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In Sudan, As Complaints of UN Inaction on Human Rights Mount, No Comment for 2 Days, Dubious Denial

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 2 -- The UN claims it is committed to human rights, in Sudan and elsewhere, but Sudanese democracy activists Girifna and opposition officials from the SPLM say otherwise.

Two days ago, Inner City Press asked the UN to respond to allegations that the UN Mission in Sudan, UNMIS, refused to to see the body of a Darfuri student tortured to death, or democracy activists surrounded by the police, because the request was on the weekend or outside of business hours. After a day, the UN declined comment. On September 2, Inner City Press was told that an answer might come. Video here, from Minute 15:46.

Well, now senior SPLM official has said that the UN and UNMIS

have a unit for the protection of human rights but this unit was dormant. It wasn't reaching out. They were not issuing statements. I don't think they are helpful. Their value is not public especially to those who were directly attacked, or tortured by the security services. They were never coming to the rescue. I'd like them to publish a statement to help the victims, to help those who are active in protecting human rights. They are too careful - more mindful of their jobs than taking their mission seriously."

And the Girifna activists, giving three examples where they called for immediate help and no one came, add that even when after the fact a Sudanese staffer “at the human rights department” did come, he just listened and they never heard from him again: “no feedback, no public statement, nothing.”

  So they feel the UN is meaningless and did not help them in any way. In fact the day before Girifna's Abdallah Mahdi was arrested and tortured, he and another colleague went to see UNMIS human rights. Then the next day Mahdi was arrested and tortured. Some wonder if there is a link.

Police in Sudan, UN human rights protection not shown

  On the report, by sources in New York, that the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Sudan Georg Charpentier recently began showing copies of press releases to the Sudanese humanitarian affairs ministry before releasing them, the UN through acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq on September 2 said that coordinator Charpentier “works with the government and opposition” but “does not submit press statements to the government for approval, with the exception of joint press statements on joint initiatives.” Video here, from Minute 5:20. We'll see.

Footnote: the UN Security Council's agenda for September includes two sessions on Sudan. On September 2, Inner City Press asked the month's Council president, Turkey's Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, if the Council would consider the government's push to break up Kalma Camp, or Kenya's and Chad's non-arrest of President Bashir. Video here, from Minute 39:40. Neither, apparently.
   The Council president acknowledged the UN's developing idea of naming a panel of eminent persons to monitor the January 2010 referendum. Video here, from Minute 43:47. A Western diplomat tells Inner City Press it involves "ex Presidents."

* * *

In Sudan, UN Mission Rebuffs Human Rights Complaints, Vets Statements With Bashir Government, Sources Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The UN Mission in Sudan rebuffs human rights protection outside of normal business hours, and runs its press releases by Khartoum's “humanitarian affairs” minister, Inner City Press has been told by sources. The UN in New York has neither confirmed nor denied, despite more than 24 hours lead time

On August 31, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky, the following:

Inner City Press: On Sudan, I wanted to ask two things about UNMIS, actually. So they’re about South Sudan and/or Khartoum. I’ve been told that in two recent incidents, for example there was the Girifna activist, the youth activists that were arrested by the Government, for being pro-democracy. That, in fact, they called the UN. They called UNMIS and asked for to be, when they were surrounded by the national NISS, and were told that UNMIS would only respond during normal office hours and in turn were arrested.

  In another incident, a Darfuri student was in the morgue, having been, it’s alleged, tortured to death. The UN was told to come to the morgue and witness this, and was told it was Friday and a holiday and would not come. So, I’m just wondering, does UNMIS have a policy of not responding to even alleged torture deaths on weekends? And why is it that Mr. [Haile] Menkerios, as much of the press corps in Khartoum and Juba are complaining, has only had a single press conference and says there’s no need to, actually. I mean that’s a separate one. People there are unable to get an answer. I guess if you can get an answer from UNMIS, if it’s true they didn’t respond and, if they didn’t, why they didn’t respond to these two very troubling human rights incidents.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think colleagues have heard this just as I have and I’m sure we’ll be contacting UNMIS to see what kind of response there is and to what extent there is anything to these reports and, if so, what that response is.

   Twenty four hours later -- and not over a weekend, in either New York or Khartoum -- the UN had provided no response. (Inner City Press had previously asked about the Girifna activists, without yet knowing the full extent of the UN's inaction.) So at the September 1 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Nesirky's acting deputy Farhan Haq about the previous day's questions, as well as a new outrage from yet another source, that UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier now vets his press releases with Sudan's Humanitarian Affairs minister before releasing, late and newsless.Video here, from Minute 15:46.

UN's Georg Charpentier, checking with Sudan gov't not shown

  Haq said he forwarded this question to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is in between departed chief John Holmes and his successor, Baroness Valerie Amos. Inner City Press went to Haq's office to ask for some belated answer to the previous day's UNMIS questions. Minutes later, Inner City Press received this (non) response, or implicit confirmation:

Subject: Your question on human rights and the UN Mission in Sudan
Date: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 1:15 PM
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question at the 31 August noon briefing:

We can assure you that the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) works seven days a week.

On the question of human rights abuses, UNMIS takes the issue very seriously. We have no further comment at this time on specific cases.

  Watch this site.

 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.

* * *

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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