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As US Restricts UN Staff to 25 Miles from NY, UN Complains, After Press Asks

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The United States, which is required to allow entry by diplomats from countries like Iran, Cuba and Belarus to attend the United Nations in New York, requires these diplomats to register and seek permission to travel more than 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

But recently Inner City Press learned that the U.S. has been imposing the same restriction on UN staff members from such countries, despite the fact that UN staff are deemed to be international civil servants, not working for the countries where they were born. (In fact, some such UN staff are opponents of their governments.)

On August 19, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about this:

Inner City Press: It’s come to my attention that there are UN staff members from countries that are on United States sanctions lists that, whereas diplomats from these countries are precluded from travelling beyond 25 miles outside of New York without getting permission of the State Department, that there are UN staff members that, although they are international civil servants, are similarly being required to check with the State Department to travel beyond 25 miles. I think that there are Under-Secretaries-General aware of their staff members in this situation. I wanted to know whether the Secretariat believes it’s appropriate that UN staff members who are international civil servants, not working for their underlying Government, are subject to this restriction. Why hasn’t the Secretariat fought for the rights of its staff members right here in the United States?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Where you’re sitting now is not in the United States, Matthew.

Inner City Press: No, no, I understand. I’m saying that the State Department, in granting the G-4 visa, has imposed the condition that these individuals, UN staff members…

Spokesperson Nesirky: No, I heard what you said, but I need to find out. I don’t have anything for you on that. But thanks for the question and we’ll look into it.

Inner City Press asked the question because it was aware of situations in which UN Under Secretaries General threw up their hands and said nothing could or would be done.

UN's Ban looking up at Obama, restrictions on UN staff not shown

  But when the UN answered Inner City Press' question, here is what they said:

Subject: Your question on immunities for UN staff
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>

I can confirm that, in answer to your question, we have the following response:

"The United Nations Secretariat has indicated to the United States Government its position of principle concerning the treatment of its staff solely on the basis of their nationality and has requested that all travel restrictions be removed by the host country as soon as possible."

On September 1, Inner City Press asked when it was that the UN “indicated to the U.S. government its position of principle.” No answer was given -- some assume because the UN only belatedly raised the issue to the U.S. government AFTER the question was raised. Watch this site.

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UN Whistleblower Awarded $166,000 from UNDP, Exposed N.Korea Irregularities

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- The whistleblower who exposed irregularities in the UN Development Program's programs in North Korea, only to be fired and barred from UN premises, today won a $166,000 judgment from the UN Dispute Tribunal.

   Tony Shkurtaj, whose story Inner City Press exclusively covered from his first blowing of the whistle after UNDP ignored his complaints to then Administrator Kemal Dervis and Spokesman David Morrison's use of mainstream media to smear Shkurtaj's character and educational background, has doggedly pursued his rights as a whistleblower, first through the UN's seemingly powerless Ethics Office and now through the UN Dispute Tribunal.

On August 31, in a decision Inner City Press has obtained and is putting online here, UNDT Judge Ebrahim-Carstens ruled:

"The Tribunal finds that not only was the applicant not given an opportunity to respond to these adverse findings, he was not even made aware of the EIIRP’s concerns regarding his credibility at any point prior to the issuance of the report. The Tribunal is persuaded by the applicant’s argument that the report of the EIIRP contained adverse findings against him and that, in the particular circumstances of this case, he should have been made aware of them prior to the issuance of the report and provided with the opportunity to comment on them and provide his explanations. Therefore, the Ethics Office’s finding that there was a violation of the applicant’s procedural right to be made aware of—and to have the opportunity to respond to—the adverse findings concerning his credibility and trustworthiness was reasonable and justified. This is particularly so considering the report was made public, following which there was no further process made available to the applicant to contest these findings. This failure resulted in a violation of the applicant’s due process rights, damaged his career prospects and professional reputation, and caused him emotional distress, for all of which he should be compensated. I find that the recommendation of the Director of the Ethics Office that the applicant be paid fourteen months’ salary was reasonable in light of all the circumstances of this case". (14 months x $11,500 = 161,000)

UNDP's Clark and Team Ban, whistleblower protections not shown

"The referral of the report to the Ethics Office for recommendations was part of UNDP’s effort to carry out a fair and objective fact-finding exercise and this referral was meant to be meaningful, particularly considering the history of this case. The undertaking by UNDP was to share EIIRP’s findings with the Director of the Ethics Office, who “could then provide an opinion and formulate recommendations, as may be appropriate, on the retaliation allegations in light of these findings”. This meant that, having submitted to the process, UNDP was required to give serious and timeous consideration to the Ethics Office’s comments and recommendations, make a decision on them and provide this decision, along with the reasons, to the applicant. There is no evidence before me that UNDP afforded such timeous and serious consideration to the Ethics Office’s recommendation. This failure and the resultant procedural delay shall be recompensed. In light of the circumstances of this case, I find that the lump sum amount of USD5,000 is appropriate to compensate the applicant." (+$5,000).”

   Earlier, UNDP refused to abide by the UN Ethics Office ruling that Shkurtaj's due process rights were violated. Now the new UN justice system, that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has bragged so much about, has vindicated Shkurtaj's rights. Will Ban allow UNDP under Helen Clark to continue to thumb its nose at whistleblower's rights? Watch this site.

Footnote: Even earlier this month, UNDP dodged questions on fraud by its highest representative to the Palestinian people, exposed by Inner City Press, click here. Until now, Ban Ki-moon has done nothing to reign in UNDP's Helen Clark, whose advice has gotten Ban into more and more trouble. What will happen here?

Update of September 1, 1 p.m. -- Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about the UNDT judgment and whether the UN will finally comply and recompense the whistleblower. Haq called the decision "complex" and said it is being studied....

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 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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