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UN Has No Answers on Myanmar, Darfur, Syria, Powerless UNSC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Two weeks after the UN through its Spokesperson's Office refused to release a copy of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's speech to 150 bankers, calling it "private," the UN when it resumed its noon briefings on August 31 left unanswered 15 of the 25 questions Inner City Press posed last week. Inner City Press put some of the questions to returning Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Myanmar, wiring and then some other unanswered questions.  On Myanmar, do you have any, does you or Mr. Nambiar have any comments on the laws now signed about, regarding inter, interfaith marriage and conversion?  There were a slew of laws that were described as these anti-Muslim laws.  And I know Mr. Nambiar briefed the Council but he didn't speak to us afterwards.

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't have anything here.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  On the wiring, remember this issue of the lack of electrical outlets of any kind at the stakeout?  Nothing has happened in your absence.

Spokesman Dujarric:  It's, as much as I think my absence has to do, has any impact on anything that goes on in this building…

Inner City Press:  I'm checking…

Spokesman Dujarric:  It's New York.  It's… things take time.  Whether you're remodelling your house or putting new electrical plugs in off the Security Council, we are determined to get everybody the electrical power they need.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  And on this letter, I saw there was a letter, you know, the letter from, that was announced by your office from the Secretary-General to the Security Council about the mechanism for accountability, and it contained a draft letter back from Joy Ogwu for 31 August.  I wanted to know, has that been returned?  And I'd asked your office why it was…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  On the mechanism for?

Inner City Press:  The JIM mechanism for Syria chemical weapons…

Spokesman Dujarric:  No, it's in the hands of the Council.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  And I had a question about UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] that I want to ask you, which was that this cancelled, there's been a big dispute about the AU visit to Darfur and whether… who cancelled flights.  Your office said that flights were cancelled.  Then UNAMID there said no flights were cancelled.  It's kind of important.  Which was it?

Spokesman:  I don't know.  I'll check.  Thank you.  See you tomorrow, maybe.

 Definitely maybe.

 On August 28 at 12:30 pm, Inner City Press submitted five questions, none of which were answered by 6:30 pm:

Aug 28 (1) On UNAMID, it is reported that "Ashraf Issa, spokesman of the UN peacekeeping mission, said in a press release last Monday that they never received any notification of flight restrictions in Darfur." Given previous answer, please clarify and state why this UNAMID "press release" was not sent out by unamid publicinformation like, for example, this one: "Cancellation of Press Briefing by African Union Peace and Security Council delegation in Khartoum "

Aug 28 (2) On the SG's letter he announced yesterday to the UNSC about the JIM mechanism on Syria chemical weapons, please explain why the draft response / approval letter is as submitted set to be signed by Joy Ogwu, who gives over presidency of the UNSC on August 31, less then five days from the SG's letter.

Aug 28 (3) Yesterday, Inner City Press was told in but not by the UN that if the draft resolution on raising the State of Palestine's flag at the UN passes, (1) it would go at the end of Member States, that is, nearest 42nd street and (2) that "the UN" has written a letter concerning its readiness to install the needed flagpole.

 I understand you will not comment on what may happen in the GA but I am requesting UN Secretariat (Protocol, OLA and/or DM/FMS) confirmation of where a non-member State's flag WOULD go, and on readiness to install the flagpole including that a letter to that effect has been written and sent.

Aug 28 (4) Please provide a summary of DPA's / USG Feltman's August 27 briefing to the UNSC about Burkina Faso, and specifically state whether it included the arson destruction of Radio Manegmoogo

Aug 28 (5) Please provide a summary of USG Nambiar's August 28 briefing to the UNSC about Myanmar, particularly but not only as regards the Rohingya / Rakhine State.

 Nor was any summary given was DPA's briefing on Burundi (although a belated answer to Inner City Press' questions earlier in the week was provided, and reported on this site, along with another answer about Somalia; see Mali, below.)

 On August 27, Inner City Press submitted five questions, two of them about South Sudan, one which Inner City Press had previewed the day before:

"August 27 (1) Please provide the comment and response of UNMISS, DPA and/or the Secretary General given his South Sudan statement yesterday to Salva Kiir's 12-page reservations, which we have published here:

"August 27 (2) Relatedly on South Sudan, please (have UNMISS / DPKO) confirm or deny their knowledge of new fighting at Tayar port in Panyijiar county (Unity state)

"August 27 (3) Please state who from OIOS will be attending this in Manila:

'about 50 United Nations (UN) agencies, multilateral financial institutions, and inter-governmental organizations in a forum to discuss topics of common interests to the internal auditing profession. The RIAS 2015 will be held at the Asian Development Bank in Manila on 8 to 11 September 2015.'

and if any beyond IAD Director Eleanor Burns, please state the rationale including for the UN / public expenditure

"August 27 (4) UNIFEED in the past week circulated a video of DPKO USG Ladsous speaking about sexual abuse by peacekeepers, saying “leadership” must be held accountable, but taking no questions. The video appeared on the UN website, but has since been removed. Please state when the video was made, for what audience, and why it was removed from the UN Webcast website.

