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On Haiti, UN Fetes Itself, Ignores Call for Cholera Indictment, Immunity Withdrawal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 11 -- While the UN congratulates itself on its reactions in Haiti, it dismisses all criticism, including from Haitian women's NGOs, and has refused so far to remove the diplomatic immunity (or impunity) of a UN staff members whom a Haitian judge wants to question about the hanging death of a Haitian teenager inside a UN base.

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky on Tuesday whether Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will in fact revoke the immunity of UN interpreter Joelle Rozefort, in the case of the boy found hanged in the Nepali peacekeepers' camp in Cap Haitien. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: there was a case some time ago of a boy that was found hung — a Haitian boy found hung in a Nepali base in Cap Haitien. Some say that Mr. Mulet has asked the Secretary-General to remove the immunity of a national staff member there, Joelle Rozefort, so she can testify to a court about this. Is that – one, has Mr. Mulet made the request? But whether he has or not, is the Secretary-General considering removing the immunity of this staff member to respond to a court subpoena?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: I’m aware of the incident you’re referring to in which someone was found to have been hanged. And I think we may be able to provide you with a little bit more information on the question that you’ve asked a little bit later.

  But nine hours later, no information had been provided. The transcript continued:

Inner City Press: And just one other thing, maybe just for a response…

Spokesperson: Is this about Haiti?

Inner City Press: It is about Haiti. There’s a group there known as SOFA, the Solidarité des Femmes Haïtiennes. They’ve recently, I guess in connection with, or slightly before this one-year anniversary, they’ve said that – I guess, more explosively, they’ve asked the Government to somehow indict the UN for – they say – having brought cholera. But they’ve also raised this issue of compensation – so I wanted to make sure that the two things – can you, they’re saying that the UN should pay some compensation for - for cholera. That’s their claim. They’re a Haitian group, you can – so I guess I just want to know, what’s the UN response to that? Are they aware of that call, and what’s their response?

Spokesman Nesirky [misidentified as “Question” in Transcript] -- As you know, the Secretary-General instituted a panel. Those four experts are working precisely to establish the source of the outbreak of cholera, which has not been established so far. That’s their job to do so, to the extent that they are able to do so, and to report back to the Secretary-General and the Government of Haiti as quickly as they can. And to go the next step beyond that is not really helpful at this point. There is a clear job to do, and that’s the job that the panel has been asked to carry out as swiftly as possible, and in the meantime, of course, the key priority is to help those people – you heard from Mr. [Nigel] Fisher yesterday about the death rates being lower, but still the number of cases being very high. So this is something that needs to be tackled as a priority.

Inner City Press [misidentified as Spokesperson in transcript]: So I understand that the panel comes first. But I just want to know, I mean maybe you can answer this — does the idea, in the abstract, of compensation seem unreasonable to the UN? Depending on what it finds?

Spokesman Nesirky [misidentified as “Question” in Transcript]: Look, I don’t – this is something that – let’s do things step-by-step. And the most important thing is to help those in need. You’ve heard extensively, not just from Mr. Fisher but most recently from Mr. Fisher, on that. And you also know that this — the four panel members, experts each in their own right, are working hard to establish precisely what the source of the outbreak was, if they are able to do so. Okay. Thank you very much.

  A few hours later in the UN's North Lawn building, an event was held about Haiti, sponsored by Canada's Mission to the UN and a trio of NGOs. Canada's Permanent Representative John McNee sat on the panel and spoke, but when the Q&A started, McNee left the room and took no questions, not even about his country pulling out of Jacmel. In fact, Inner City Press was not allowed to ask any questions at all.

UN peacekeeper blocks cholera, protection of civilians not shown

 Meanwhile, an intrepid correspondent spotted Alain Le Roy in JFK Airport in New York on Tuesday morning seeking to fly American to Haiti for the anniversary. While others were unceremoniously booted from the flight, which also include Wyclef Jean, Le Roy remained on, leading some to wonder if despite the relatively short length he was flying first class. We'll see what he say while in Haiti -- he said little of use from Cote d'Ivoire. Watch this site.

* * *

In Haiti, UN Calls Criticism “Claptrap,” Defends IOM On Pepper Spray Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- The UN refuses to accept criticism, even where as in Haiti it is faced with street protests telling it to leave, and critiques by high officials of the regional organizations the UN says it works with and respects.

  Inner City Press asked Nigel Fisher, the UN Resident Coordination in Haiti, to respond to comments by former top Organization of American States envoy Ricardo Seitenfus, that the UN has spent too much on violent policing in Haiti. “Claptrap,” was Fisher's response. Audio here, from Minute 28:45.

  Fisher derided Seitenfus for saying Haiti is being used as a “humanitarian laboratory.” While he claimed to only be involved in the UN's development side, Fisher defended the huge MINUSTAH Peacekeeping bills as being about strengthening the rule of law in Haiti.

  But on the rule of law, Inner City Press asked Fisher about a documented incident in Camp Imakale in Cite Soleil in December, in which UN peacekeepers pepper sprayed protesters who say that the International Organization for Migration predicated aid on reducing public protest.

  Fisher said he couldn't imagine IOM “conditioning assistance on stopping criticizing the government.” (In fact, it was criticism of IOM and of the UN which was allegedly being discouraged.)

  Seitenfus put his job at risk in order to speak up for what he saw as mistreatment of Haitians. Fisher offers knee jerk responses. The UN's performance does not improve.

Nigel Fisher in previous video appearance, learning not shown

  For weeks, Inner City Press has asked the UN how much former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas has been paid. At first, Martin Nesirky said he “would not comment.” Then he suggested to “ask MINUSTAH.” Finally this arrived:

Subject: Re: Your question regarding Special Advisor in Haiti
From: UN
Date: Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 2:52
To: Inner City Press

In response to your querry with the Spokesperson of the Secretary General regarding Ms Montas's appointment to MINUSTAH, please find the answer below.

"Following the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which had a severe impact on the substantive sections of MINUSTAH, Ms Montas was engaged by the mission's senior leadership as the D-1 Special Advisor to the Head of Mission. Her contract will terminate on 30 June 2011, when the post itself will be eliminated, as part of the mission's post-surge readjustment."

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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