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At UN, Debate Ends with Kashmir and Karabakh, Vietnam Hits at Swedish Pique

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 2010 -- The UN General Assembly debate ended Wednesday with a whimper not a bang, with bickering about regional disputes and a self-important speech by self styled visionary GA President Joseph Deiss, before a nearly empty GA hall.

Azerbaijan and Armenia mixed it out about Nagorno Karabakh. India and Pakistan traded charges of interference around Jammu and Kashmir. Eritrea and Ethiopia fought another round, while the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- North Korea to you -- lashes out at South Korea and the United States, declaring itself innocent of sinking the Cheonan ship.

The UN can be blamed for its role in not solving several of these conflicts. The UN has a force in Kashmir, and like in Western Sahara there was talk of a plebecite / referendum. But none was ever held. Pakistan quoted from what it said was a 1952 offer by Nehru to leave J&K if so requested.

In Eritrea, the claim is that the UN and international community never enforced a border dispute ruling. On the Cheonan ship sinking, the UN Security Council issued a Presidential Statement that was so vague it allows each side to keep claiming victory ad infinitum. And so on.

After Deiss, who has refused to disclose the outside business interests he says are paying him this year, declared that the G-20 must make itself relevant, there was a final requester for the floor: Vietnam.

PGA Deiss & bell, financial disclosure and peace not shown

In a speech on Tuesday, Sweden had criticized the treatment of press and bloggers in eight countries. Three of them, led by Cuba, hit back on Tuesday night, raising questions about Sweden's own record. Inner City Press wrote Wednesday morning about the showdown, including Cuba's statement that Sweden was asked to but refused to stay to hear the reply.

The Swedish Mission called Wednesday to explain that generally it does not talk back to criticisms of its human rights record, because it believes in the freedom of speech. Inner City Press asked Deiss' spokesman if Sweden would be able to speak on Wednesday afternoon at the Debate's final session if they wanted, and the answer seemed to be yes.

But after Vietnam's reply to Sweden, there was no call to surreply. Inner City Press understands that the Swedish reason for its Permanent Representative not being present Tuesday night was the way in which the Cuban Permanent Representative made the request to stay: as a barked order by the glass wall to the side of the GA rostrum.

So this General Debate ended inconclusive, in a fit of pique. And so it goes at the UN. Watch this site.

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At UN, Sweden's Hit & Run Human Rights Attack Lambasted by Cuba in GA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 2010 -- As this UN General Debate reaches what some call its garbage time stage, when all the heads of state and attendant security are gone and the General Assembly Hall is largely empty, the deep fissures in the international community become apparent.

In a near empty GA on September 28, Sweden delivered a high minded speech, barely mentioning its own country but rather critiquing the human rights records of at least ten countries.

  The speech followed the more modest plea of Tuvalu, largely devoted to the right of Taiwan to participate in the UN's specialized agencies. A cynical called this Tuvalu “singing for its supper” -- saying what was necessary to keep Taiwanese aid flowing in, as Burkina Faso also did on Tuesday night.

At the end of the proceedings, new GA President and international man of mystery Joseph Deiss -- what are the outside business interests he mentioned but did not disclose? -- opened the floor for the right to reply. Most interventions were predictable.

Iran replied to the claims about three islands by the United Arab Emirates, a dispute between oil rich and well armed states which never seems to end.

Ethiopia issued a litany of complaint, including on behalf of Djibouti, against Eritrea, which in turn responded that the so called international community never enforced the boundary judgment it won.

Then Cuba, moving beyond the parochial, lambasted Sweden's “arrogant” attack on eight states in the Global South (somehow Cuba missed two). Most compellingly, at least to Inner City Press, Cuba said that the Sweden speaker had been asked to stay and hear Cuba's response, but chose not to. Even at the UN this passes for bad form.

Cuba's foreign minister, bringing the noise in this GA, Sweden not shown

  UN Television panned over to the Swedish set of seats, in which two young staffers sat, looking outgunned. Neither of them chose to surreply. One imagined the Swedish speaker out to dinner, having gravlax and thinking big thoughts. But at the UN you have to engage. Score one for Cuba, on these grounds alone. Watch this site.

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In Darfur, UN Prepares To Hand Over Bashir's Enemies for “Blood Money- Exclusive

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, September 28, 2010 -- In Darfur, the Joint African Union - UN peacekeeping mission UNAMID is preparing to turn over to the government of Omar al Bashir five supporters of rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nur who have been “accused by Sudanese authorities of having committed crimes,” as shown by UNAMID documents obtained by Inner City Press.

