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On Darfur, UN's Questionable Role Paying Pro-Bashir Rebel UNaddressed in 4 Speeches

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- When Ban Ki-moon was named UN Secretary General by, in essence, the United States and China, he declared Darfur one of his top priorities. What has happened since?

Now, Darfur's largest rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement is out of the "final" peace process in Doha. It has been replaced by a formation led by former UN staff member Al Tijani Al Sissi Ateem, who drew UN pay while a self proclaimed pro government rebel leader.

Inner City Press, which exposed the double dipping or double service asked Mr. Ban if this did not violate UN rules and undermine the UN's credibility or at least impartiality. I'm not sure what you mean, Mr. Ban replied. Exactly.

On June 14, Ban's two envoys to Sudan, Ibrahim Gambari and Haile Menkerios, came to brief the Security Council. Ban had sent both to attend the celebratory inauguration of Omar al Bashir, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Asked if this didn't promote impunity, Ban said that their attendance was somehow necessary for them to carry out their work.

Joining the two envoys were joint UN - African Union negotiator Djibril Bassole, who recruited Al Tijani Al Sissi Ateem from his post at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa to come as a sudden rebel leader to Doha, all the while paid by the UN.

UN in Darfur, in the weed, payments to Astro-Turf rebel not shown

  The UN has referred all questions about this to ECA in Addis Ababa, which claims not to have known of his service of Bassole in Doha. The UN has refused to say who speaks for Bassole.

Perhaps we'll find out on June 14. A Council member's spokesperson said what's expected from the meeting are mere "elements to the press" -- less than a Presidential Statement, not even a formal press statement. To this has Darfur fallen in today's UN.

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On US Attendance at Bash for Bashir, Sudan Dip Says Needs No Outsiders (But China)

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- With international justice being called for in Kampala and about Gaza, Inner City Press on Memorial Day asked Sudan's Ambassador to the UN which junior US diplomat attended the inauguration of Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for Darfur, and what it meant.

  "I am not that interested in that," Sudan's Permanent Representative said. "The Sudanese people celebrated, not waiting on any outsiders to come and give us legitimacy." Video here, from Minute 2:02.

  Off camera, he has bragged to the Press that "China sent a high level delegation... a minister."

The attendance by the U.S., however, has given rise to sharp critiques of the Obama administration and its envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. The US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice was not present for Monday's emergency Security Council meeting about the assault on the flotilla to Gaza, and so could not be asked.

  Last week, she walked away from the stakeout microphone as Inner City Press asked if the US would be represented at any level at Bashir's inauguration.

  During hours of milling around outside the Council about Turkey's draft Presidential Statement about the flotilla, Sudan's Ambassador tried to turn the focus repeated to the ICC. Israel, he said, is "writing the Kampala communique."

  Inner City Press pointed out that Israel is not a state party to the ICC. Nor is the U.S., despite sending a representative to the Kampala conference on the crime of aggression.

Sudan's Ambassador and ICC's Ocampo, flotilla and US in Khartoum not shown

The question of the day outside and inside the Council was who would investigate the assault on the flotilla -- Israel itself, or the UN? Some began talking of a "Goldstone Two."

 Sudan's Ambassador, responding to Inner City Press, brought it full circle. The UN's Ban Ki-moon, he said, should condemn the flotilla attack and should provide an update on earlier investigations, in the destruction of UNRWA premises and schools. Mr. Ban, of course, sent his two top Sudan envoys to Bashir's inauguration. So we'll see.

* * *

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.

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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.

 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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