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UN Conflicted on Drone Deaths, Unaware of Karzai Censorship, Cambodia Impunity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- Despite its asserted importance in Afghanistan, the UN was not aware Monday of the Hamid Karzai government's outlawing and censoring of media coverage of Taliban attacks.

   Inner City Press asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was on Monday in Hollywood, what Mr. Ban or the UN thought of the restrictions. "I'll need to look into it," Mr. Nesirky said. Video here, from Minute 45:55.

  Last week Karzai unilaterally struck down the UN's role in the Electoral Complaints Commission, and when Inner City Press asked, Mr. Nesirky referred only to some mirky UNAMA statements. Perhaps Karzai was thus emboldened to censor the media.

The UN's expert on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, on Monday praised U.S. and ISAF forces for imcreasing their safeguards against killing civilians, including children.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Coomaraswamy how this assessment squares with the killing by the U.S. on February 21 of 27 civilians in Uruzgan Province. Video here, from Minute 33:26.

  Ms. Coomaraswamy nodded and said she had met with General McCrystal the very next morning. She said the U.S. has good better at announcing investigations and apologies, but that the next steps will be remediation and accountability. But when will that be?

UN's Ban and di Mistura and Karzai, censorship not shown (or UN covered)

  Just as the UN paid lip service to freedom of the press, but had nothing to say as that freedom was eliminated by its "partner" Hamid Karzai, so Mr. Nesirky also on Monday said that the purpose of tribunals with the UN-affiliated one in Cambodia is to ensure accountability. Video here, from Minute 44:14.

  But in light of government interference, there is a call for Mr. Ban to appoint an Assistant Secretary General to try to "save" the Cambodian court.

  There is already a UN Under Secretary General, Patricia O'Brien, ostensibly responsible for the UN's interface with the Cambodian tribunal. At a rare press conference by Ms. O'Brien, Inner City Press sought to ask about the Cambodia court, but Ms. O'Brien declined to answer.

  Monday Inner City Press asked that she come and provide a briefing not only about Cambodia, about also the UN's Hariri tribunal, and certain other matters. We'll see.

Footnote: Across from UN headquarters on Monday morning, protesters held signs begging the UN to make the Bangadesh miilitary end Operation Uttaran, which has resulted in the death of civilians in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

  At Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Nesirky about the protest, which also called for the UN Development Program to suspend a program in the area. Mr. Nesirky said he was not aware. Video here, from Minute 43:35. We'll be waiting to see what the UN says -- and does. Watch this site.

Update: after preparation of the above, five hours after the question was raised, the UN provided this answer:

In reference to your question on Bangladesh from today's Noon Briefing, to which Martin said he'd look in to... The United Nations system in Bangladesh is closely monitoring the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and hopes that all will unite to help the recovery from this tragedy in a spirit of peace for the greater good of the nation. Also, the United Nations stands ready to provide targeted assistance to those in need, in close collaboration with the Government.

   But isn't that the problem? Watch this site.

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After "Looter" Killed in Chile, Others Tear Gassed, UN Official Barcena Claims There's "No Violence"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- In the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile, authorities fired tear gas and water cannons at people seeking to enter stores and supermarkets. According to the BBC, one "looter" was shot dead and 160 arrested; the items being taken were not only food but "plasma TVs and other electrical appliances."

Of course, this does not imply mass criminality, or systematic government repression. But when long time UN official Alicia Barcena briefed the Press at UN headquarters by phone at noon on March 1, and Inner City Press asked her about the government's use of tear gas and water cannons, she answered, "What is looting?" Video here, from Minute 15:20.

Inner City Press explained, when people go inside broken open stores, and in this case get shot at with tear gas and water cannons. Oh no, Ms. Barcena said, "there has not been any violence... no violence between the army and the people, none at all."

Tell that to the man shot and killed, or those fired on with tear gas. It would be one thing for the UN to say that the level of violence, other than the death, has been minimal in their view, or proportional. But hours after a person was shot and killed to providing a briefing that "there has not been any violence" is something else.

The UN has taken on the role of criticizing the media for reporting on looting, in Haiti and now Chile. The UN wants the images to be more positive, and so, in this case, its officials misspeak. This undermine the UN's duty of reporting on human rights, which include the rights of alleged looters, killed or gassed by the government.

 While this case involves ignoring the shooting -- summary execution? -- of a single "looter," the principle of denying what takes place extends to the UN in the Congo, in the person of scandal plagued envoy Alan Doss, denying that civilians are killed by UN-supported troops of the Congolese Army.

Armed Chilean soldier patroling, shot "looter" not shown

The UN wants and in some sense needs to get along with governments where it works. But this can contradict with its role and goal of being a credible human rights reporter, or being credible more generally.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Barcena about rumors the President Bachelet might stay on past March 11. Barcena said no, only her emergency coordinator Carmen Fernandez would stay on.

  Strangely, while still the sitting Chilean president, Ms. Bachelet has been listed as a UN (or UNIFEM) representative in Haiti. No matter how much one may like or respect Ms. Bachelet, it would seem that the UN should not be giving positions to sitting heads of state. But what do we know?

In fact, now Ms. Bachelet is being tipped for the newly created Under Secretary General for women's affairs post. Could this explain the counter-factual claim that there's been "no violence" by the Army against civilians, even "looters," under her watch?

 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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