  For two months the government of Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide, has demanded that UNAMID and the UN turn over the five, who “sought refuge in the Community Policing Center of the Kalma Camp for Internally Displaced Persons” after an outburst of violence in the camp.

  Bashir's government imposed a blockade on the camp, not allowing in food or fuel or medicine, and now seeks to close down the camp.

  A draft letter from UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari to Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti recites that Bashir's government “explained its position of principle that Sudan has the right to apply the death penalty as such a penalty is not illegal under international law and is part of Sudan's criminal code.”

  Nevertheless, Gambari writes, “without prejudice to its position of principle, the Government has undertaken to work in a co-operative manner with UNAMID... with a view to bringing the issue to a mutually acceptable conclusion.”

  Click here to see Gambari's letter, as obtained exclusively by Inner City Press.

  In the concluding paragraph of his letter, Gambari “propose[s] that the issue of the five individuals be brought to a conclusion... on the basis of the additional terms set forth in the attachment hereto... to ensure that the five individuals concerned are transferred to the relevant authorities of the Government.”

So what are the terms under which the UN, Gambari and UNAMID would turn over the five to Bashir's government?

Click here to see Gambari's and the UN's Additional Terms, as obtained exclusively by Inner City Press.

   Amazingly to some, under Gambari's Additional Terms, “blood relatives of the victims of the alleged crimes will be called upon to exercise their power to waive the death penalty and seek payment of compensation in the form of 'blood money' instead.”

UN's Ban shakes with Bashir, Kalma Five and blood money not shown

This in reminiscent of an incident in Geneina, multiply described to Inner City Press, in which UNAMID became involved in and even proposed the payment of “blood money” by IDPs to janjaweed who came into the camp beating up IDPs and demanding money for a person they said had been killed.

The “Additional Terms of the Government's assurances for the transfer of the five individuals from the Kalma CPC to the host country authorities” ends with assurances that “UNAMID's Human Rights Division” could visit the prisoners, and that Bashir's government will not “undermine UNAMID's ability to conduct its activities.”

But Bashir's government has restricted the movement of UNAMID peacekeepers and helicopters, as peacekeepers and civilians as in the Tarabat Market early this money lay dying. The UN's human rights divisions in Sudan have been accused by opposition leaders of failing even to come on a timely basis to examine the body of a slain Darfuri student.

   (The UN says it tried, but the Government stopped it -- even if true, hardly a basis for replying on the assurances in the Additional Terms. On September 27, Inner City Press asked a series of questions to Gambari, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier and Under Secretary General for Field Support Susana Malcorra, click here for article, here for video.)

In this case of the five, UNAMID would rely on “the Ajaweed traditional justice” and, again amazingly, that “the President” -- indicted war criminal Omar al Bashir -- “has the prerogative of mercy which he has confirmed he will exercise in the event that the death penalty is imposed on the accused.”

To many, this is a new low for the UN: accepting the promise of an indicted war criminal not to kill again as a basis to turn over more of his enemies to him. Watch this site.

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On Sudan, Obama Non-Mention of ICC Used for Support of Bashir by OIC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27, 2010 -- The omissions in US President Obama's speech at the UN's Sudan meeting on September 24 were noticed not only by Sudan, whose Vice President Taha praised the new US approach, but also by the wider Organization of the Islamic Conference.

  Inner City Press asked OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at his September 27 press conference about Paragraph 21 of the OIC's September 24 Communique, that

21. The Meeting expressed its full solidarity with the Sudan under the leadership of H.E. President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir and renewed its unflinching support for the various endeavors to achieve genuine national reconciliation, lasting peace and stability within the context of a sovereign and united country. The Meeting reiterated the OIC principled position on the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment against the President of the Sudan and warned of its implications on the ongoing Darfur peace process in Doha.”

  In response, Ihsanoglu insisted that the OIC or at least he himself believes in accountability for the crimes in Darfur, but believe that the International Criminal Court through “certain of its statements” has set up the ICC “as a political party, a contender to the government.”

  “Even President Obama,” Ihsanoglu continued, “did not mention the International Criminal Court” in which speech at the September 24 meeting on Sudan.

Obama and PGA Deiss, mention of ICC or Bashir not shown, OIC notices

  Inner City Press reported that day on Obama's failure to mention the name of Omar al Bashir, indicted by the ICC for genocide and war crimes. Now the OIC is making much of Obama's failure to mention the ICC, as supporting the OIC's statement of full solidarity with Bashir, and against the indictments.

What will Obama or his State Department say? Watch this site.

Footnote: beyond Obama's omissions, it has been argued to Inner City Press that the US was behind the opening up the September 24 meeting to the Press and public, against push back from parties unnamed. Openness is all the good - duly noticed.

 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.

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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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