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At UN on Darfur, Indicted War Criminals Go Virtually Unmentioned, Rebel Noor May Face Sanctions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- Darfur was the subject Friday of the first "high level meeting" of this UN General Assembly. Along with the African Union, the UN issued a five paragraph press communique, which notably did not mention the International Criminal Court's warrants for war crimes pending against two Sudanese, including Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb and the al-Bashir government's minister of humanitarian affairs, Ahmed Muhammed Harun. The first attendee to emerge to take questions was former UN Deputy Secretary General and UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, now handling the UN, Africa and Asia for the United Kingdom. Malloch Brown among other things said that while he did not raise the issue of the ICC indictees in his recent meeting with president al Bashir, he did include it in his remarks in the UN's Darfur meeting. You'll have to ask others if they raised it, or why they didn't, he said.

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte if the U.S. had raised the issue of the ICC indictees in the meeting. "We didn't raise it in this meeting, although it is certainly an issue of concern to us," he answered. Behind him stood Assistant Secretary of State Frazer, who exactly one year ago accused al-Bashir of sabotaging African Union materiel coming in through Port Sudan.

           Negroponte was asked, what about the rebel leader Abdel Wahid Noor, who still indicates he will not be attending the October 27 talks in Libya between the al Bashir government and the range of rebels from Darfur. Negroponte said that the decision not to attend "should not be cost-free," which he subsequently clarified meant the threat of U.S. sanctions.

Friday on the UN's 38th floor: 3 Americans, 2 South Koreans, and...

   Ban Ki-moon, when asked Friday about Noor, gave a shorter version of his September 10 response to Inner City Press' question about bringing Noor into the process, that "giving any prominent attention to any particular person is not desirable." On September 10 he said:

"there are many leaders of movements. There is some tendency of mushrooming of these factions. I urge that all the leaders of the movements should participate in the forthcoming political negotiation. It is necessary to participate and [express] their views, rather than complaining or protesting outside of the dialogue forum. It is the same with case of Mr. Abdel Wahid Noor. I know that he is staying in France, but he should participate in this, if he really thinks about the future of Sudan and if he thinks he is one of the leaders. At the same time, I would like to point out, that, as a matter of principle, everybody should be given equal opportunity and equal attention."

            The foreign minister of Noor's home-in-exile, Bernard Kouchner, expressed frustration about question concerning Noor. "What do you want me to do about it?" he demanded, calling a reporter "mon petit gars," my little guy.

            Also frustrated with the press was AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare.  To a straight-forward question about the AU's position on whether the "hybrid" force should be entirely, or only mostly, made up of African troops, Mr. Konare said, "That is a non-innocent question," accusing the broadcaster of trying to play up differences in position between the AU and the UN. Here then is another question lacking innocence: what is the African Union's position on the enforcement of the ICC's warrants? The answer to this will be pursued.

Footnote: on another issue of impunity and international criminal law, Inner City Press at Friday's noon briefing asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson about a report that Timorese president Jose Ramos-Horta was "dismissive" of Ban's threat that the UN would not participate in the "Truth and Friendship Commission" if it allowed for amnesty for war crimes. AFP reported that Ramos-Horta "said the boycott statement was not an official UN stance." So Inner City Press asked:

"there's an article about Jose Ramos-Horta, and he said that they donít intend to change the terms of reference of their Truth and Reconciliation Commission to knock out amnesty, and he said he didnít think that what the Secretary-General said in July of the UN participating in that tribunal is official UN policy.  So I guess I'm asking:  Is it the UN's policy that it will not participate in that amnesty is given to, for war crimes, genocide, and..."

            Five hours later, the Spokesperson's office confirmed that this is the policy. We'll see.

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without the UN's DPA having responded.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540