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Amid Fighting in Blue Nile & Bombs in Kordofan, UN Sticks to Routine

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 2 -- On the day Sudan pushed fighting into Blue Nile State, while being accused of bombing and using food as a weapon in Southern Kordofan, Inner City Press on September 1 asked the US and French delegations consulting on the UN Security Council's agenda for September if Kordofan was on it.

  "There's a meeting on Sudan," new US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told Inner City Press.

  "Will Kordofan be dealt with?" Inner City Press asked the French charge d'affaires Martin Briens. "We certainly hope so," he said.

  Later the President of the Security Council for September, Nawaf Salam of Lebanon, told Inner City Press that the hope is to deal with Kordofan during the pre-scheduled -- that is, regular and routine -- meeting on Sudan.

  To some it appears that Sudan has been downgraded on the Council's agenda, with the the interest in Syria and in trying to send a UN mission to Libya.

In May, Amb. Rice, Lyall Grant, Wittig & Araud. Now?

   But even in South Sudan, the death rate has escalated, at least in cattle fights, and the UN's own human rights expert there Benedict Sannoh was beaten by South Sudan police while lying on the ground. OHCHR has informed Inner City Press:

On Benedict Sannoh's injuries: he suffered what his hospital medical report described as 'a blunt trauma to the head,' as well as injuries to his back and legs. However, fortunately no bones are broken, and it looks like there will not be any permanent injuries. He was released from the UN hospital in Sudan after five days and is now recuperating outside the country.

  Wrong time to look away. Watch this site.

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UN Peacekeepers' Inaction in S. Kordofan Was "Ambiguous" and So It Was Edited Out, OHCHR Belatedly Tells Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Even before the UN peacekeepers in Southern Kordofan entirely stopped protecting civilians on July 9 upon the expiration of the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan, they were criticized for inaction on murders of people including their own employees in Kadugli in June.

When Inner City Press asked the Anglican bishop of Kadugli, he said that the UN peacekeepers had sided with government aligned militias.

With surprising candor, a draft UN report on Southern Kordofan, obtained and put online by Inner City, reported that

"29. On 8 June, an UNMIS independent contractor (IC) was pulled out of a vehicle by SAF in front of the UNMIS Kadugli Sector IV Compound in the presence of several witnesses, while UN peacekeepers could not intervene. He was taken around the corner of the compound and gunshots were heard. Later he was discovered dead by UNMIS personnel and IDPs."

When asked about the phrase "UN peacekeepers could not intervene," UN officials including now former Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Alain Le Roy emphasized that the report could still be changed.

When the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay finally issued the report, the line "UN peacekeepers could not intervene" had been entirely removed:

"17. On 8 June, an UNMIS individual contractor (IC) was pulled out of a vehicle by SAF in front of the UNMIS Kadugli Sector IV compound in the presence of several witnesses. He was taken away from the vicinity of the compound and gunshots were heard. Later he was discovered dead by UNMIS personnel and IDPs."

Inner City Press asked now former deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the deletion of the phrase and was told to "ask Navi Pillay."

  As Pillay and an entourage left the UN Security Council on August 19, Inner City Press stopped her and asked about edits. "She has an appointment," a staff member intervened. "We will e-mail you an answer."

   After waiting more than a week, Inner City Press sent this and other questions to Pillay's spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva. To his credit, Colville two days later sent an explanation, published in full here; on this edit he wrote:

"draft para 29 / final para 17: original phrase 'while UN peacekeepers could not intervene' is ambiguous. Does it mean they were not ABLE to? If so was that for circumstantial reasons, or because of rules of engagement? Or does it mean they chose not to? After checking with the field, we were unable to establish the precise circumstances, so the reference was deleted."

  For UN peacekeepers to fail to act during killings, important in this instance to no less that the Bishop of Kadugli and previously of interest from Srebrenica to Rwanda, should not be left ambiguous -- but it should definitely not by deleted, by the UN.

  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could and should have determined what were the rules of engagement for these UN peacekeepers, and should have addressed the allegations by the Bishop of Kadugli and others that the peacekeepers decided not to act because they sided with Khartoum and its militias.

  To delete the reference and airbrush out the peacekeepers is, in this view, entirely irresponsible.

   So too, some feel, has been Pillay's silence on the UN at least twice flying in a UN helicopter Southern Kordofan's governor Ahmed Haroun, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. In this context, to air brush out inaction by UN peacekeepers in the same geography appears even worse.

Ban & Pillay & Deputy Kang, Kordofan edits & comments on Haroun flights not shown

    Another edit involved moving where Sudanese Central Reserve Police moved arms from inside to outside of the UNMIS Protective Perimeter.

The draft:

"42. On 8 June, UNMIS Human Rights witnessed the movement of four armed men (two armed civilians and two Central Reserve Police) carrying weapons in and out of the UNMIS Protective Perimeter without any intervention from the UNMIS peacekeepers guarding the premises."

The "final"--

"30. On 8 June, UNMIS Human Rights witnessed the movement of four armed men (two armed men in civilian clothes and two Central Reserve Police) carrying weapons in and out of the IDP area situated outside the UNMIS protective perimeter."

Of this, Colville writes

"draft para 42 / final para 30: Change made because checking process suggested factual error regarding location of movement of arms, which in turn cast a very different light on behaviour of UNMIS troops."

  Beyond the seeming emphasis on exonerating the peacekeepers, one wonders even if the movement of arms by Central Reserve Police was "outside the UNMIS Protective Perimeter" but still witnessed by the UN, why did the UN not act, and was the peacekeepers' presence airbrushed out of the final report?

  Entirely taken out were two paragraphs about the Sudanese Red Crescent, since accused of filling mass graves and lighting the corpses on fire.

"53. As of the morning of 20 June, there were about 11,000 IDPs in and around the vicinity of the UNMIS Protective Perimeter, most of whom had come from Kadugli and its immediate environs. In an attempt to force these IDPs to return back to their homes, it is believed that National Security agents, donning Sudan Red Crescent vests, came to the UNMIS Protective Perimeter and requested all the IDPs to relocate to the Kadugli Stadium by 17:00 that same day where they would be addressed by state authorities on the security situation and where they would be provided basic services including shelter in schools. Human Rights verified this allegation through multiple interviews of IDPs within the UNMIS Protective Perimeter.

54. UNMIS Human Rights also observed a well known National Security agent wearing a Sudan Red Crescent reflective vest intimidating IDPs. When approached and questioned by UNMIS Human Rights the agent identified himself as a NSS agent and said he had received instructions from state-level authorities to move out IDPs from the UNMIS Protective Perimeter. IDPs interviewed said that they were informed by Sudan Red Crescent personnel that they must evacuate the Protective Perimeter by 16:00 and that they feared the Central Reserve Police would evacuate them forcibly if they did not leave the premises."

Of the deletion in full of these paragraphs, Colville writes:

"removal of draft paras 53-54: After fact-checking, we did not feel we could substantiate the allegations in these two paragraphs. This does not necessarily mean they were not true -- just that we did not have sufficiently solid evidence to include them at the time we finalized the report."

Has OHCHR gotten more information since it finalized the report? And what of the line that UN "Human Rights verified this allegation through multiple interviews of IDPs within the UNMIS Protective Perimeter"? Did these "multiple interviews" not take place? Did witnesses later recant? If so, why?

  OHCHR and the UN should still explain this, particularly in light of what has since come out about the Sudanese Red Cross, which President Al Bashir now says is the only group permitted to provide aid in Southern Kordofan.

  Colville, again to his credit, had more to say, including about other OHCHR reports about Abyei and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His full response about the report and edits is here.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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