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In UN NGO Comt'e, CCR Cites FOIA, UN Doesn't Have, Sudan on ICC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- In the UN's Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on February 3, longtime US civil rights law firm Center for Constitutional Rights spoke in favor of its application for consultative status with the UN.

   CCR's representative, Maria Lahood, described legal work in the South, more recently about Guantanamo, and mentioned the International Criminal Court.

  Predictably, the representative of Sudan asked for the floor to seek more specifics about this work with the ICC, which has indicted Sudanese president Omar al Bashir for genocide.

   Lahood replied that CCR has filed an amicus brief about gender based violence. Sudan wanted more information, and continued to asked even as the Committee's chair said, no more questions, the floor is closed to you. Apparently answers will be given in writing, a run-around cited my many applicants as akin to extended delay or constructive denial.
  Before the microphone was shut off on Sudan, CCR's Lahood mentioned the Center's cases under the Freedom of Information Act.

  As Inner City Press, which in full disclosure has worked with CCR on Community Reinvestment Act and FOIA cases, for example  Inner City Press v. Bd. of Governors of Federal Reserve Sys., 463 F.3d 239 (see Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press about the case, here) and the new Free UN Coalition for Access which it co-founded have pointed out, the UN itself has NO Freedom of Information Act, but should have one. Perhaps a new project.

  The next time Sudan was given the floor, its representative lodged a formal complaint against the chair, to be recorded in the minutes. We'll see.

  Back on January 29, again by Sudan, questions were directed at NGOs like Shi'a Rights Watch and the International Association of Independent Journalists. Inner City Press as before covered the Committee's back and forth, here and here.

The United States spoke up on the former, not the latter. At 6 pm the meeting abruptly ended, with the scheduling of a closed door session for 9:30 am on January 30 about the Committee's “work methods.”

  After that, US Ambassador Samantha Power, speaking by Twitter, said “very concerning initiative in NGO Committee to prevent UN from publicly reporting what member states say about NGO's seeking accreditation.... In an era of global crackdown on civil society, the UN's NGO Committee must set the example for openness & transparency. RT if you agree.”

  Among the re-tweeters was the UN Correspondents Association, a group that decided does not support the rights in independent journalists, having tried for example to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, see here and here and here (UK Guardian here).  The need for content neutral rules at the UN... another project?

 The feed of UNCA, more properly known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, is in fact run by censors, here. They didn't even cover the NGO Committee, only playing sycophant to Power after the fact. And so it goes at the UN. Watch this site.

Footnote: the day before in the UN's NGO Committee the proposal was made to proceed, in meetings making up for those cancelled by snow, without interpretation. Cuba and Nicaragua objected, as others were sure to. We'll see.

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