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At UN, Echoes of Printing Plant Death, Security Hiring Flap and New Irregularities

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- Two weeks after UN staff member Jesmel Navoa died of a stroke in the UN's third sub-basement after waiting, his colleagues say, an hour for an ambulance, more concerns are being expressed, while silence is being sought. The UN Staff Union recounts how, before the current Department of Safety and Security regime was installed, an agreement was reached in which workers in the third basement printing plant would be allowed to call 911 directly, and ambulances would be allowed in.

   This was not, however, in place two weeks ago when Mr. Navoa had his stroke. Now word is that the UN is seeking the silence of Mr. Navoa's widow by offering her a job. The UN claims immunity from lawsuits, even in cases of gross negligence. This may explain why there is a lack of accountability after such incidents, and a failure to improve procedures after them. 

  There are not even responses when they are promised. On March 9, after publishing its exclusive story on the event, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesman Marie Okabe

Inner City Press: Thursday of last week...there was a death that took place in the building in the third subbasement and they have expressed concern that the ambulance wasn’t allowed in for an hour.  I am wondering if you’re aware of that and what is the protocol for that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware of that, but I will look into that and we will get you something.

  But they still haven't. Meanwhile rank and file members of DSS continue to seek accountability for the promotion irregularities they say they've found in the internal DSS e-mail published earlier this year by Inner City Press. The Staff Union asked for an independent, external investigation. But acting DSS chief David Veness, who ostensibly resigned months ago in the wake of the deadly bombing of UN premises in Algiers, has offered only a review by DDS' own in-house unit. Now the rank and file say they will meet with Deputy Secretary General Migiro, seeking accountability. It is hard to find sometimes in the UN.

UN's Veness, with chief of staff, DSS dissatisfaction not shown

  Strangely, sources tell Inner City Press of two further incidents on March 17: a safety evacuation at 10:30 a.m. off the same third floor printing plant where Mr. Navoa had his stroke, and an ambulance visit to a high floor of the UN.

  Speaking for that floor, earlier this week the UN Spokesperson's Office said that only four UN staff remain abducted, three from Niger and one from Pakistan. But on March 18 Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: it was said over the squawk here that there had been a total of eight United Nations staff abducted and now there are only four.  And then I was reading this Secretary-General’s report on Somalia dated 9 March and it has a line in it saying one United Nations staff member remains in captivity after having been taken in captivity in June 2008.  So, unless this person has been released since 9 March, who is this person and what’s being done about their case?

Spokesperson Montas:  Well, we cannot always get that information.  As you know, there are cases when we cannot reveal neither names nor conditions, circumstances when the security and the safety of the person being held are at stake.  This has been the case, as you know, with the abduction that took place in Niger.  However, we have been much more forward about what happened with John Solecki, as I just read a statement, not a statement, something from the field on that account.  So it varies.  It varies with the circumstances, it varies with, whether or not revealing a name or revealing more information can put the person’s safety at stake.

All these stories come together, and will be updated. Watch this site.

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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