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UN Explains Hyundai, Defers Camobia, DRC & Liberia, Denies NJ Incident

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 28, updated twice -- How does the UN decide when to take a donation, particularly from a government? Inner City Press first raised the question when Ban Ki-moon accepted flights around the Gulf from the United Arab Emirates -- would he similarly accept flights from Syria?

   Back then in January, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said that accepting gifts including transportation is "thought about extremely carefully."

   But how is it thought about? Inner City Press has asked the UN what rules applied to the armored Hyundai luxury sedan that Ban Ki-moon accepted earlier this month, with a red bow in the hood and a champagne toast.

  The UN has told Inner City Press, "it was decided to accept the donation made by the Government of Korea given the donation is consistent with the policies, aims and activities of the Organization."

   Does this mean that giving an armored car is consistent with UN aims? Or that South Korea, as a donor, is consistent with UN aims as other countries, including on the Peninsula, might not be?

   The UN also told Inner City Press that "the Government of the Republic of Korea will pay for all costs and expenses related to the vehicle."

   Is the low mileage of the car consistent with UN policies and aims? The UN answered, "Fuel costs will be similar to the existing armoured vehicles in the fleet." But what about its carbon footprint?

   At least the UN responded to these automotive Press questions, and one about UNRWA. For that in this holiday season we are grateful. But other questions have been ignored or deferred, among others about Darfur and Liberia, Cambodia and, yes, New Jersey:

Dec 28-1 In Sudan, what is UNAMID doing about the seige of Ronga Tas IDP camp in Central Darfur, and the attempt by authorities to arrest 27 people who organized a demonstration? What is UNAMID's response to calls that the UN do more to protect civilians? Does UNAMID support the government's push to relocate these 33,000 people to places other than their places of origin?

Dec 28-2 In Liberia, this is a request for a detailed update on what the UN ever did about the complaints of the National Staff Association of UNMIL, first to Jane Holl Lute then to the Secretary General, about working conditions and discrimination. In particular, this is a request whether the UN ever investigated and came to a conclusion on the NASA's charges about the UNMIL Deputy Chief Engineer...

Dec 28-5 please confirm or deny an incident described to Inner City Press in which during a Secretary General trip in New Jersey his vehicle and security were stopped by authorities and searched. What are the legalities of UN DSS personnel carrying weapons outside of the UN premises, including in the adjacent states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania? [See below, January 2]

Dec 28-6 On Cambodia, given the history, what is the Secretary General's or Secretariat's comment on the 20 year prison term for journalist Mam Sonando for criticizing Hun Sen, and the restrictions on Chan Soveth of Adhoc, who was questioned on Monday?

   The questions on Cambodia and New Jersey have received no answer as of 5 pm on Friday.* On Liberia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, these deferrals were provided:

"On UNAMID and UNMIL - DPKO advise they are in touch with the missions and when they have something we will let you know. On MONUSCO - DPKO does not have a further update at this stage. As already advised, human rights investigations continue."

   This last is about the 126 rapes by Congolese forces the UN may still be working with, which occurred in November 2012.

  How is the UN's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy meaningful, with not only this delay, but lack of transparency in stating which FARDC units the UN has been working with?

   DPKO chief Ladsous refused to answer this question, retreating to the hall with favored correspondents on November 27 (video here) then having his spokesman seize the UN TV microphone on December 18 (video here), still not addressed by the UN. Watch this site.

Update: the Cambodia question later drew this response:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Sat, Dec 29, 2012 at 5:34 AM
Subject: Question
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

On Cambodia: Both cases remain before the courts. Mr. Mam Sonando has an appeal pending before the Court of Appeal on convictions related to secession,   and Mr. Chan Soveth remains at liberty as investigations continue into allegations of aiding the perpetrator of a crime. We are following developments in both cases through the OHCHR Office in Phnom Penh.

Update of January 2, 2013, 4:25 pm -- this came in:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 4:03 PM
Subject: Question
To: Inner City Press

On the Secretary-General's travels in and around New York, including New Jersey: The UN Security and Safety Service (SSS) advises that no incident involving the Secretary-General along the lines described by you to the Spokesperson's office took place. SSS closely coordinates all movements throughout the United States by the Secretary-General and other senior leadership with the relevant Host Country security agencies.

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