Kabul Staff Death, "External" Prober Had Conflict of
Interest, UN's Unilateral Spin
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 22, updated --
The UN's supposedly "external" Board
of Inquiry into the murder
of Louis Maxwell and other UN staff in
Kabul last October was revealed Thursday to have been under the
decidedly "internal" leadership of Andrew Hughes, who
served as the UN's Police chief from 2007 until, it seems, March 8,
2010. The Board of Inquiry began, without any public notice, in
Inquiry was triggered by cell
phone video footage showing Louis
Maxwell, long after fighting around the guesthouse was over, being
shot and killed, and not by Taliban. The UN knew this since December,
but only belatedly and begrudgingly discussed the issue publicly when
asked, repeatedly, in April.
the noon briefing
of April 20 in response to Inner City Press' questions, UN Spokesman
Martin Nesirky stated
"this particular board... was composed of
external and internal senior personnel with relevant backgrounds and
Afghanistan expertise -- including in security; investigations; and
agencies, funds and programmes. It was led by a former senior
Australian Federal Police Officer."
emphasized "former Australian Federal Police Officer" --
that is, external to the UN -- since then, Mr. Hughes was named to a
UN post by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In fact, during his service
with UN Police, the unit's publication "UN Police Magazine of
July 2009"described the unit's work in Afghanistan as "forging
trust in uniformed police, establishing faith in national justice
a bit of a conflict of interest to have Mr Hughes be responsible for
evaluating the actions of the Afghanistan National Police, an entity
that Mr Hughes was responsible "forging trust" and
"establishing faith" in?
April 22, Inner
City Press asked UN Spokesman Nesirky basic factual questions about
the overlap of Mr. Hughes service as UN Police chief and as
"external" leader of the Board of Inquiry, and whether once
he left his Police chief post, he was paid by the UN for this
answer these or other questions, saying that all he would say was a
prepared statement that the Board of Inquiry -- disclosed belatedly
and only after questions -- was now complete but that Afghanistan and
"other relevant stakeholders" must have time to respond
before the UN speaks about it. Video here,
from Minute 44:26.
while the UN's
Spokesman deflects all questions by saying nothing can be said until
later, the Number Two official in the UN Department of Field Support,
Tony Banbury, served up the
UN's position on the report and on charges
they have covered up to Foreign Policy's new blog, "Turtle Bay" [for praise of which, on other stories, see
asked Nesirky when Banbury would come to answer questions, since he
had spoken on the record to Turtle Bay. Nesirky responded that Inner
City Press had send written questions to Banbury "on deadline"
- which have remained unanswered six hours later, including these:
the UN identify the probe's other members?
other UN departments informed of the composition of the board prior
to its commencement of work, and invited to participate, or was the
Board just selected and appointed by DPKO/DFS?
the UN confirm Ban Ki Moon's prior statement that Afghan police
failed to respond to the guesthouse for 90 minutes?
Louis Maxwell's weapon retrieved by the UN, and does the UN have it
in its possession?
the killer of Louis Maxwell ever identified or apprehended? Where is
at the UN
noon briefing, Inner City Press asked "where is Mr. Banbury
today," since he did not respond to these written questions
about his on the record claims. Neskiry would not answer.
UN's Tony "I'm Elated" Banbury, spinning but not
fact, in what a number of reporters viewed as retaliation, Nesirky
tried to deny Inner City Press to right to ask
any other questions, cutting off any follow up and saying "one
more question," about a movie. As Inner City Press put forward a
question, Nesirky closed his binder and stood. Video here,
from Minute 59:25. The question was about
Thailand and requests made to the UN by the protesters. Nesirky
relented and read out another statement, dodged a question on Sri
Lanka and was gone. And so it goes at the UN.
Inner City Press does not like to disparage other media, particularly
one which like the writer of Turtle Bay has done good work at and on
the UN, on OIOS and many other topics. While Turtle Bay says it was
offered the Banbury briefing and had no choice but to take it, it is
noteworthy that Banbury and UN thought this "blog" was the best
venue to unilaterally put out their side of the story.
