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In Afghanistan, UN Won't Investigate Black Jail or Speak on Election Spending

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 12, updated -- With Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington to meet with Barack Obama today, it's not only the US that's making nice: the UN is following suit, abdicating even on human rights to both the US military and Karzai government.

  In most countries where the UN has a presence, particularly a Mission like it has in Afghanistan, it claims to monitor human rights violations. So for example, if only to burnish its credibility, the UN Mission under both Kai Eide and now Staffan de Mistura has issued press releases criticizing killings of civilians by the US and ISAF, when the numbers are too high.

  But when Inner City Press asked the UN on May 11, with Karzai in the US, about reports of a "black prison" on the Bagram base, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky replied "this is a United States base; it’s for the United States to comment on."

  Inner City Press asked, "Does UNAMA have any human rights component? Doesn’t the UN have some role, where it has a peacekeeping mission, to investigate claims like this?"

Nesirky said, "The UN’s mandate there is very clear and this particular story... this is something that you can clearly ask the US."

  But it's not about asking, it's a question of what the UN is going to do. Does it just sit in a country, see reports of human rights violations, and do nothing? In Sudan, for example, while the UN actually does very little to stop the killing, it does speak about it a lot. But the UN dares not criticize the US -- or for that matter China or other Permanent Five members of the Security Council who could veto a second Ban Ki-moon term.

  Nor is the UN clear about money it's said to offer. A week after the UN flip flopped on whether it would offer aid to the interim government in Kyrgyzstan -- at first no, then ostensibly yes, which upon inquiry was simply a quantification of aid already being given -- Inner City Press asked how much the UN will devote to the upcoming Afghan parliamentary election. Karzai's fraud addled election cost the UN quite a bit.

UN's Ban and Karzai, black jail and Board of Inquiry not shown

  From the May 11 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: it’s reported that the upcoming parliamentary elections there; this IEC [Independent Election Commission] official, Zakaria Barakzai, has said that the UN will make up a funding shortfall of some $40 million. Is that the case? What is going to be the UN’s financial contribution or activity in connection with that election?

Spokesperson Nesirky: We need to find out the exact numbers for you, if you’re giving me numbers like this. I am not familiar with those. I would need to find out.

Inner City Press: Also it’s reported, including by the UN’s own ReliefWeb, that the Afghan Government has cancelled the licences of 172 non-governmental organizations, including 20 international NGOs. I’m wondering if the UN, as it did in Sudan, for example, has any comment on this cancelling of licences of NGOs.

Spokesperson: This is something that our colleagues in Kabul are probably very familiar with. I have not heard; my colleagues here in New York have not heard any particular word from the Mission there. If we have something, then we will obviously let you know.

Inner City Press: There is also a report today that, both by the BBC and the Red Cross, of the discovery of a black jail; i.e., an unreported interrogation centre on the Bagram Air Force Base that the United States runs in Afghanistan. I wonder if it’s, if that is anything that the UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan] or its human rights component has ever heard of? Do they intend to investigate it? Do they have any comment on it?

Spokesperson: That’s something for the United States. This is a United States base; it’s for the United States to comment on. We’ve seen the reports.

Question: Does UNAMA have any human rights component? Doesn’t the UN have some role, where it has a peacekeeping mission, to investigate claims like this?

Spokesperson: The UN’s mandate there is very clear and this particular story — obviously we’ve seen that story on the BBC. This is something that you can clearly ask the US.

  But the US Misison to the UN hasn't even answer a question posed on the morning of May 11, 24 hours later. Watch this site.

Update: over 24 hours later, this came in:

Subject: Your questions on Afghanistan
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>
Date: Wed, May 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM
To: matthew.lee [at]

We have some answers from UNAMA concerning your recent questions at the noon briefing about Afghanistan.

Concerning the financing of the Afghan elections: It is not correct that the UN funds elections in Afghanistan. Rather, Staffan de Mistura has asked donors to release funds to support Afghanistan's electoral bodies for the upcoming elections. The UN will work on mobilizing funds to fill the gap.

Concerning the licensing of NGOs: The UN Mission (UNAMA) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are looking into it further but have no comment at this time. It does not seem to affect any NGOs working with UN.

Concerning reports about a secret prison facility at Bagram, UNAMA has no independent information on this report.

* * *

As Karzai Visits US, More Questions of Who Killed Louis Maxwell Raised by Sister: An Inconvenient Death

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 -- An inconvenient death casts a shadow, at least for some, over this week's visit to the U.S. by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and over the UN.

  The murder of American UN staffer Louis Maxwell in October 2009, following an attack on a UN guesthouse of international elections workers in Kabul, has belatedly been described by the UN as "friendly fire."

   But a cell phone video suggests, and Mr. Maxwell's sister among others believes, that Maxwell was summarily executed by Afghan National forces after the firefight was over. The UN never retracted its version, that Maxwell and four other UN staff were all killed by the Taliban, until the video became public and questions became to be asked, including by Inner City Press.

See cell phone video, here, esp. at Minute 1:01 to 1:04

  Maxwell's sister over the weekend wrote to Inner City Press for a third time, now putting into words the doubt that the Taliban were (solely) responsible for the attack on the UN guesthouse. She focuses on the conflict of interest the UN has, in confining itself to an internal investigation -- which it described as external and independent -- and then refusing to release a copy of its report, even to the family.