"August 27 (5) In Mali, please state MINUSMA's understanding of the situation in Anefis and what the UN intends to do."

This last August 27 question was answered, on August 28:

"On Mali, we are concerned by the impact of the recent cease-fire violations in Anefis on the peace process. Our efforts are currently geared towards a political resolution of this situation through dialogue. A "disengagement plan" is being discussed, which would see the parties return to their previous positions. We encourage all parties to accept this plan and focus their efforts on implementing the peace agreement. Meanwhile, MINUSMA is maintaining a robust posture to protect civilians and deter an escalation of the violence. The Mission maintains a 20 Km security perimeter around Kidal to protect civilians who could be threatened by new clashes."

  At  5 pm on August 27, responses to August 25 questions about Bring Back Our Girls and legionella were received, and a reiteration of the UN's read-outs of Ban in Paris with no mention of French troops' rapes in the Central African Republic.

 On August 26, Inner City Press submitted five questions, including of the type that would have had to be responded to at an in-person briefing: the UN being dissed by Yoweri Museveni, to whom Ban is deferring on Burundi, Ban's trip to Nigeria and Paris - did he raised rapes and Ladsous? - and UN Peacekeeping issues in DR Congo and Iraq. But 28 hours later, only a portion of one was answered:

  Here were the five questions Inner City Press submitted on August 26:

Aug 26 (1) At the signing in Juba, Uganda's President Museveni said that to invite the UN to your country is a vote of non-confidence in yourselves.The UN specializes in conserving terrorism. What is the UN system's response?

Aug 26 (2) Relatedly, what is the status of the SG naming an envoy to Burundi? Is the SG still deferring to President Museveni, now in light of the comments above made in Juba?

Aug 26 (3) On SG's trip: while in France, did the SG or his team raise to ANY French official the issue of the alleged sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by France's Sangaris peacekeepers? If so, to whom and what was said? While in Abuja, please confirm or deny that the SG received the petition from concerned citizens of Plateau State and attacks on villages there, and if confirm, state the SG's response. Same question again on letter from organizations of unpaid UN interns.

Aug 26 (4) On DRC, please state what steps the UN is taking to ensure that its cut off of aid to surrendered FDLR fighters will not result in attacks on civilians; please confirm that Taz Greyling, the chief of MONUSCO's demobilization, disarmament and reinsertion, said "We hope that FDLR will let them leave and have a chance at a normal life," and state the basis of that hope.

Aug 26 (5) Please state what UN DPKO is doing on Fiji's request that it expedite visa for Iraq for Fijian peacekeepers there.

 There was a sixth, about a(nother) UN junket, but it must wait to be asked until at least some answers arrive.

   On August 25, Inner City Press submitted five questions, one of which for the third time -- this one got a response, the only one of five August 25 noon briefings answerd on August 25:

 Here are other questions Inner City Press posed in writing to the UN Spokesperson's Office on August 25, not answered on August 25:

"Aug 25 (1) In South Sudan, what is the UN's response to MSF citing disease caused by lack of shelter and sanitation in the camps positioned within the United Nations base in Malakal? What is UNMISS and its UN partners doing? Also, please state UNMISS' and DPKO's awareness of an impending assault on Panyijjar county, Unity State...

"Aug 25 (3) Also on the Secretary General's trip, and the UN read-out for the SG's meeting with President Francois Hollande, please explain what the SG meant by his "commitment in addressing issues of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse, by UN peacekeepers,” including as regards the USG for Peacekeeping Mr Herve Ladsous, and explain why sexual abuse by French “peacekeepers” in the Sangaris force was not mentioned or included in the UN read-out.

Here is a question answered on August 24:

Q Aug 24 (1) In Sudan, it is reported that North Darfur authorities banned UNAMID flights. Please confirm or deny this, when it happened and the UN's understanding of why, and the UN's response.

