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As Sudan's Bashir is Indicted, Spin and Real Wars Begin at UN and Beyond

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 4, updated -- On the day of indictment of Omar al-Bashir, a day so long expected, mis-predicted by the New York Times, the Ambassador of Liechtenstein booked the UN's briefing room for a victory press conference. Sudan's Mission to the UN responded with a counter-booking, the same room three hours later. As early at 9 a.m., an hour after the announcement, the DC-based Enough Project scheduled a conference call. [These are reviewed below on this page, as live-blog.]

  Inner City Press last month called out the Enough Project, for fetishizing the tail end of death in Darfur but doing nothing about the hot war in Sri Lanka. The Project's director responded online, explaining they follow their expertise.

  Sudan's Ambassador to the UN had pre-booked TV appearances. While he often walks alone, outside the Trusteeship Council chamber, on the day of his president's indictment he is a man in much demand. Inner City Press joked with him, today would be the day to sell advertising space on his national dress suit. "Coca-Cola," he said. How about... PetroChina?

Omar al-Bashir and Ban Ki-moon, UN information flow not shown

   At 8:31 a.m., it began, a press release emailed out by Human Rights Watch. At 9 a.m., the Enough Project's call began, in full self-congratulatory mode. Everyone who's been to Darfur knows that the government at the highest level was behind the attacks, said the first speaker. The noose around Bashir was described as including the president of Egypt, concerned about Islamism. Bashir's sins were enumerated to include supporting Saddam Hussein in both Gulf Wars. Finally one reporter asked, isn't this just Western justice?

   The Enough Project's legal expert puffed up the Sierra Leone court, in which he was involved, and even mentioned the just-starting Hariri Tribunal. He did not mention the corruption-plagued Cambodia genocide tribunal. The continuing and even increased rampages of ICC indictee Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army were not mentioned, nor the effect on future UN peacekeeping. Inner City Press asked about each, and will add a link later in the day. We will update this, endeavoring to live-blog reaction from the UN. Watch this space.

Update of 11:05 a.m. -- the Human Rights Watch press conference featured not only the ubuiquitous Dick Dicker of HRW, but also Niemat Ahmadi, whose CICC-distributed bio cites her award from President Bush. Inner City Press asked her if the leaders of JEM, acnkowledged by the UN as recruiting child soldiers, should be indicted. She said that "all Darfurian agree" that all wrongdoers should face justice. Somehow we doubt that.  In response to Inner City Press' question by the ICC hasn't done anything for example in Asia, Dicker said that North Korea, Myanmar and Sri Lanka haven't joined the ICC. But is HRW urging the Security Council to refer any of these cases?

  When Inner City Press asked if this won't have the effect of making it less likely that countries like Sudan will consent to UN Peacekeeping missions, since information can be shared with the ICC -- even confidential information withheld from defendants, as in the Lubanga case from the Congo -- Dicker said to asked the ICC Prosecutor and DPKO. The former has rebuffed questions, and DPKO has said to "ask OLA," the UN Office of Legal Affairs. But OLA chief Patricia O'Brien on March 3, in a rare press availability, said she would not answer any questions beyond the Hariri Tribunal, nor would she commit to any future media availability...

Update of 11:26 a.m. -- in the hallway outside the Security Council, Sudan's Ambassador walked by to be filmed by BBC. "That's a lot of cell phones you've got there," Inner City Press remarked, pointing at the two that he was holding. "Abdul Wahid in Paris, he has more phones," he replied. His deputy told Inner City Press that angry crowds are afoot in Khartoum and it's not clear what will happen. He could neither confirm nor deny that Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders is being thrown out of Sudan.

Update of 11:55 a.m. -- HRW's Dick Dicker, asked about Gaza, cited a figure of 3000 people killed. Less than an hour later in the same seat, Khouloud Daibes, Palestinian Minister for Women Affairs, told Inner City Press the figure is 1300 killed. The figure in Sri Lanka, just so far this year, is over 2000. It is not clear what the figure is in Darfur so far this year. With a UN mission in the region, perhaps a number should be expected?

Update of 1:01 p.m. -- chaos at the UN's noon briefing. Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas declines to say Ban calls on Sudan to turn over al-Bashir to the ICC. Reporters ask "why is Ban scared" to do what he has in other ICC cases, to call on governments to turn in indictees. Because Sudan did not sign the Rome Statute, Montas says. But in Resolution 1593, the UN Security Council called on Sudan to cooperate and comply with ICC rulings. A shaved-headed UN lawyer, David Hutchinson, takes the podium, dropping references to Cicero and serpentine. Now Montas says you could read Ban's statement as calling for Sudan's compliance. But she "will not go beyond the statement." And here comes Sudan's Ambassador....

Update of 1:25 p.m. -- Sudan's Ambassador says, "We are not going to be bound by" the decision, it's "not worth the ink it was printed with." He adds, about Human Rights Watch's earlier press conference, that he asked the Ambassador of Liechtenstein if he had, as reported, sponsored it, and says that the Ambassador of Liechtenstein said "no." When Inner City Press asks if the Government of Sudan would like JEM to be indicted, and if it thinks the UN peacekeeping missions shared information with the ICC. No, and "they deny it," he replies.

Update of 1:33 p.m. -- a correspondent / columnist from the New York Post asks, slyly, if indictment for war crimes will make Bashir more popular in the Arab and African world. Oh yes, Sudan's Ambassador says, it is a big opportunity for us.

Update of 1:47 p.m. -- Inner City Press asked how Sudan will use its chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China to address the indictment, and if the President of the General Assembly should be expected to weigh in on the matter. Sudan's Ambassador said "the PGA is expected in Sudan soon," and that the "vast majority" of member states support Sudan. When  Inner City Press asked twice for the status of indictees Harun and Kushayb, he answered that they will not be turned over, that France tried to bargain, turn those two over and Bashir can walk. To be continued.

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate esp. here on Darfur

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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