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UN Undermines Justice Celebrating in Sudan While Soliciting Funds for Cambodia Court

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- With two senior UN officials set to attend the inauguration of indicted war criminal Omar al Bashir on May 27, the UN's approach to international criminal justice is being called into question.

Yet without irony on May 25 the UN's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien told a largely empty conference room of delegates they should fund the UN-assisted Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia because "we cannot contemplate the possibility of the trails faltering for want of financial support, that would strike a blow not only to the ECCC , but also to international criminal justice more broadly."

Having Haile Menkerios, recently named by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attend a ceremony celebrating Omar al Bashir, changed by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity and war crimes, strikes a blow to international criminal justice.

Inner City Press last week asked who if anyone would attend Bashir's inauguration for the UN, and the next day was told Ibrahim Gambari and Haile Menkerios. On May 25, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: ... particularly for Mr. Menkerios, who is solely a UN not AU employee, was this, did the Office of Legal Affairs, who essentially sort of authorized what seems to many to be a change of policy, even going back as far as, I mean, to have UN officials engage with an indicted, someone indicted for crimes of war is something new. And who signed off on that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: It’s just not true that it’s new. It’s just not true. The point is that both these gentlemen, Mr. Gambari and Mr. Menkerios, are appointed by the Secretary-General under a Security Council mandate to carry out a job in Sudan — in the case of Mr. Gambari jointly under the African Union, as you pointed out. Their job is to interact with the Sudanese Government. That’s their job, to ensure that the missions, the important missions, the large missions trying to do the work that you mentioned in the previous question; they interact. That’s obvious.

UN's Ban and Bashir, striking a blow to int'l criminal justice

Nesirky: And as the Secretary-General said yesterday, this is no more, no less than their participation in an event that carries political significance as well as being a ceremony. It has political significance, but crucially, they have a mandate to be there and to interact with the Sudanese authorities.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] keep contact at the high level such as the Secretary-General, I would assume Mr. Menkerios to a minimum necessary to carry out the operational functions, because, I mean, Human Rights Watch has said this is legitimizing, or really, minim… making a mockery of the fact that if somebody is indicted for war crimes and yet can meet openly and be celebrated by UN officials. Is that, what’s the Secretary-General’s response to that?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, Human Rights Watch are entitled to their view, and they do extraordinary work. The second thing is they have a job to do, large missions to run. They need to be able to interact with the Sudanese authorities and they have a mandate to do so.

  Nesirky then refused Inner City Press' follow up question, turning to another reporter, who asked about... Bashir. The questions will not go away.

Footnote: Also on May 25, Inner City Press asked staff of the US Mission to the UN if anyone would attend Bashir's inauguration for the US. When US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice appeared at the Security Council stakeout position, Inner City Press waited while she made statements about North Korea and Iran, when asked loudly, On Sudan, will anyone from the US attend Bashir's inauguration? Video here, from Minute 6:32. Ambassador Rice walked away, and the question has yet to be answered. Watch this site.

* * *

UN's Gambari, Menkerios to Attend Inauguration of Bashir, Who Supports UN's Radio

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 -- When indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir holds an inauguration on May 27 for having won the recent fraud and violence plagued election, two senior UN official will be in attendance: Haile Menkerios and Ibrahim Gambari, Inner City Press was told on Friday.

On May 20, Inner City Press asked the Spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Inner City Press: who from the UN system if anyone will be attending the inauguration of Omer Al-Bashir on 27 May? There has been a call by some human rights groups that various world leaders should not attend. Who is attending for the UN? Mr. Menkerios? Do you know?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: I’ll find out who has the invitation card.

Question: [So the UN is going to] go, I mean, there is no question?

Spokesperson Nesirky: That’s not what I said. I said I’ll find out where the invitation card, who received the invitation card. Those cards usually have an RSVP on them, and we can let you know how, whether there has been an RSVP.

On May 21 Nesirky's deputy Marie Okabe responded that both Menkerios and Gambari will attend, calling them "the senior UN officials on the ground... in contact with the host government regularly to ensure that their missions are able to function effectively." Video here, from Minute 5:16.

While the International Criminal Court makes UN interaction with Bashir controversial, this phrasing about contact necessary to run the UN missions is rationale for contacts. But how is attending the inauguration necessary?