Answer: "On 22 August, the Government of Sudan denied authorization for UNAMID flights to and from El Fasher, North Darfur, with the exception of one flight from Khartoum. Media reports thereafter alleged that this decision followed accusations by North Darfur authorities that UNAMID did not adequately coordinate the visit of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) with them, on 21 and 22 August. 

"UNAMID rejects these allegations and confirms that the Government of Sudan, including the authorities in North Darfur, was fully involved in preparing, coordinating and participating in the AUPSC visit to Darfur."

  While appreciated, what was the impact of banning flights to and from North Darfur? The UN answered Inner City Press' follow up question on the status of the Ban by saying its "understanding is that the flights are running now."

  Since then, UNAMID has told local media that there was no hinderance of flights. Is this covering up, like UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous did on rapes in Tabit in Darfur, and in Minova in DR Congo before that?

 Here are the four other August 24 questions, two responded to on August 25, the other two still unanswered:

Aug 24 (2) In Somalia, now that AMISOM (which is supported by UNSOA) has admitted killing civilians at Merka (or Marka) in late July, what is the UN's response and how will the UN human rights due diligence policy be implemented?

[Inner City Press on August 25 asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about this; we hope to have more.]

Aug 24 (3) While in France, does the Secretary General or his team intend to inquire into the belated French investigation into the child sexual abuse alleged against French Sangaris forces in the Central African Republic?

Aug 24 (4) In DRC, it is reported that in Kinshasa earlier this month the authorities rounded up copies of the C-News newspaper (censorship) and that in July the director of Full Contact Radio station broadcasting in Kananga was taken into custody after a broadcast alleging governmental dysfunctions... In Uvira, in South Kivu province, in August 2015, there was the arrest of Brinal Nundun, a journalist from Channel 7 TV, who was reporting on Burundian refugees in Uvira at the headquarters of the NGO "Action Ku  Sidon." His equipment was seized. What is the UN, DPKO or MONUSCO response to this?

 On August 25 at 5 pm, this UN response was received: "On your question on the DRC: MONUSCO continues to monitor closely the human rights situation in the DRC, including the situation with regard to  journalists. Using its good offices to facilitate an environment conducive to a peaceful electoral process, the Mission continues to encourage the Government to uphold fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. For example, the advocacy efforts of the Mission contributed recently to the release of a journalist who was in police custody in Uvira territory, South Kivu."

Aug 24 (5) It is said that Burundi police or security forces are to be deployed to MINUSMA in Mali. Please confirm or deny, and if confirm, state what screening would be in place given recent events in Burundi. Also, what is the UN's response to Amnesty International's report of Burundi security forces using torture?

  On August 25 at 5 pm the response below was received, and Inner City Press separately reported it as well:

"On your question on Burundi: There are currently no Military troops from Burundi in the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA). As of 31 July, there were 14 Police officers from Burundi serving as individual police officers in MINUSMA police component. No deployment of Burundi police officers to MINUSMA is planned for the foreseeable future. Following reports alleging human rights abuses on the part of some elements of the Burundian police, a decision has been taken to suspend the deployment of Burundian police officers to peacekeeping missions."

   A follow up has been asked.

Update: on August 26, Inner City Press told Inner City Press, "On the 14 Burundian police officers, they will be rotated out of MINUSMA in the coming months according to the end of their respective terms (this rotation will be completed by March 2016)."
  With the UN embroiled in rape scandals, exposed as playing host to spying for the US National Security Agency while its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech to 150 bankers later deemed “private,” is this dysfunction a product of the press not wanting answers or the UN not wanting to give them?

  On August 17, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesperson for the day, Vannina Maestracci, about UN rapes in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo before it, about the spying for the NSA and about Ban's speech on August 14 to 150 people at the Buffalo headquarters of M&T Bank, subject to government charges on unfair lending and on money laundering. Video here.

   UN Associate Spokesperson Maestracci began by saying that the UN's contracts with AT&T, which turned over all information to the US, would not be made public. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: Would it be fair to assume that UN contractors paid by the UN are assumed not to be spying on people inside the UN?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I don't know what the procurement contract entails, and I don't like assuming as a general rule.  Oleg.

Inner City Press:  Can we get a copy of the contract?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I doubt it.  Oleg.

 Inner City Press has since researched this and found a UN written policy militating for release of the contracts. Former UN Office of Internal Oversight Services chief Inga Britt Ahlenius, when she left, wrote to Ban that “I see no visible effort to deliver on your stated commitment to increased transparency.”