We put "blog" in quotes, including to follow UN Spokesman Martin
Nesirky's statements April 21 against what Inner City Press "put on
[its] blog" about the UN covering up. Is this 2010, the UN, using one
blog against another?
One might for example note
in blog-style that Banbury is
most famous of late for saying that news of three
rapes in camps in Haiti "almost elated me," and then
issuing a convoluted clarification later. Now he speaks unilaterally
and takes no questions. "Like Tiger Woods' first press
conference," as one reporter put it. Watch this site.
* * *
UN Denies It Covered Up Kabul Murder of UN Workers, De Mistura Dodges,
Lashes Out at "Blog" Quoting Staff
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 21 -- With questions mounting about whether
the Afghan National forces killed UN security officer Louis Maxwell
in Afghanistan last October, and why the UN said nothing publicly
about this until being repeatedly asked about it last week, things
heated up Wednesday at the UN in New York.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's representative Staffan de Mistura
dodged Afghan television questions about Maxwell's death, Ban's
spokesman Martin Nesirky, lashed out at Inner City Press' use in a
"blog" of the
word "cover up" This is how UN staff in Kabul who raised
the issue to Inner City Press characterize the UN's response.
City Press on
Wednesday asked Nesirky if the UN has in its possession the weapon
assigned to Louis Maxwell, or whether it was stolen during, and
perhaps as the goal of, his murder. A witness has come forward about
died in the guesthouse about forty yards from my door. One of those
people was an American by the name of Louis Maxwell, a security guard
for the United Nations...Louis Maxwell committed himself effectively
and honorably and survived the Taliban attack. It was only after he
came down from the roof, and after the ANP had secured the compound,
that he was killed. According to video obtained by the UN, he was
shot at point-blank range by Afghan police in the courtyard of the
guesthouse. The reason? They wanted his gun."
asked Nesirky to state, yes or no, if the UN has Maxwell's gun in its
possession. Rather than answer this question, Nesirky went into a
seemingly prepared statement that, "let's be clear, you have
written that' management of information is one thing, cover up and
lies are another'... that is outrageous."
Press explained that cover up and lies precisely the
characterizations used by the UN staff in Kabul who have raised this
to Inner City Press, Nesirky chided Inner City Press for not then
putting the words in quotes and presumably identifying the speaker.
But the UN has a history of retaliating against whistleblowers, so it
is perhaps this request -- and misuse of the bully pulpit of the UN's
briefing room rostrum -- which some find outrageous.
the UN became
aware -- and more, with the video footage -- that Maxwell may have
been executed by Afghan National forces, why did it say nothing
publicly? Nesirky did not answer.
of Inquiry," Ban Ki-moon's awareness of which his spokesman
Nesirky would not describe, were to conclude that there is no
definitive evidence Maxwell was killed by a particular member of the
Afghan National forces, would the UN ever have disclosed the doubts
UN's Ban, de Mistura, Leroy et al. and Karzai,
Maxwell not shown
SRSG di Mistura was asked:
ONE [translated from Dari]: In view of recent comments by a UN
spokesperson, I want to know your views on the UN staff member killed
in the Bakhtar attack?
Can I first reply to questions on the elections? Today we are
focusing on questions on elections, but I will come back to you.
Press began asking questions about the death of Louis Maxwell, it
received this and other requests:
wish to bring to your attention the disgraceful lack of action by the
UN Secretary General in response to aspects of the tragic attack upon
the Bakhtar Guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan on 28 October 2009 which
resulted in the deaths of five UN staff members and injuries to many
others. I am referring to the following facts which came to light
during the investigation.
