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On Sanctions, Eritrea Asks for Due Process, Libya for Transparency, Iran & CAR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- In the UN Security Council on February 11 there was a debate about sanctions which included sanctioned countries, including Eritrea. Their speech, which Inner City Press put online here, asked why if the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group has no evidence of support to al Shabaab, the sanctions remain in place?
  After the speeches, including by Libya, whose Ambassador Dabbashi cited a lack of communication, Iran and the Central African Republic, complaining about travel by the sanctioned, Inner City Press asked  Venezuela's Ambassador Rafael Ramirez, who as Council President presided on February 11, what happens now with the critiques: will the Panels and Groups of Experts have to answer? He said a text has been proposed.

   Inner City Press also asked Ramirez about this on February 2. Video here. As transcribed by

Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, we are hoping you will do question and answer stakeouts after Security Council consultations.  On the methods of work on the debate on the 11th – on Eritrea – you’re the chair of that committee. They say they should not be under sanctions because they’re not doing what they’re accused of doing. Now, in your national capacity, or as chair, what do you think of their argument?

Amb Ramirez: Thank you. Before anything else, I hope as president of the Security Council to interact with the press, because each time we come out of a meeting of the Security Council , there’s a healthy practice, we’ve always done it that way so we’ll do what’s possible without taking too much time.

With regard to Eritrea, I can’t put forward any national position on this, but it is specifically one of the points we wish to introduce on the debate on how we work.

The sanctions debates and committees, we as chair of the Somalia Eritrea committee and also the Darfur committee, we’ve promoted the idea that the countries under sanctions should speak to the Security Council members and be heard, and that including the countries of the region, they should have an opportunity to say how the sanctions are affecting individual countries and the region as a whole.

Eritrea is one of the most relevant examples in terms of these sanctions. We raised in the Security Council the idea that there should be a political goal, the sanctions committee should have a political goal, and they should move and evolve as the situation changes. In the horn of Africa the situation is changing on an accelerating basis. Somalia, Eritrea, they are affected by the advance of terrorist groups, al Shabaab and the war in Yemen, al Qaeda, which are destabilizing factors throughout the region. So they cannot, the sanctions committees cannot remain on the same track. They must evolve in line with the changing political situation in the region. Of course, we, and I believe nobody would like to see their own country under sanctions, or see any country under sanctions.

The sanctions committees are more definitive in nature than any tribunal on the planet. There are sanctions imposed and nobody can do anything about it. But we need to discuss this. We need to see if there’s any meaning to it, how we can help to ensure the peaceful solution of conflicts. Thank you for your question."

We'll be there, on February 11, to cover it. Will it be more participatory than usual? We'll see. On January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here.

Back on October 29, 2015 when the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea Sheila B. Keetharut and the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea Mike Smith held a press conference at the UN, Inner City Press asked them about the human rights impacts of sanctions on Eritrea, and about human trafficking. Video here.

  Keetharut said the sanctions are “specific” and do not have an impact. The basis of the statement was unclear. Smith said they were good questions but that he could not speak to sanctions. Who does?

  Well, the UN's Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed does, this week telling Inner City Press how exclusion from SWIFT makes it impossible for Iranian's to buy cancer medicine.

On October 26 when Idriss Jazairy, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights held a UN press conference, Inner City Press asked him about sanctions on Sudan and Eritrea, his proposal for a registry, and about the use of SWIFT to in essence impose sanctions. Tweeted photo here.

  Idriss Jazairy declined to comment on Eritrea, saying Security Council sanctions are being his jurisdiction. He was critical of unilateral measures on Sudan, which he said he will visit in November. He likened his registry proposal to that in place for conventional arms.

  On SWIFT, he said he its use makes it impossible, for example, for cancer patients in Iran to get medicine. Earlier on October 26, the past president of UNCA, now the UN Censorship Alliance, bragged about UN Rapporteur Ahdmed Shaheed's "preview" of his presentation on Iran, which Reuters later channeled without saying where Shaheed spoke. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the OHCHR spokesperson, who said he didn't know. We'll have more on this.

On October 20 when the UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez held a press conference, Inner City Press asked him for his view of the only partial release of the US Senate's report on CIA torture, about Guantanamo Bay and whether he thought President Barack Obama's visit to a prison might make his long-pending request to visit US prisons move faster. Video here.

   Mendez said there should be more release(s), and accountability. He said he had had to request the US' conditional offers to visit Guantanamo Bay and US prisons, as he would not be allowed to speak with all prisoners. He praise Obama's visit, but still - Mendez can't get in.

On October 16 when the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Benyam Dawit Mezmur held a press conference at the UN, Inner City Press asked him about US President Barack Obama's decision to continue to provide military aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, despite all four being on the UN's (and US') lists on children and armed conflict. Video here. 

    Benyam Dawit Mezmur said that while the US is the lone holdout on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the issue can still be gotten-at under the Optional Protocol. Inner City Press asked about the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by French and UN peacekeepers.

   Benyam Dawit Mezmur replied that the Committee is asking France about the alleged sexual abuse of children, and will conduct a review in January. We aim to have more on this.

  At the press conference, there were only two correspondents, as there was an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Palestine at the same time. Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked Benyam Dawit Mezmur for the briefing but suggested that in the future postponement of briefings, so that more journalists could attend, be considered. UNCA wasn't present at all; nor has it disclosed the extend of funding and connection by indicted David Ng and Frank Lorenzo and their affiliates.

 Also on the UN, when the UN find a staff member using the UN's email system to trafficking in sexual images of minors, a crime, what does it do? On October 16, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about this paragraph from a UN report it had dug up:

“49. A staff member sent, through the Organization’s e-mail system, pornographic material, including pornographic material involving a minor, and failed to report that another staff member had sent the staff member inappropriate material though the Organization’s e-mail system. Disposition: dismissal.”

  Inner City Press asked, was that all that happened, dismissal? Such that the person could, for example, work in a day care center? Haq said in instances the UN waives immunity.

  Inner City Press asked, how would law enforcement know that the person had used the UN's email system for child porn? Haq said there have been cases in which the UN told local authorities. Inner City Press asked, did it do so in this case? Apparently, the UN will not answer this. For now. Here are other paragraphs:

46. A staff member stored pornographic material, including pornography involving a minor, on the staff member’s United Nations computer, distributed other pornographic material through the Organization’s e-mail system and failed to report that another staff member had sent the staff member inappropriate material through the Organization’s e-mail system. Disposition: dismissal.

47. A staff member sent, through the Organization’s e-mail system, and stored on the staff member’s United Nations computer, pornographic material involving a minor and, on other occasions, distributed, through the Organization’s e -mail system, other pornographic material. Disposition: dismissal.

 48. A staff member sent, through the Organization’s e-mail system, pornographic material involving a minor and, on three other occasions, distributed other pornographic material through the Organization’s e-mail system and stored pornographic material on the staff member’s United Nations computer. Disposition: dismissal.

 The report is entitled "Practice of the Secretary-General in disciplinary matters and cases of criminal behaviour, 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.


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