   Next on the UN rapes in CAR, on which Maestracci had read out a statement that UNICEF was providing the victim legal advice, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: You read out on UNICEF that they purport to be providing legal advice to the victim.  And I guess I just wonder, given that the… that the legal problem is caused by the UN system's own invocation of immunity, what advice are they giving, to sue those responsible or… it just seems like… isn't it kind of a conflict for the UN system to be the one providing, purporting to provide legal advice to a person victimized by the UN system who can't get justice because of UN immunity.  So, what's the advice, I guess I'm saying…?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'm not sure what the advice is because I'm here, not with UNICEF in the [Central African Republic], but I think they are showing all the possible avenues that she has and what she can do.  I mean, I think it's fairly… people might not know what these avenues are.  And it's important…

Inner City Press:  Can she sue UN?

Associate Spokesperson:  Can I speak?  And it's important for people to raise awareness and to make sure that they do know where to go.

Inner City Press: Where should she go?  I mean, I'm just saying it seems… it's a contradiction because if she tries to sue…
Associate Spokesperson:  And where…

Inner City Press:  …she's told that it's immune, that the UN is immune.

Associate Spokesperson:  That's not true.  There's an investigation going on.  And that, you know, it is going on.  Why don't we let it go on and see what it comes up with?

Inner City Press:  That's the second question I wanted to ask.
Associate Spokesperson:  You are so not interested in the answers.

Inner City Press: Yeah, I am interested. I wasn't getting an answer.  That's the problem.

Associate Spokesperson:  Erol, please.

 Vine here.

   So, for the second time Maestracci cut off the question, this time with the statement, “You are so not interested in the answers.” But even when Inner City Press emailed questions after the briefing to Maestracci and Ban's lead spokesman, no answers were received. This is today's UN.

  Further on the UN rapes, now in the DRC Congo, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Just for the record, the answer I was asking for is what legal advice UNICEF gave.  But, I hear… since you said to wait, I wanted to ask you this.  In 2012… I don't know if it was in this room or a previous UN briefing room… there was discussion of the rape of two girls in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] by three… they believe they're from Uruguay but three peacekeepers in the DRC.  This was alleged by Dr. Victoria Fontan of the UN University of Peace in Costa Rica.  It was said there would be an investigation, but nothing has ever been said of either the peacekeepers being held responsible or the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] of the Mission at the time or DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  So, I wanted to know… I'm asking you, I don't expect you necessarily to know from the podium, but this is an answer I'm extremely interested in — what happened?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know about the specific case obviously from 2012.  But, I think you've heard what the Secretary-General has been saying all of last week and what he's, what he's been pushing when it comes to both misconduct and… including… sorry, misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse.  I mean, he's been very strong.  He has shown his resolve to push this forward and to make sure that there is, you know, institutional accountability, responsibility, but also that Member States provide us with the information that we ask because, as you know, there is a limit, some things are up to Member States.  But, obviously, he's very determined to make progress in this, in this area for the victims of misconduct.

Inner City Press:  But, what happened in this case?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know.  I just said that.
Inner City Press: I'm asking, can you ask DPKO?  The two victims’ names were Gisele and Esperanz…

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.  Why don't you send me an e-mail rather than saying everything here.  Oleg.

   Another cut off. And to the detailed email sent after the briefing, no answer at all. This is today's or Ban's UN. Here was the final exchange of the day, about Ban Ki-moon's speech to bankers:

Inner City Press: there was an article in The Buffalo News saying that the Secretary-General had gone to Buffalo and given a speech in front of 150 people in the M&T Bank headquarters for a couple of reasons.  One… I'm interested because M&T Bank has a bank merger that's been stalled out for three years due to allegations of money-laundering and lending discrimination, but mostly I wanted to know, did he give such a speech?  Can we get the text of the speech?  Why wasn't it given in advance?  And did he raise these issues about lending fairness and money laundering in his discussions with the CEO of the bank?

Associate Spokesperson:  So this was mainly a private visit.  He went to visit Buffalo and Niagara Falls, actually, and he was invited by someone he's known for a long time to address this… this group of people that you've mentioned.  We didn't put it out, again, because it was mostly, mainly, largely, a private visit.  He was with his family over the weekend.

Inner City Press: Were the people there all employees of the bank?  Was…

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I think it was community leaders from all over Buffalo, if I understand correctly.

Inner City Press: Do you have the remarks?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'll check, but, again:  mainly private visit and I don't think we'd be sharing them.  Anything else?  Great.  Have a good afternoon.

   No answers. This is today's or Ban's UN, UNtransparent and worse - and the Free UN Coalition for Access opposes it. Watch this site.


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