UN Security Officer, Louis Maxwell, (US citizen), who heroically
resisted the attackers thus allowing many others to successfully
escape, was summarily executed at point blank range by an Afghan
National Army member while in their custody, unarmed and not offering
any resistance. The extra-judicial killing was captured on video by a
staff member of the German Embassy and copies were provided to UN
investigators. The video has since been posted on the German 'Der
Spiegel' media site although they have failed to realise (or at least
publish) what exactly it is they are airing. In the aftermath of the
incident many Afghan security forces are interviewed on camera by the
local Afghan media and one Army Officer admits killing an 'Arab'
terrorist outside the guesthouse. (Mr. Maxwell was an African
American). Irrespective of whether he was mistaken for one of the
attackers, his killing was nothing short of murder. UN SG Ban has
refused to allow the issue to be raised with the Afghan government
for political reasons and wants the US authorities to handle the
Three of the other staff members killed during the incident were
actually shot by indiscriminate and undisciplined fire from the
Afghan security forces. The only staff member to actually die from
the attackers actions was the UNICEF staff member who burned to
Ban needs media pressure to explain his failure to follow up on this
crime with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that those
responsible are held accountable for their actions.
once the UN
became aware -- and more, with the video footage -- that Maxwell may
have been executed by Afghan National forces, why did it say nothing
publicly? Does the UN have in its possession Louis Maxwell's weapon?
Watch this site.
April 21 transcript, Inner City Press' questions and OSSG's
I wanted first to… I have a question about Sudan from yesterday,
but I wanted to follow up on this Afghanistan Board of Inquiry
questions. One is that a witness to the events has come forward and
said that Mr. Maxwell was killed for his gun, that the Afghan
national forces wanted his high-end assault rifle, and therefore
killed him to take it. They say it’s a… the gun is a Heckler and
Koch g36k assault rifle. What I wanted to know is, even as this is
going on, does the UN have in its possession at the end of those
events the weapon used by Louis Maxwell in defending the other staff
members? And also, is the Secretary-General, I think I’d asked
this in a written question I sent to you, before Ms. [Susana]
Malcorra convened this Board of Inquiry, was the Secretary-General
aware of this issue and did he approve of the composition and mandate
of the Board of Inquiry?
Well, let’s roll back a little bit. As I have said, the Board of
Inquiry is finalizing its report. It has not yet done so. It has
not yet been presented to those, as I outlined, who would be
presented either with the report or with the findings, depending on
who it is. So, I can’t say here and now what the findings are,
because that report has not been finalized and has not been handed
over. Therefore, on a very specific question such as the weapon, I
cannot give you an answer to that. This is a Board of Inquiry…
[inaudible] factual question [inaudible]
It may be a factual question, Matthew, and let us be really clear
about one thing, I seem to recall that you have written somewhere
that management of information is one thing, but cover up and lies
are another. Well, let me say here and now that this is pretty
outrageous and also insulting. We’re talking about the death of
one of our staff, a UN security officer who helped to save many
lives. It’s our responsibility, it’s our duty to find out the
facts. That is exactly what we are doing. And this is a Board of
Inquiry; everything is being done as it should. And once this has
been finalized and given to those who need to know first, there will
be a briefing, I am sure, as I have said, this has been done in the
past. And there will be an opportunity for you to ask further
That’s from a communication actually from UN staff in Kabul who,
when they initially raised this, said that they had been asking the
Secretariat to raise this to the Afghan Government for months with no
action. So, just so, you can say it’s outrageous, but I am saying…
…those who work there…
Matthew, Matthew, let’s be really clear. Let’s be really clear:
what’s outrageous is what you wrote in your blog, not what you’ve
just put to me. And I have just quoted you this one…
[inaudible] believe that the Secretariat has covered up the death of
one of their colleagues because it is inconvenient to raise it to the
Afghan Government. Your response is that it is outrageous. That’s…
No, it’s outrageous what you wrote. It was not a quote, it was
not a quote. It’s what you wrote in your blog.
And it was not a quote from someone.
I didn’t know that this was a forum for you to critique articles,
but I just wanted to know [inaudible].
No, it is, because it is possible for me to respond to you in the
same way that it is possible for you to respond to me. What I am
trying to tell you is that -- let me finish. The UN lost a number of
people, including the security officer, Mr. Maxwell, who had saved
many lives. We want to know what happened. We’re looking into
this. We want to know what happened. There is a Board of Inquiry
that has looked into this and it is finalizing its report. That’s
the most important thing that we’re trying to find out. We want to
know. You want to know, we want to know. And when the Board of
Inquiry has finalized its report, then those who need to know first
of all, would be told.
