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As UN Holds Event in Bahrain, Stonewalls on Rights & Roed-Larsen, UNPAS & HRW Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 23 -- Despite the human rights issues in Bahrain, the UN has invited over 700 people to a four day event there entitled “Transformative e-Government and Innovation.” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement which does not mention human rights.

  Often in Bahrain, presenting himself as Ban Ki-moon's main adviser, is Terje Roed-Larsen. He is not even a full time UN employee: his main job as as director of the International Peace Institute, which has opened an office in Bahrain that is funded by the government.

   Inner City Press repeatedly asked the UN to confirm or deny that Roed-Larsen took his UN-paid staffer with him to Bahrain on what he called a “personal” trip. The UN belatedly confirmed it, without explaining the use of UN funds on a personal trip.

  Nor has the UN explained how this is not a conflict of interest: a part-time UN Under Secretary General taking money from a government to open an office the NGO he heads in that government's capital.

  On May 23, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's three top spokespeople:

because I'd rather ask it in this format than at a noon briefing: can you confirm or deny that a staff member of Terje Roed Larsen in his role under Resolution 1559 was the subject of legal (criminal) problems and has left the US, where he was based at UN HQ? If confirm, is he still a UN staff member?”

  Ban's spokespeople answered other questions in that e-mail, but not this one. And so on June 1 and on June 8, Inner City Press posed it again. Other questions were answer but not this one. Apparently, the UN thinks if it just ignores some questions they will go away.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access has begun exploring differences in responsiveness of various parts of the UN system.

  For example, while the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Ban's Spokesperson's Office have refused to answer on who on June 14 killed an Ethiopian UN peacekeeper in Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has stated it was the SPLM-North rebels, and has replied to @FUNCA_info to this effect.

  Now @FUNCA_info has asked the UN Public Administration Network, which is blithely promoting the event in Bahrain with photos of woodwork at its National Theater “did UN consider or speak on human rights in Bahrain before putting this event there?” But UNPAS has not responded, at least not yet. Watch this site.

Footnotes: Not only FIDH but also Human Right Watch last week issued scathing reports about Bahrain's human rights record, including that “unregistered organizations are 'illegal' and joining one is a criminal offense under the penal code. In May, parliament amended the Public Gathering Law to ban demonstrations near 'lively places, and places that have a security nature.'”

  But HRW, whose Ken Roth meets with Ban Ki-moon then refuses Press requests that he disclose even just a list of the issues he and HRW raised, has had little to say about the UN holding this PSA event in Bahrain.

  Has the UN sunk so low that less is expected of it on human rights then, for example, the Formula 1 auto racing circuit?

  Finally, for now, the UN Department of Public Information's most recent move appears to be to in essence declare the Free UN Coalition for Access an “unregistered” organization and try to force the take-down of its sign, while leaving up two signs of the favored UN Correspondents Association (also known as the UN Censorship Alliance). Is this the type of governance the UN is going to Bahrain to learn?

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