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As Boumedra Says Kobler Ordered False Reports in Iraq, UN Now Denies It: Whose Picture Is Distorted?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22, updated Aug 23, below -- Alongside disputes about conditions in Camp Liberty in Iraq, there is a more limited UN specific controversy. 

 What to make of the statement by former UN Mission in Iraq human rights officer Tahar Boumedra that current Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler told him to only send out "positive photographs," and more troublingly to "falsify reports"?

  Inner City Press has been seeking direct UN response to this allegation, from the head of the Mission, and from spokespeople in New York, and has yet to get one. [But see below, Update of August 23.]

  Here's from the public interchange at Wednesday's UN noon briefing, video here from Minute 46 --

Inner City Press: the former human rights official of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq says he was ordered by Martin Kobler to'doctor photographs and fabricate reports.' Is there a direct response to this man – and he’s described as a whistle-blower – his claim that he was ordered to only take photographs of the positive things and essentially file inaccurate reports. Does the UN deny that?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: it’s regrettable that such a distorted picture is being presented of the efforts of the United Nations in Iraq to resolve peacefully the situation of Camp Ashraf. And in fact, the UN Mission, under the leadership of Special Representative Martin Kobler, has worked diligently and impartially to facilitate a peaceful solution that respects the rights and concerns of both residents and the Government of Iraq... with regards to the conditions in Camp Houria, (Freedom), they have all the basics that they need and beyond. kitchens, a fully equipped gym, a mosque, several community centres, a medical centre staffed by two Iraqi doctors working in shifts, two ambulances on constant stand-by, and there’s bottled water brought in for residents, electricity from 19 generators, and residents have cell phone, Internet connection and satellite television.

Inner City Press: I'm even aware that one Security Council member said that people live better there than in their own country – the country of the Security Council member. But I just wanted to know, because it’s kind of a whistleblower case, he’s claiming that he was ordered to do things that he said were inconsistent with the UN Charter and his duty. Is there a response to sort of, that he was told to doctor these reports? Whether the satellite TV is working or not is a separate question — but, it’s strange; I’ve tried to get an answer from Mr. Kobler and others. Do they deny that these orders were given?

Spokesperson: I think I would just go back to what’s already been said, and that’s that it is a distorted picture.

  But what is the UN saying is distorted: the picture of conditions in the camp, or the claim that a UN official, previously in charge of human rights, was told to "doctor" reports?

  Kobler is back and forth between the camps. A knowledgeable person tells Inner City Press that while Boumedra WAS UNAMI's human rights officer, even under Kobler's predecessor Ad Melkert, he'd shifted to become adviser on Camp Ashraf.

  Is it acceptable, if it happened, for the UN to order such an official to doctor reports? We think not, and will keep asking.

Update of August 23, 11:46 am -- and then this came in:

Subject: Re: Ashraf/UNAMI fact sheet
From: Jared Kotler [at]
Date: Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 11:32 AM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Matthew,  You asked specifically about allegations by a former staff member of misleading use of photos or “doctoring” of reports in connection with the work of the UN on Camp Ashraf.  We would like to state very clearly that such allegations are false. 

   Watch this site.

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