  But the U.S., too, has a conflict, as a press conference call by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute on May 7 shows. Lute repeatedly described Karzai as "our partner" and spoke about the training and evaluation of Afghan National forces. (Lute is, as Inner City Press has reported, the husband of former head of the UN Department of Field Support Jane Holl Lute.)

   Karzai's pre-trip Washingotn Post op-ed says he will "convey my deepest condolences to families of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan." Lute and his staffer emphasized that Karzai will spend three full hours with Obama. In all that time, will the matter of Louis Maxwell be raised? Inner City Press was on the press call and put itself in the question cue as soon as it was open, but was not able to ask the question. But the questions will continue. Below is Louis Maxwell's third letter to Inner City Press (click here for 2nd)

Karzai and UN's Ban, public and credible report on Maxwell's death not shown

Subject: Who Benefited?
rom: aijalon
Date: Sun, May 9, 2010 at 3:39 PM
To: Matthew Lee [at]

* Around October 20, 2009, Kai Eide the top UN official of the mission affirmed that the August 20 elections had been tainted. It was stated that about one to five of the votes should be discounted and that most of the election fraud came from Karzai supporters.

* On October 28 the UN guesthouse was attacked. The same guesthouse where UN monitors for this same election was staying.

* After the attack it is stated by top UN officials that senior afghan officials were uncooperative in providing information and that they(UN) were completely stonewalled.

* On November 1 the runoff candidate to Karzai drops out of the election race,

* On November 7 Karzai is declared president.

* And this is the same government that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wants to investigate their deliberate killing(murder) of my brother Louis Maxwell

You be the judge....

Watch this site.

* * *

UN Withheld Execution Video Report from Louis Maxwell's Family, Sister Says

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- As questions mount about the UN's investigation of the murder of its staff member Louis Maxwell in Afghanistan last October, and even about how the UN has engaged with Maxwell's family, his sister has written Inner City Press a second letter. [Click here for the first.]

  In it, she states that it was only in March when the UN told Maxwell's mother that his murder was caught on video tape. Of the tape, she notes as Inner City Press did that as Maxwell is shot and killed, the Afghan National forces next to him do not flinch or look up.

  See cell phone video, here, esp. at Minute 1:01 to 1:04

  Maxwell was executed, but as a cover up the UN is declaring that he was shot at long range, and that it was the long range shot that killed him. Despite Maxwell's own sister's request, the UN has not released any part of its Board of Inquiry report. His sister writes, if a "US soldier had done what they did to by brother that US soldier would have been court martialed."

On May 5, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman:

Question: And on Afghanistan, Louis Maxwell’s sister has contacted me with some concerns about the investigation and the report, among others, saying and I just would like, I understand, I guess you’re not going to release the report, but maybe you can find out if this is the case of not. She contends that, in the fire-fight and afterwards, among other things, he was wearing shorts, which she thinks is inconsistent with him being mistaken as one of these attackers. She also says… It was unclear to me given the statements made from her of how much the UN is briefing Mr. Maxwell’s family. Does that include this sister, Ms. Muhammad? Because she is somehow not convinced by the reports.

Spokesperson: I don’t have here and now a list of the family members who have been briefed. I do know, and you also heard Ms. [Susana] Malcorra say that the family members have been briefed regularly throughout. Not just briefed, but supported, and spoken to, visited regularly, throughout this. As I say, precisely who, I do not know. So, we’d need to find out. I don’t know the answer to that right now.

[The Spokesperson later said that, among others, the United Nations has been in touch with Latanya Ginn, the mother of Louis Maxwell’s son.]

Here is Louis Maxwell's sister's second letter

Subject: Re: Louis Maxwell
From: aijalon
Date: Thu, May 6, 2010
To: Matthew Lee [at]

Thank you for writing back to me and posing the question(s) to the UN... My brother has on either dark blue or black shorts. As a matter of fact he was wounded by the humvee and on all four when he is trying to stand back up his when he is shot. He was not in high ready mode but in low ready mode. His gun was not even drawn. I can even accept the fact of friendly fire for wounding him but his death I saw is murder. If a US soldier had done what they did to by brother that US soldier would have been court martialed.

Ms. Ellen Murphy who just retired from the UN, I must say has been the one who really stays in contact with my mother. They have only made one additional visit besides the funeral to see my parents and that was back in March when we were told about the fact there was a video showing my brother's death. Ms. Susana Malcorra just made contact with my mother in April.

UN's Ban in Kabul 2009, video not shown

I have e-mailed my concerns regarding my brother's death. At how the afghan guard who is standing in front of my brother when he is shot does not even flinch or even goes to high ready mode. So if they are saying or trying to say that an insurgent or threat is who shot my brother then why when the shots were fired the afghan police did not even draw his gun to his shoulder. I have even said that we the family deserve the right to know what is written in the board of inquiry report and honestly I would like to see the actually report but I have not been given a response to my request. I am very angry and hurt with how all of this going and know that it cannot bring back my brother but I want justice. Someone has to be the voice for Louis....

  At the UN's May 7 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm or deny that the UN had delayed from at latest January until March in informing Mr. Maxwell's family about the video of his murder, and to explain it. 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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