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At UN, Ban Stands By as Ali Treki Stands Behind Anti-Gay Comments, U.S. Yet to React

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Despite a vote in the UN last December supporting the decriminalization of homosexuality, not only the Libyan President of the General Assembly Ali Treki, but now also Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, refuse to follow through on that vote.

On September 18 in the UN briefing room, Ali Treki said homosexuality is "not acceptable." Inner City Press wrote the first, and for a time only, story about his comments, online with video links here. Soon, however, the quotes were picked up and denounced in the U.S. Congress, not only by Barney Frank of Massachusetts but also Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and by newspapers as far away as Australia.

  On October 2, Treki held his next press conference, and Inner City Press twice asked him to respond to the criticism of his remarked. "I answered before," Treki replied, I have no need to answer again. Video here. Then, speaking of the Goldstone report, he said that "a violation of human rights in any country concerns the whole of humanity."

  As Inner City Press told Treki, this is (for) news. Disparities between human rights pronouncements and their application to particular situations or groups of people seem newsworthy.

  When Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq took questions later on October 2, Inner City Press asked if the Secretariat had anything to say about homosexuality and human rights, whether there is a UN position on gay rights, and whether Ban Ki-moon thinks Treki's comments reflect well on the UN system. Video here, from Minute 18:52.

  The UN has no specific position expressed by member states, Mr. Haq said. And he and the Secretary General will have no comment on the President of the General Assembly's publicly stated position. Haq added that Ban supports the human rights of everyone.

  Afterwards, it was explained to Inner City Press that the Secretariat's Office of Legal Affairs had provided Ban with a memo that last December's meeting on the decriminalization of homosexuality, sponsored in the first instance by France and the Netherlands but supported by Argentina and others, is just "a declaration by a member state in a formal meeting" and does not have the legal status of a resolution of the General Assembly.

  Even if one accepts this legal(istic) argument, nothing precluded or precludes the UN Secretariat from taking a position of principle. Nothing has been said for two weeks. And now?

UN's Ban and Treki open GA, gays and human rights not shown

  To some, the UN Secretariat's dodging of the issue is reminiscent of Ban Ki-moon's first day as Secretary General, when in response to a question about the execution of Saddam Hussein, Ban said that the UN has no position on the death penalty. He later amended that answer. It is noted that Ban travels the globe, city after city, including those with significant gay populations.

  Others wonder why, for example, not only the French but also U.S. Missions to the UN have had no response to Treki's public comments two weeks ago. One wonders if, from the left and right, Frank and Ros-Lehtinen are asking the U.S. Mission to the UN to say or do anything. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Gays Called Touchy by Assembly Chief, Dodging on Swiss and Libyan Payments

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- In a surreal press conference on September 18, the new Libyan president of the UN General Assembly Ali Abdussalam Treki veered from refusing to answer a question about his country's recent proposal to cut Switzerland into three parts because it is not on the Assembly's agenda to favoring the criminalization of homosexuality despite a General Assembly vote to the contrary only last year. Video here, from Minute 29:53.

  Inner City Press asked Treki, twice, about Libyan President Qaddafi's letter to the UN proposing the dismemberment of Switzerland, reportedly due to Qaddafi's son being arrested in the country for abusing domestic workers. Video here, from Minute 7:20.

   Treki answered that "I am not going to answer questions out of my capacity as chairman of the General Assembly's Sixth Forth session." Video here from 11:45.

  But when Treki was asked about the vote in the General Assembly last year urging the decriminalization of homosexuality, he was not as restrained or diplomatic. He said "that matter is very sensitive, very touchy. As a Muslim, I am not in favor of that... it is not accepted by the majority of countries." This last would seem to contradict the vote in the General Assembly last year.

  Treki continued that some countries allow homosexuality, "thinking it a kind of democracy... I think it is not." While basing his statement on Islam -- he said there are "two billion" Muslim in the world -- he also said that "probably Jewish and Buddhist and Hindu" communities are against it. Video here, from Minute 29:53. Of course if it is raised in the 64th session, he conceded, the Assembly members will have to decide.

