretariat
issued a condolence statement. UNICEF did, on August 12, and so a long
who now faces disparate treatment from the UN asked if such a letter
would be going out. Yes, he was told on August 13, a letter is in the
works. Two more days went by and still no
letter. On August 15, the Secretariat said it was still awaiting
confirmation that the letter had gone out. Eunice Kennedy Shriver had
already been buried.
beyond doctoring up the briefing summary about the nepotism scandal
report that Ban's said to "expect" on August 18 -- click
here for Inner City Press' story -- questions were also dodged or
just not answered about a missing boat and captured arms trader Bout,
as well as the UN and its Security chief's involvement with private
City Press: Bout and boats. Victor Bout -- the famous, notorious
arms trader, the [inaudible] quotes have said that he won’t be, at
least at this point, extradited for trial. Is that something, I know
that the UN spoke about when he was engaged in his business and then
he was arrested -- who in the UN is tracking it, what does the UN
think should happen with this arms trader in Africa?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have anything specific on him, but
there have been a number of reports in the past that the UN, UN
documents, that point to his activities in the Congo and other
places, so that’s where I would draw your attention for now.
City Press: There’s a ship that’s gone missing, not in Somalia,
but it took place in Europe and it’s now being looked for off the
coast of West Africa. Does the UN have any involvement in that, or
is its interest or involvement in looking at piracy limited to the
coast of Somalia?
Spokesperson: I don’t know what specific report
has been a lead news story worldwide all week. Inner City Press
up on its exclusive
story about new UN Security chief
Gregorry Starr's role in extending Blackwater's contract with the
U.S. State Department, even after the 2007 killing of at least 17
civilians in Iraq:
City Press: Two sets of questions: mercenaries and nepotism. On
mercenaries, can you confirm that the UN in Iraq is signing an
agreement with a private military contractor called Aegis that’s
been accused of killing civilians, and also, that Mr. [Gregory B.]
Starr, the new head of the DSS [Department of Safety and Security],
was the official responsible for extending the contract with
Blackwater while he was with the United States State Department?
Spokesperson: I have nothing on either one of those, so we’d have
to look into that for you.
City Press: But, I mean, does the UN in Iraq use private military
contractors –- that’s my…?
Spokesperson: I have to look into that for you.