Omar al Bashir speechifying, Gambari, Menkerios and ICC not shown

Also on May 21, Inner City Press asked the UN's Nesirky:

Inner City Press: The Minister of Communications of the South Sudanese Government, Paul Mayom, has criticised UN Radio Miraya for putting on rebel General [George] Athor and he said not only that he was wrong, he said I can stop it. He closed down the radio station for undermining stability in South Sudan. What does the UN think of his statement?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, we’re aware of the statements, and I know that my colleagues there on the ground have indeed been speaking to the Ministry concerned. It was the Regional Coordinator for Southern Sudan from UNMIS who had a meeting with the Minister of Information, and I am informed that they discussed, in a constructive manner, matters of mutual interest. And the Minister of Information expressed concerns about Radio Miraya and its coverage. And I am advised that these concerns are being addressed by the radio station. The point about this radio station is that it is committed to promoting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the culture of peace in Sudan with objectivity and professionalism.

Inner City Press: When you say it’s addressed, does the UN agree that it should not put on rebel, you know, renegade Generals like Mr. Athor, or are they going to continue to…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: What I said is that it’s being addressed.

Inner City Press: Oh, okay.

Spokesperson: Not that it has been addressed. Apologies if I misspoke. I thought I said these concerns are being addressed by the radio station.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] in terms of what the editorial policy of the UN radio station is to put on rebel…

Spokesperson: Well, this is a UN-sponsored radio station, not a UN radio station, as I understand it. But the point is that the coverage of the elections just as one example — but an important example — was marked by neutrality and professionalism, and as I have mentioned just now, a commitment to the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

While Ms. Okabe did not provide any further information on this on May 21, at the previous evening's reception for Cameroon's 50th anniversary of independence, Sudan's Permanent Representative to the UN told Inner City Press that the UN should put this anti-South Sudan government on the air.

And so the government of Omar al-Bashir, usually critical of the United Nations and of freedom of the press, is ironically supporting UN-affiliated Radio Mireya in its dispute with Southern Sudan for putting renegade general Athor on the air. And the UN's two most senior officials in Sudan will attend an indicted war criminal's inauguration. And so it goes.

* * *

Amid Sudan Deaths, Bashir Victory Declaration, Silence at UN, Disdain for Rebels

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- With Sudan's Omar al Bashir declaring victory in Sudan amid deadly clashes and kidnapped UN peacekeepers, in New York the UN Security Council, which had been scheduled to meet about Sudan, was silent Monday morning.

  The Council's schedule provided for a meeting about UNMIS, the UN Mission in South Sudan. Inner City Press was told that UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios would be present and take questions. But at this key moment, in the UN's basement, the Council sat empty.

  Over in the UN's three story North Lawn building, an Assistant Secretary General told Inner City Press that Bashir's 68% of the vote made him look more legitimate than "those countries where the leader claims ninety-eight percent."

  Is this why the UN is implicitly blessing the election? "This way we avoid violence," said the ASG. And the UN gets to stay in the country. But at what cost to its credibility?

   Moments later, a South African diplomat told Inner City Press his country's peacekeepers had been released. Just as Al Bashir said it would be: once the results -- and his winning -- were announced. As they say in legal Latin, res ipsa loquitur: the things speaks for itself.

On Friday, before al Bashir declared victory, Inner City Press asked the UN about violence:

Inner City Press: There are these reports of 50 civilians killed in South Darfur that I am sure, I believe, the UN has probably seen. There are also, it’s reported that Mr. [Djibril] Bassole was told by JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] that they believe the Government is about to begin another military assault in Darfur. What’s the UN doing, just as an update? Has it gone to Jebel Marra? Is it trying to investigate the death of civilians? And can you confirm JEM’s concerns?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, it’s not for us to confirm JEM’s concerns, of course. On the second part, UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has also received an unconfirmed report, but the mission has not received any reports that confirm signs of an imminent attack by the Government, or indeed the presence of the JEM in east and North Darfur. So, that’s the first bit, that we’ve heard these unconfirmed reports. We cannot, we have not received any reports that would confirm signs of an imminent attack.

And as for the violence in South Darfur that you are referring to, according to UNAMID, and you may wish to ask them for more details, but from what I understand, this was an incident on 20 April, and it involved inter-tribal violence, the details of which are a little sketchy, I would say. But its result, from what we know, according to UNAMID [is] 15 people killed, 24 injured. This also included Sudan border guard police, who were, according to UNAMID, ambushed in the course of this inter-tribal violence that I referred to. That’s pretty much what I have for you there. As I said, it may well be that UNAMID could provide you with more details.

UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari was meeting one on one with al Bashir, who telling promised to get the kidnapped UN peacekeepers from South Africa released. Reporting by Inner City Press indicates that the kidnappers are affiliated or aligned with Bashir's government. The UN has said nothing.

UN's Ban and Bashir, in previous handshake: repeated?

