UN Marks Baghdad Bombing, Of Mercenaries and Silence on Internment
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 19 -- As the bombing of the UN in Baghdad, and the
first World Humanitarian Day, are marked at the UN in New York, many
unanswered questions remain. Has the UN really improved and
depoliticized its security? The subsequent deadly bombing of the UN
in Algeria tends to show that no, the UN still puts its staff in
harm's way in order not to offend host countries like Algeria.
Meanwhile, the UN's ham-handed approach to security reportedly
involves private military contractors. Last week Inner City Press
City Press: Two sets of questions: mercenaries and nepotism. On
mercenaries, can you confirm that the UN in Iraq is signing an
agreement with a private military contractor called Aegis that’s
been accused of killing civilians, and also, that Mr. [Gregory B.]
Starr, the new head of the DSS [Department of Safety and Security],
was the official responsible for extending the contract with
Blackwater while he was with the United States State Department?
Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I have nothing on either one of those, so
we’d have to look into that for you.
But, I mean, does the UN in Iraq use private military contractors
–- that’s my…?
Spokesperson Okabe: I have to look into that for you.
when the UN
finally answered, the wider question of its use of private military
contracts was ignored; only Aegis was denied.
UN's Ban and bombing victims
your question on Iraq
From: unspokesperson-donotreply at un.org
Inner City Press
8/17/2009 11:37:03 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
checked with UNAMI and the Mission have had no contractual
arrangements with Aegis nor it currently plans to enter in any
contractual arrangement with Aegis.
tell Inner City Press that "a few days before David Venness was
replaced the UN country team for Iraq had a closed meeting at the
Movenpick Dead Sea (a favorite venue for UN conferences) to discuss
new security arrangements, and definitely at that time they were in
advanced negotiations with a major security contractor, probably
Aegis. UNAMI has employed other security companies in Iraq - e.g.,
Triple Canopy, I believe -- during the 2006 elections to provide
armed security for UN poll observers who, of course, were prevented
by their armed escorts from observing anything too closely."
World Humanitarian Day, the UN is for example funding internment
camps in Sri Lanka which are now flooded. Inner City Press asked for
the UN's response, including to the government's accusation that the
sewage backup is the UN's fault, but so far still no answer from the
UN. World Humanitarian Day? Watch this space.
Update of 10:41 am
-- several minutes after the promised 10:29 am memorial, it happened,
in a rush. Ad Melkert was there, and French Ambassador Ripert. Ban
rushed across the lobby to the World Humanitarian Day event, complete
with the screening of a public service announcement by OCHA. But still
no statement or action on the internment camps it funds in Sri Lanka
being flooded, the IDPs trapped amid sewage...
Update of 10:59 a.m.
-- after the screening of the PSA, Ban went to sign the reception book
for the photo exhibition. Tourists who'd come for a UN tour milled
about. One journalist snarked, "How lame Ban doesn't take questions,"
and reported asking a tourist what they thought of their luck to be
here on this morning and see the S-G. The tourist shrugged. Still, it
seemed that the humanitarian questions, for example the flooded
internmetn camps, should be addressed by one of these UN officials.
Present in the lobby, in Ban's entourage, were Vijay Nambiar, Bob Orr,
Kim Won-soo, and Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe. Watch this site.
Ban Slammed by Norway's Juul, on Burma and Sri Lanka Trips, Should
Oslo Be Canceled?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 19 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon returned to
New York after ten days in South Korea, soon to turn around and visit
Norway by the end of the month, he was confronted by an embarrassing
in the Norwegian foreign ministry of Deputy Permanent
Representative Mona Juul's unflattering assessment of his "failed"
trips to Myanmar and Sri Lanka, his flying into rages and ineffective
That Ms. Juul is also the spouse of Ban's Under Secretary
General Terje Roed Larsen makes the criticism all the more telling.
What will Ban Ki-moon do?
