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As Bashir Threatens to Cut Observers' Fingers Off, UN Silent, on Venezuela Trip

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 -- Sudan's president Omar al Bashir has claimed his indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes has made him more popular, in the run up to elections. He's said that after the elections, he will travel to Venezuela, a member of the ICC.

  Inner City Press on March 23 asked the UN about Bashir, and experts on the ICC about Venezuela's -- and Brazil's -- duties to apprehend Bashir. David Donat Cattin, Director of the International Law and Human Rights Programme at Parliamentarians for Global Action, replied that Venezuela has NOT invited Bashir, and would be obligated to arrest him. So too would Lula, he said, if Bashir flew over Brazil. Video here.

With the UN in Sudan in the run up to election, what does the Organization say when President Bashir threatens to "cut off the fingers" of elections observers? Nothing, is the answer.

Bashir on the mic, cut fingers not shown

On March 23, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: On Darfur, President Omar Al-Bashir has been quoted regarding election observers as saying, if they interfere in our affairs, “we will cut their fingers off, put them under our shoes, and throw them out”, Bashir said. So, I understand there was a background briefing in which senior UN officials said that they’re monitoring things and as things come up, they are raised to the Government. I want to know what is the UN’s response, given both its role in the elections and with two major peacekeeping forces there, to a President saying he’ll cut the fingers off election observers.

Spokesperson: The point here is that the elections are a Sudanese process and the UN is providing technical support under a Security Council mandate. And the preparations for the election are well under way, as you know, and we do have concerns in three areas. One is that the technical challenges of preparing for an election in a country of that size with the infrastructure that is in place there, or not in place. We are also concerned about reports of harassment of opposition party members and intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention. And we are also concerned about the low registration of internally displaced people in Darfur. So we have been encouraging the Government of Sudan to address those particular concerns so that the elections, and this is really the key point, will reflect the will of the Sudanese people.

Question: I am just wondering: This seems to be a particular sort of harassment of election observers, saying that you would cut their fingers off. It is hard to imagine this not having some effect on the objectivity of the observation. So it was these senior UN officials, unnamed, said that these are the type of things that Mr. [Haile] Menkerios raises to the Government.

Spokesperson: Said where? Said where, Matthew?

Inner City Press: No, no. There was, maybe while you were traveling, but they announced here, so it was a known fact that there was a background briefing about the Sudanese elections. But they said the type of things, seemingly lesser than this, are the type of things Mr. Menkerios -- maybe he has not raised it yet, but I am wondering if and when Mr. Menkerios actually does raise this to the Government, about the open statement of cutting off fingers of election observers; is it possible to know that the UN did react in some way?

Spokesperson: Look, I have seen the same reports that you have about what President Bashir is supposed to have said. I do not know at this point whether Mr. Menkerios has raised it or not and I will find out.

Watch this site.

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In Sudan, UN Still Hasn't Reached Jebel Marra in Darfur, Pre-Spins Election Criticism, Afghanistan Redux?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- Weeks after reports of civilians being killed in Jebel Marra in Darfur, the UN has still not managed to visit the area, Inner City Press has been told. After twice asking about the issue in UN noon briefings, at a background briefing on March 19 by two senior UN officials about Sudan's upcoming elections, the failure to visit Jebal Marra was acknowledged. Later this came in writing:

"Dear Matthew, Kindly find hereby the answer to your question asked during noon briefing regarding Jebel Marra : Has UNAMID accessed Jebel Marra since the recent incident involving the Blue Helmets?

"The Mission is hoping to materialize a security assessment in the next week with a view to then sending humanitarians."

The UN's background briefing in advance of the April 11 elections in Sudan left correspondents scratching their heads. To many, it appeared that following the bad publicity the UN Mission in Afghanistan got, on phantom polling places and the like, the UN wants to "get out in front of the issue" in Sudan, and disclaim any responsibility for fraud.

"It's not for us to judge," said one of the senior UN officials. "Our role is not as observers."

Inner City Press asked about blatant attacks on the press and on the ability of candidates to speak to the public. For example, Sadiq al-Mahdi being unable to broadcast, the National Press Council of Sudan grilling two editors for insulting Omar al-Bashir, a radio station in Juba shut down for a time.

UN's Ban and Sudan Bashir in past: congratulations on your election?

The senior UN official said that each incident was raised, behind the scenes, to the Sudanese authorities, presumably by new UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios. But if the trends of crackdown is raised but just continues, does the UN go public?

 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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