Insiders tell Inner City Press that Gambari would like Bassole to step down, so he could take over the Doha portfolio as well. Gambari was pushed out of his role in Iraq by UNAMI chief Ad Melkert. On Sudan he wants to consolidate his position. In New York he had told Ban, I can help with with GA President Ali Treki. He told Treki the same. Thus are careers made and preserved in the UN. But what about Darfur? What to make of the UN's and Council's silence?

Footnote: In front of the empty Security Council Monday morning were ambassadors of several developing countries, waiting for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement next door. The NAM recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon he has no jurisdiction over war crimes, should not follow through on his promise to name a panel on Sri Lanka. And Ban has not moved forward, reverting to meeting with the Sri Lankan attorney general and hoping, like Sudan's scam elections, that the issue fades away.

* * *

Amid Fraud in Sudan and Kidnapping by Bashir-Affiliated Militia, UN Cuts Off Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- With fraud exposed, on film, in the Sudanese election to which the UN provided technical assistance, and with four UN peacekeepers still missing in Darfur, apparently taken by a government affiliated militia, UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky on Tuesday cut off questions about Sudan and the election in favor of a press conference on Guatemala. Video here, from Minute 11:28.

  On April 19, when Inner City Press asked for a response to the view that the kidnappers of the UN peacekeepers are from a government-aligned militia, Nesirky dodged the question. On April 20, he simply did not take the question.

  Meanwhile, "UNAMID spokesperson Noureddine Mezni said, 'The Sudanese authorities know the identity of the kidnappers.'"

Consider that on the UN's own ReliefWeb site, it is reported that

"NYALA – A new group calling itself the Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur claims to have kidnapped four South African UNAMID peacekeepers in South Darfur. They want a ransom of an amount equivalent to half a million US dollars (a billion sudanese pounds) and the release of their 'detained leaders'... the group is part of the Irada Hura (SLM Free Will), a mixed group that signed a Declaration of Commitment after the Darfur Peace Agreemnent in Abuja. Their leader prof. Abdelrahman Musa died. The new leader, Ali Majok, was apparently appointed with support of the government and became a minister. But a faction within the group disagreed with his leadership. Adam Salih, another member of the faction, called for a meeting to contest the leadership. He formed in the meantime a new Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur."

Adam Salih, aka "Ahmad Salah Abubakr Abdallah" was previously associated with the "SLA Free Will" movement. The leader of the "Sudan Liberation Movement - Free Will faction had joined the national unity government" in 2008. "Aid agency sources say that SLA-Free Will is the creation of the GoS delegation in Abuja, whose goal is to split the rebels along tribal lines" [source]

"Ahmad Saleh, a Birgid, is a former SLA-Minni commander who joined SLA-Free Will in September 2006 and is believed to be close to the GoS" [source]

Amnesty International has implicated Adam Salih in "Janjaweed militia attacks"... [source]

  So were the UN peacekeepers taken by a government-affiliated militia?

  Is the UN not only "liaising" but negotiating with the government for their release?
Inner City Press, which has been asking the UN about its role in the re-election of indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, sought to proceed with the question, or to have Mr. Nesirky return to the rostrum after the Guatemala presentation. While Nesirky said, "Let's do that," he left the briefing and did not return. But the questions will continue. Watch this site.

From the UN's April 21 transcript, Inner City Press' questions and OSSG's Nesirky's responses:

Inner City Press: On Sudan, the missing or kidnapped peacekeepers in Darfur, it is now being reported that South African Government has been negotiating with the group and the group has said that they will release the peacekeepers once the election results are released in Darfur. There are also reports that this group, both by the name of its founder and otherwise, are a somewhat Government-supported militia. What I wanted to know is whether the UN has had any involvement in these discussions between the South African Government and the hostage takers or, and whether, what it would say to a trail of evidence that seems to indicate that the hostage takers are in fact in some way initially created by or affiliated with the Government of Sudan?

Spokesperson: I have mentioned here before that the UN is concerned for the well-being of the four people, the four South African peacekeepers who are missing. And I have also said that the UN has been liaising with the Government of Sudan and, as in other such cases, it’s the responsibility of the host Government to ensure the safe return of people in such circumstances. And beyond that, I don’t have any comment at the moment.

Question: Of the concern that this liaising, that in fact, I mean, there’s also been, a UNAMID Spokesman has said that the Government knows who the hostage takers are, so that’s why I am assuming that that’s a UN-wide position.

Spokesperson: At the moment…

Question: Is that a matter of concern to the UN; that the host Government is aware of and allegedly is connected to the hostage talkers, is that of some concern?

Spokesperson: At the moment, there are two things. One is that the overriding concern is, again, for our people on the ground. And for that reason, I don’t have anything further to say.

Question: But you will, I mean once they’re released maybe you will…?

Spokesperson: The whole aim of the game is for our colleagues to be returned safely.

 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.

* * *

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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