Ban was in
South Korea, a month after Myanmar's Senior General Than Shwe refused
to allow him a meeting or photo op with democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi, precisely such a visit was allowed to U.S. Senator Jim Webb.
When Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe was asked by Inner City
Press and others if Ban
had any comment on Webb's more successful
visit -- he also left the country with another Suu Kyi visitor, John
Yettaw, freeing him from seven years of hard labor -- Ms. Okabe
tersely said no, no comment. Later her Office issued a "response
to questions at the noon briefing" begrudgingly acknowledging
the Webb visit.
At UN, Mona Juul (at left), Ban and trips not shown
Sri Lanka has gotten even worse. During his visit in late May, he
smiled as Tamil children imprisoned by the government in UN funded
camps at Manik Farms were forced to sing his name. Now, those camps
have become flooded, including with raw sewage. The government blames
the UN, and Ban's UN has said nothing.
is the purpose
of Ban's planned August 31 visit to Norway? Should it not now be
called off, and Team Ban get back to their actual mending work --
including addressing the proliferating nepotism and corrupt hiring
scandals -- at the
* * *
UN Silent on Flooding of Sri Lankan Camps, Aid Groups Plead
for Release of IDPs
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 18 -- While the UN refuses to address the flooding
the Manik Farms detention camps it built and is funding in Sri Lanka,
the aid groups while offer serves there have petitioned not only the
government but also the UN to at least release those imprisoned there
before the September monsoon season. The UN has said nothing. At the UN's
noon briefing in New York on August 17, Inner City Press asked
City Press: Over the weekend there was this flooding of the UN-funded
camps, quite bad, and the Government has actually blamed the UN for
it, has said the UN was responsible for building the camps and for
sewage and which is now backed up and has now filled up the tents. Does
the UN have any response either to what it’s going to do to
solve this problem and also to being blamed by the Government for the
Spokesperson Montas: We’ll try to get you something from OCHA. I
don’t have anything from them this morning.
the 30 hours
later, the UN has provided no statement and no response, even to the
appeal from aid groups, that
fear that once the monsoon rains set in after September there is
significant likelihood of a major humanitarian catastrophe.
Increasingly there is an overwhelming consensus amongst health,
shelter and water experts that significant adverse monsoon conditions
will develop in IDP sites that are well beyond the present capacity
of aid agencies and the government response.
and Drainage Monsoon flooding and wind will expose structural
limitations, destroying or damaging the majority of shelters.
Additionally inadequate drainage will increase the risk of disease,
whilst the resultant water logging will severely restrict vehicle
access and hamper interventions to maintain and repair shelters in
Flooding will contaminate food supplies and render communal cooking
areas unusable, whilst wet firewood will mean that people are unable
to cook for themselves. This could lead to serious food shortages and
malnutrition among an already vulnerable population.
and Sanitation Effluent and excreta will flood many areas of the
camps contaminating drinking and bathing water and intensifying the
risk of epidemics of life-threatening water-borne diseases, such as
cholera, typhoid and diahorrea. Many sanitation and water
purification facilities will have to be disconnected as a health and
safety measure, threatening the viability of other essential
facilities such as shelter.
Flooding will make access roads impassable preventing food, dry
clothes, life-saving medicines, and essential machine parts for
restoring water and other essential aid services from reaching the
affected IDP population.
breakdown of services in these four vital areas, we believe, will
create an unparalleled health risk threatening many thousands of
Flooding in the internment camps: what is floating in the water?
increasingly believe that from a technical and logistical
perspective, the present high concentration of people in such a
vulnerable site as Menik Farm is unworkable, unsustainable and beyond
the collective capacity of Humanitarian Agencies, the UN and the
Government to manage in a way that would guarantee the safety and
security of the IDP population.
therefore urge the government and the UN to consider additional
response strategies to ensure the health and well-being of the IDPs,
accelerated resettlement programme for Menik Farm IDPs under the
government’s present 180–day program.