  Strangely, even 24 hours after Treki's statements, in a not badly attended press conference at the UN, captured by UN TV, not a single article yet in Google News -- until this one -- mentioned Treki and gay or homosexual. Perhaps the positions are to be expected, at the UN. [The UN's write up of the press conference omitted the Switzerland question entirely, and sanitized the gay answer to one line, here.] Perhaps news editors are already looking to what they hope will be freakish events, statements and meetings in next week's General Assembly meeting. But it has already begun...

Footnote: Inner City Press has asked Treki's spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo how many people in Treki's Office of the President of the General Assembly will be paid by the Libyan government. Mr. Nkolo returned the next day to say that none would be paid by Libya. Inner City Press asked if Treki will be paid by Libya this year. Nkolo repeated again and again that past practice will be followed, without answering the question. He has committed to answer it going forward. From the UN's September 16 transcript:

Inner City Press: Mr. Treki himself, will he be compensated by Libya during this year or will he receive no compensation? How is he actually going to be paid this year?

Spokesperson: The work and the treatment of the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly will not be different from past practice and ongoing procedures in the United Nations.

Inner City Press: Does that mean that his native country will be paying him? That’s all I am asking.

Spokesperson: It only means that what Mr. Treki will be doing and the context into which he will be working will not be different from what has been going on and from what is in line with the budgetary and United Nations practices as we know them.

Correspondent: Not everybody knows them.

Inner City Press: Yeah. And there have been differences…

Spokesperson: Then I’ll come back to you and provide them to you.

Watch this site.  Click here for story on Treki from June 2009.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN Has No Comment on Prison Labor, New GA President Will Not Explain

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- The UN at all levels demonstrates blindness with respect to Sri Lanka, from the use of prison labor in the now emptied out north to even recognizing the name of the country. Incoming General Assembly president Ali Abdussalam Treki of Libya on Friday took questions from the Press.

  Inner City Press asked him about two countries, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. To the latter, Libya agreed to a $500 million loan, to make up for the $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund delayed by reports of mistreatment of civilians. Inner City Press asked Treki, since Libya was among those blocking Security Council action, if he could imagine Sri Lanka being taken up in the General Assembly, as Myanmar has been. Video here, from Minute 17:46.

  Ali Treki latched on to the Myanmar part of the question, praising the UN's envoy to that country Ibrahim Gambari, whom he said he knew when Gambari was the foreign minister of the Sani Abacha administration in Nigeria. He said he would meet with Gambari on Friday afternoon to get a report about Myanmar. About Sri Lanka, Treki said nothing, then moved on to another questioner.

  Inner City Press followed up, asking why Libya didn't view the conflict in Sri Lanka as impacting international peace and security. Treki said it "interests the world, the human rights aspect," but that what "Asia says is very important, they tell us if what goes on in Myanmar" effects peace and security. Video here, from Minute 19:39.

   So had Treki simply refused to answer about Sri Lanka? He will be president of the UN General Assembly from September 2009 through August 2010.

UN's Ban and Libya's Ali Treki, action on Sri Lanka and prison labor not shown

   Meanwhile at the UN's noon media briefing on June 12, asked Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson Michele Montas had read out a statement that access to the camps in Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka is getting better and new camps are being built -- internment camps, with UN money -- Inner City Press asked for the UN's response to Sri Lankan authorities' statement that they will use prison labor in the north.

  Ms. Montas said "no comment at this point, maybe later we will see how the issue is being discussed." Video here, from Minute 18:39.

    Later Ms Montas' office sent Inner City Press the following response:

Subj: Response from OCHA on your question at the noon briefing
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 6/12/2009 12:43:56 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

On use of prison labour in reconstruction in Sri Lanka, we have not heard these allegations and have no information.

   Apparently, the UN's "close monitoring" of Sri Lanka doesn't even read the news from Colombo, with quotes from government officials:

Prison inmates to be deployed for the redevelopment process in Sri Lanka's North

Thu, Jun 11, 2009, 11:51 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 11, Colombo: Sri Lanka government is planning to deploy prison inmates for the redevelopment process in the liberated areas of the North.

Prison Commissioner General, Major General V.R Silva told the media that this would be an appropriate decision to develop the liberated areas in North.

According to statistics there are nearly 30,000 inmates are in the prisons at the moment. Most of them are able bodied people with various skills, he added.

    Yes, the skills of those in jail, including for violent crime, are those the Sri Lankan government is unleashing in the north. And the UN? They "have not heard these allegations and have no information." Watch this site.

  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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