When was the UN going to say publicly that they were aware of an
alternative theory of the death of Louis Maxwell and three other
There is a Board of Inquiry that has been working on this for a long
time. You’ve seen the timeline.
But you’ve also said that if only in cases where, depending on the
finding, it may or may not be made public. If this inquiry were
done, and I think this was the sense of staff in Kabul, if the
inquiry were done and the UN decided to conclude that there wasn’t
conclusive evidence that Louis Maxwell was killed by Afghan national
forces, would the UN have ever said anything publicly about this?
There is no need for the United Nations to -- let’s put it this
way, the United Nations wants to know. Colleagues want to know. Friends
want to know. Family want to know. We want to know. He was
our guy. We want to know what happened. And the Board of Inquiry is
doing, and has been doing, the job that it was asked to do, which is
to find out. There is a due process here that is being followed.
Due process for who? For the Afghan national, unnamed Afghan
national forces, that’s what I know; I mean due process usually
means the accused.
It means following the procedure for, with -- as I have said to you
-- standard operational procedure for these kinds of boards within
the United Nations. And I have said here before, that if warranted,
this will be taken up with the Afghan authorities -- the findings.
Okay. I know, I understand. Just to be clear, I just want your
quote. To those who feel that the lack of any public statement by
the UN from -- since October -- about this issue despite their
knowledge amounts to a cover up, what would you say?
Absolutely not the case. Absolutely not the case. This is a Board
of Inquiry that was set up to look into what was obviously an
extremely tragic event, and to ensure that, to the extent possible,
we find out what happened. My point was to you Matthew, very
specifically, about one line in your blog that was not a quote from
people, it was something that was just written there.
[inaudible] I don’t quote them because they’re speaking off…
they believe that the UN would retaliate against them. I mean,
that’s… maybe you are unaware of those concerns. I wanted to ask
about Sudan, because I think we may have exhausted this, at least for
* * *
Afghan Death of Louis Maxwell As UN Edits Board's Report, 11 Questions
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 19, updated --
As the scandal grows about not only the presumptive
execution of UN staffer Louis Maxwell by Afghan National
forces in October 2009, but also the UN's cover-up, Inner City
on April 19 delved into the particulars of the UN's supposed "high
level Board of Inquiry" into the death of Mr. Maxwell, a U.S.
dodged Inner City Press' questions at the UN noon briefings of April
14 and April 15 by handing out answers to another media, on April 19
the UN took a series of questions and answered some of them by 6 pm.
Inner City Press submitted follow up questions which, because of the
history here, are set forth below. First, from the April
City Press: On Afghanistan, in continuing questioning on this death
of Louis Maxwell and the other UN staff -- the guest house, you said
last week that there was a high-level Board of Inquiry. I wanted to
know what, and I had asked, somehow I didn’t… by high level,
what’s meant? Are there any outsiders, an independent body? I’ve
heard that it’s actually just DFS [Department of Field Support]
employees, all of whom report to Susana Malcorra. Can you, if that’s
not true, I would like to know. But, what does high-level mean, and
will its report be made public or what will happen with its report?
Under what mandate was it set up? I searched through various GA
[General Assembly] and other documents, and there seems to be three
kinds of boards of inquiry, none of which this one falls under. So I
just, I guess I wanted to know…
Nesirky: What are the three?
City Press: I have them written down here. Do you…
We don’t have to go into it right now, but there are three
City Press: I’ll send these to you, but it wasn’t, you said, I
think last week, you’d said that you know these are set up. So, I
have to admit, maybe to my detriment, I don’t know actually know
how they’re set up. But on this one, I would like to know whether
it’s all DFS employees and whether it will be made public when it
concludes its investigation.