a host family programme for thousands of IDPs who have access family
in nearby areas. We believe as many as 50% of camp residents have
relatives they can stay with during the monsoon.
hope that you will give serious consideration to these proposals and
we wish to reaffirm to you our common humanitarian concern and
there has as of
yet been no response. It appears that top UN humanitarian John Holmes
is out of the loop -- his deputy Catherine Bragg is representing OCHA
on the first humanitarian day event at the UN on August 19 -- while
representative Amin Awad has appeared to excuse the government's
and torture of UN staff. WFP has
reportedly used Sri Lanka as the dumping place
for employees it should have disciplined -- click here
for Inner City Press' story.
Conditions in the camps
have gotten so bad that there is talk of an attempt to break out to
survive -- or to be killed by the government. This is a low point for
human rights, for the UN and humanitarian law. And it just keeps
* * *
Sri Lanka, UN Funds Now Flooded Internment Camps, Still Silent on ACF
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 16 -- As the Sri Lankan government conducts
extraordinary renditions and declares itself the winner of elections
in Jaffna, weeks after it cleared itself and declared over an
investigation into killings including of 17 Action Contre La Faim
aid workers, the UN in New York still has nothing to say.
Press on August 10 asked Deputy UN Humanitarian chief Catherine Bragg
about the ending of the investigation into the slaughter of the 17
ACF workers. Ms. Bragg said that "we have only seen bits and
pieces of the report... we would like to ask the government for the
whole report." One wag asked, you'd like to ask the
government -- but have you? another week has passed, and still the UN
has said nothing.
internment camps that it funds are flooded, and the government blames
the UN, one expects the UN to belatedly speak out this week. Back on
August 10, Ms. Bragg was more decisive is answering that from the
government's detention camps, the "rate of return is very low"
and that the government should "allow freedom of movement."
But the UN keep raising money for the internment camps. So why should
the government change what it is doing? In fact, the government now
blames the UN for the flooding.
Flooded camps in Sri Lanka, government blames UN
asked UNICEF to "describe and quantify UNICEF's work in the IDP
camps, described as without freedom of movement for IDPs, in Northern
Sri Lanka, including what if anything UNICEF is doing to ensure that
its assistance is not supporting a violation of international law and
human rights, the involuntary confinement of IDPs." After two
days, UNICEF replied that "we have contacted our country office
for information on those questions. We will get back to you as soon
will report the
response upon receipt. So too the upcoming return to the UN of Sri
Lanka's new Ambassador, Palitha Kohona. Despite his hard to
understand statement this year that the UN's High Commissioner for
Human Rights Navi Pillay somehow did not represent the UN system in
her criticism of his government, Kohona previously served as the head
of UN's Treaty Section. At that time, sources tell Inner City Press,
Kohona was not Sri Lankan, but rather a citizen of Australia. Expect
ever greater contentiousness. Outgoing Ambassador H.M.S Paliakara
stopped to say goodbye to Inner City Press, saying he is off to write
his memoirs. We'll wait to fact check them.
August 12, Inner
asked about extraordinary rendition, a topic on which the UN system
has spoke in other circumstances:
City Press: Sri Lanka has arrested, either in Malaysia or in
Thailand, it’s unclear, an opposition leader Mr. (Patmen?), also
known as KP. [inaudible] may extraordinary rendition, i.e.,
he was arrested, there was no extradition trial and now he is back in
the country. Has the UN said, some people say he’s been tortured
but, does the UN have anything to say about that?
Spokesperson: I don’t think we’ve received ay reports on that,
but we’ll look into that for you.
been provided, even though a senior Ban advisor from the 38th floor
unprompted told Inner City Press that they had been expecting the
question about Pathmanathan and extraordinary rendition. And so it
goes with the UN.
City Press' June 18 debate on Sri Lanka, click here
4 in the UK with allegations of rape and
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
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