UN Preps Benign Friendly Fire Story, Kabul Death Questions in DC and to
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 23 -- As the UN prepared to serve up on Monday its
version of the murder of its staff member Louis Maxwell by
Afghan National forces last October, Mr. Maxwell's death was raised
Friday at the U.S. State Department briefing. The Department's
spokesman Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley replied that "there’s
an investigation that is still ongoing by
the United Nations and the FBI, that the investigation is not
completed, so I would defer judgment until the investigation is done."
another mirage, to some the outstanding FBI investigation represents
a final chance for review that is not clouded by the UN's own
conflicts of interest in the matter. Since arguing with Hamid Karzai
right at the time of Maxwell's death about electoral fraud, the UN
has tried to get closer to Karzai, most recently accepting his
de-internationalizing of an electoral review body.
government, of course, is also trying to stay close to Karzai even as
he insults them. But since at least portions of FBI reports can
legally become public, there is more accountability than in the UN
system, in which reports by these in-house Boards of Inquiry are
withheld in full.
the UN on
Friday, Inner City Press asked spokesman Martin Nesirky who made the
decision not to release any portion of the Maxwell report. Nesirky
pointed back to a previous answer, that witnesses must be protected.
But, for example, the UN panel headed by Heraldo Munoz which released
a report on April 15 on the murder of Benazir Bhutto released its
report in full.
also asked, in light of yet another pre-release interview by the
UN's Tony Banbury, whether his word "murder" is now the
UN's view of what happened to Maxwell. When Inner City Press used the
legal term earlier this week, Nesirky admonished to "watch what
you say." Nesirky declined to answer, saying all questions would
have to wait for Monday. Video here,
from Minute 5:35.
one question he
would have answered, he didn't. Inner City Press asked about a
General Assembly report, quantifying 150 Board of Inquiry reports in
2007, and 160 in 2008. In Inner City Press' experience, very few of
these are even disclosed publicly, that a review took place. So that
might have been the fate of this one, except for the questions asked.
UN's Ban saying Taliban did it, alternative theory
not seen for months
noon briefing, Inner City Press put a series of questions to Nesirky,
Banbury and Susana Malcorra, Under Secretary General at the UN
Department of Field Support:
are questions for the OSSG, the "you" in the questions,
since the cc-ed Mr. Banbury apparently only speaks to select media
like NBC, but won't answer any of the questions previously sent to
him. There are, once again, on deadline for next story in this
Can you confirm and does the UN stand by Mr. Banbury's quotes to
[MS]NBC News that Louis Maxwell was "quote" murdered? If
you cannot confirm this, what is your justification?
Did your office arrange or was your office aware of Mr Banbury's
availability to NBC News? Did the EOSG arrange or was the EOSG aware
of Mr Banbury's availability to NBC News?
Can you confirm and does the UN stand by Mr. Banbury's quotes that
Andrew Hughes is the head of the probe? If you cannot confirm this,
what is your justification?
what day did Mr. Hughes cease his UN position? Thereafter, was he
compensated or reimbursed in any way for his work on the Board of
Who were the other members of the board of inquiry?
I'm going to ask again, because you have refused to address the
factual question: does the UN have in its possession the UN-issued
weapon that Louis Maxwell was issued?
Whose decision was it that the full text of this report will not be
Will the report be made available to member states upon request, or
will it be withheld from Member States (besides Afghanistan) ?
what about the other outstanding questions, including to USG
U.S. State Department transcript April 23:
in October last year, a U.S. national working as a UN security guard
was killed in Kabul during a Taliban attack on the UN building. And
then soon thereafter, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said
that the U.S. national was killed by the Taliban. But now there’s a
UN report coming out with the – saying same that it was basically
Afghan armed forces which killed the U.S. national. So what’s the
CROWLEY: Well, there’s an investigation that is still ongoing by
the United Nations and the FBI, that the investigation is not
completed, so I would defer judgment until the investigation is done
* * *
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