Three things: one is that the Board of Inquiry’s draft report has
been completed, the draft. But that does not mean that it is
finalized to go the Secretary-General. That’s the second point. The
step after it is finalized would be for it to go the
Secretary-General. Whether it’s subsequently made public is
something that I can’t answer here and now. I would need to find
out. I don’t know the answer to that right now. Clearly, there is
a lot of public interest in this, and I’m sure that that would be
taken into account. And as for the make-up of the board, who is on
the board, I can’t give you names and numbers. What I can tell you
is that, my understanding is that it is not exclusively in-house.
is what I can tell you now -- to my understanding, as far as I know,
this is not exclusively a board with in-house members. But the most
important thing here is that regardless of the Constitution, the way
that it is set up, it has the very clear aim of trying to understand
precisely what happened. These are very tragic circumstances, and
this was aimed to do an extremely thorough job to find out exactly
City Press: When this first came up last week, it was said that there
is a Board of Inquiry and that it will be done in due course. When
was this draft completed, and what are the steps between where it
stands now -- the draft? Was it completed over the weekend, or had
it already been completed before these questions arose last week, and
what steps between now and the Secretary-General getting it?
When a draft report is completed, then it is clear that it is
reviewed. And, then, before it is submitted to the
Secretary-General, it is reviewed. That’s a normal, if you like,
checks-and-balance kind of procedure that you would have with any
report. Other people look at it and then it is finalized to go to
City Press: [inaudible] because, like when you say reviewed, I had
asked, by who, just because last week we had the experience of the
[Heraldo] Muñoz Bhutto panel; they did their report; they didn’t
show it to anyone until they gave it to the Secretary-General. So,
it was an outside report…
City Press: In this case, is it Susana Malcorra reviewing it? Is it
UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan]? Is it the
Afghan national forces? Who reviews it?
I cannot give details to you on that right now. I am sure I will be
able to. I need to establish exactly what hoops I jump through.
to its transcript this "note" --
Spokesperson later added that it is standard procedure to convene a
board of inquiry in cases such as this. This particular board was
convened under the authority of the Under-Secretary-General of the
Department of Field Support and was comprised of external and
internal senior personnel with relevant backgrounds and Afghanistan
expertise (security; investigations; agencies, funds and programmes).
It was led by a former senior Australian Federal Police Officer.
procedure for the conclusion of the board of inquiry is as follows: the
board finishes and submits the draft report for legal comment. The
report is then given back to the board for further action (as
required) and/or sign-off. Once the report is signed off on by board
members it is considered finalized and it is presented to the
convening authority, in this case the Under-Secretary-General for
Field Support, for further action as warranted. The actual boards of
inquiry are not made public in order to protect the confidentiality
of the investigation.]
Inner City Press submitted follow up questions, which are printing
here because last week, when Inner City Press asked questions on the
record in the noon briefing, Nesirky's Office and his Associate
Farhan Haq chose to give the answers to another media.
UN's Ban, Malcorra and Nambiar, Louis Maxwell file
Here are the
new questions, we'll see to whom if anyone the UN Office gives
Regarding the UN's answers, below, please answer these follow up
questions, providing answers as they become available--
What is your reference when you say "standard procedure"? Can you
please provide the citation for DFS BOIs which examine the
death of a UN Security Officer?
In the event that the BOI finds the Host Government (Afghanistan) or
an agent thereof responsible for the death of Mr Maxwell, will your
office make this fact known to the UN Press Corps? Or would the UN
consider this "confidential" as well?
Prior to Ms Malcorra "convening" the BOI, was the
Secretary-General aware of her intention to do so, and did he approve
the composition and mandate of this particular BOI?
Did this BOI include any staff member or nominee from any department
other then DPKO and/or DFS?
You say below that the report has been "returned to BOI
members." When will the report been/be provided to the
Has or will the report been/be provided to the Host Government
Has or will the report been/be provided to the US FBI?
News reports indicate that the video was provided to Stern "by
the United Nations." Can you confirm or deny this assertion.
Did the BOI consider the wider issue of whether or not the initial
attack was actually perpetrated by the Taliban, as originally
reported by the UN, as opposed to having been perpetrated by another
Has or will the report been/be provided to the family of Mr Maxwell.
Did the Government of Afghanistan cooperate fully with the BOI?
as of press
time no answers were provided by the UN, Ms. Malcorra herself may
have an excuse, auto responding that
will be out of the office starting 17/04/2010 and will not return
that the head
of DPKO Alain Leroy is, one
assumes, still on the ten day leave the UN said began on April 9. Others say they saw Leroy squiring Kofi
Annan around on April 19. Welcome back, Kofi? Watch this site.