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At UN, Full Secrecy for Host Country Committee under Cyprus, No More Summaries of Visa Complaints by Nicaragua, Iran

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The UN has become even less transparent in the past three years. Take for example the Host Country Committee, which deals with complaints about the treatments of diplomats in their missions by the United States. In 2007, Inner City Press attended the committee and wrote about it.

  In 2008, Chairman Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus barred Inner City Press, but allowed the UN itself it issue a press release summarizing the meeting. Mavroyiannis also offered to do a press briefing summarizing the Committee's work.

  On September 1, 2010, Inner City Press went to a meeting of the Host Country Committee. Before it began, Inner City Press was asked to leave. The new chairman, Mavroyannis' successor as Cypriot Ambassador, Minas Hadjimichael, came over and said that instead of opening the meetings to the independent press, the decision had been made to discontinue even the UN's own press releases.

Who made the decision? The Committee by consensus -- that is, without a vote. Inner City Press stood outside the meeting, asking those who came out after the thirty minute session what had transpired inside. Some said it was boring: oral complaints by Nicaragua about denied visas, written complaints along with same lines by Cuba and Iran. Why then make it secret?

Minas Hadjimichael, access to or summary of Host Country Committee not shown

  Committee secretary Surya Sinha told Inner City Press he will dig up the citations justifying the exclusion of the Press. Would a request from the media to attend be taken up by the Committee? No, was the answer. The request would have to come from one of the 19 countries which are members of the Committee. One member told Inner City Press they will raise it next time. We'll see. Watch this site.

Footnote: Ironically, while Hadjimichael claims that the meetings are closed so that problems can be solved, it was the Press which by asking got the UN to urge the US to loosen travel restrictions on those from Iran, Belarus and others. So who is served by the Committee's secrecy?

* * *

As US Restricts UN Staff to 25 Miles from NY, UN Complains, After Press Asks

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The United States, which is required to allow entry by diplomats from countries like Iran, Cuba and Belarus to attend the United Nations in New York, requires these diplomats to register and seek permission to travel more than 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

But recently Inner City Press learned that the U.S. has been imposing the same restriction on UN staff members from such countries, despite the fact that UN staff are deemed to be international civil servants, not working for the countries where they were born. (In fact, some such UN staff are opponents of their governments.)

On August 19, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about this:

Inner City Press: It’s come to my attention that there are UN staff members from countries that are on United States sanctions lists that, whereas diplomats from these countries are precluded from travelling beyond 25 miles outside of New York without getting permission of the State Department, that there are UN staff members that, although they are international civil servants, are similarly being required to check with the State Department to travel beyond 25 miles. I think that there are Under-Secretaries-General aware of their staff members in this situation. I wanted to know whether the Secretariat believes it’s appropriate that UN staff members who are international civil servants, not working for their underlying Government, are subject to this restriction. Why hasn’t the Secretariat fought for the rights of its staff members right here in the United States?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Where you’re sitting now is not in the United States, Matthew.

Inner City Press: No, no, I understand. I’m saying that the State Department, in granting the G-4 visa, has imposed the condition that these individuals, UN staff members…

Spokesperson Nesirky: No, I heard what you said, but I need to find out. I don’t have anything for you on that. But thanks for the question and we’ll look into it.

Inner City Press asked the question because it was aware of situations in which UN Under Secretaries General threw up their hands and said nothing could or would be done.

UN's Ban looking up at Obama, restrictions on UN staff not shown

  But when the UN answered Inner City Press' question, here is what they said:

Subject: Your question on immunities for UN staff
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>

I can confirm that, in answer to your question, we have the following response:

"The United Nations Secretariat has indicated to the United States Government its position of principle concerning the treatment of its staff solely on the basis of their nationality and has requested that all travel restrictions be removed by the host country as soon as possible."

On September 1, Inner City Press asked when it was that the UN “indicated to the U.S. government its position of principle.” No answer was given -- some assume because the UN only belatedly raised the issue to the U.S. government AFTER the question was raised. 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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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