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At US Bash for Rights Committee, of Sliders & Comfort Women, Tennis with Falk

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- Twenty three stories over the UN the delegates to the Third (Human Rights) Committee were hosted Thursday evening by American Ambassador Rick Barton, with talk ranging from upcoming elections for the Committee on Torture to the Occupy Wall Street protests downtown.

So far in the Third Committee the news that reached the UN press corps was a dust-up between Japan and South Korea on the topic of comfort women in the Second World War. This came under the high-sounding agenda item Advancement of Women but quickly descended into talk of crimes against humanity.

It turns out that an American candidate for the Committee on Torture, Ms. Felice D. Gaer, lost at least one Far Eastern vote for daring to raise issues about comfort women and reparations. The Democratic People Republic of Korea, which is usually Japan's interlocutor on the issue, this time fought with Canada, about being called North Korea (albeit in Frenc, Coree du Nord) by Canada's First Committee delegate Kelly Anderson.

On the human rights issue of a Nuba supporter of the SPLM being murdered by Sudanese police right in front of UN peacekeepers from Egypt in Southern Kordofan in June, Inner City Press approached the UN's top New York based human rights official Ivan Simonovic. "I can neither confirm nor deny," Simonovic said before leaving.

Out on First Avenue, the new head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, who has yet to answer for this or for the discipline if any of sexually abusive UN peacekeepers from Benin in Cote d'Ivoire and Sri Lankans in Haiti, waited across from the US Mission for the First Avenue express bus. It's a long way, from the Upper East Side to Haiti or Kordofan.

And from Maine as well. Mainer Rick Barton, the host, greeted all and sundry. Inner City Press asked his views of Occupy Wall Street and he said that anyone in the US who doesn't support the rights of peaceful protesters doesn't understand the US. (Another attendee, not American, joked about protesters with $2000 Apple computers.)

Barton worked hard last session to reverse a vote in the NGO committee to exclude gay rights promoters from UN accreditation. Thursday he told a story of playing tennis with Richard Falk, the now-controversial Special Rapporteur about rights in Palestine.

Barton in the GA, Falk tennis and Democratic politics not shown

 Meanwhile at Thursday evening's reception US and French representatives from the Security Council's afternoon session on Palestine's application to join the UN chatted, as a representative of Libya's Transitional National Council worked the room.

Inner City Press' urging that TNC Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi visit Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park has still not be acted on, even as Mayor Michael Bloomberg explains the protesters will have to vacate the park on Friday morning, temporarily or forever it is not clear.

The previous evening's host, Ambassador for Management (and Pennsylvanian) Joe Torsella, was also in attendance; he declined to compare his Italian fare with the more generic vegetable and cheese cubes Third Committee spread. Barton had sliders, however, while Torsella had grilled cheese.

The European Union, it emerges, has regained its voice after more than a week of fighting over whether to speak as "the members of the EU" or "the EU and its members." Now it's just "EU." Earlier on Thursday the spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly told Inner City Press it was not a fight:

Inner City Press: last week there have been two exceptions, but basically the European Union hasn’t spoken in committees. There was a big fight to get them the right to speak, and now they are not speaking. I understand that there’s some dispute about whether they should be called the EU, the member States of the EU or the EU and its member States. Is that true? How is it going to be resolved and what does the President of the General Assembly think of it?

Spokesperson: First of all, I would not characterize it as a fight, as you’ve just put it. So, what I can tell you regarding this problem is that we were asked to give — the PGA’s Office, the President of the General Assembly’s Office — has been asked to give an opinion to that issue, and the PGA sought the legal opinion of the Office of Legal Affairs, as well he consulted with the other major stakeholders regarding that particular issue, including representatives of the General Assembly Affairs Office, and also with the Chairs of the Main Committees. And we are aware that there are internal EU discussions going on among the EU and the Chairs of the other Committees, and particularly with the Chair of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Mr. Hassim Hanif. And Mr. Hanif is consulting with other Member States, and they are trying to resolve the matter in their own context. That’s what I can tell you about that matter.

Inner City Press: Sure. Did he check CARICOM, viewed as a stakeholder in this, some Member States have had some problems with giving this right to the EU, that’s why I was calling it a fight, I just wonder, when you were listing the stakeholders, did he meet with these regional groups like CARICOM?

Spokesperson: The stakeholders, the ones that I have mentioned are the ones that we have held consultations with.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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