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UN Lawyer Refused To Appear Before GA, Jeremic Says, HRW's Roth Reversed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- Of all the things Vuk Jeremic said at his hour long press conference about last week's debate on the “Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation,” what seems most Pressing is the total lack of accountability of officials of Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat.

  Jeremic recounted asking Ban's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien to speak on a panel, on this legal topic directly within her responsibilities. According to Jeremic, O'Brien refused, saying that she had other unspecified more important things to do that day.

  The General Assembly is supposed to oversee the UN. How can a Secretariat official just refuse to appear before it, citing other more important things to do without saying what they are?

  Imagine, in the US, Attorney General Eric Holder trying to tell Congress that he wouldn't come, he had something else to do. He would soon be having nothing ELSE but something else to do.

  But in this UN system there is no oversight; there is no accountability.

  Given this, the role of the media in trying to watchdog and question UN official is all the more important. This too often breaks down.

  The lapdog relationship between Agence France Presse's Tim Witcher as well as Reuters and Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, has already been detailed.

   But it is pervasive. Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, who demanded the first question in the Jeremic press conference in the name of the UN Correspondents Association, has written to the UN claiming that Inner City Press' questions have harassed certain diplomats and UN officials, making them reluctant to give press conferences.

  So asking hard questions is a bad thing for a journalist to do? What kind of association IS this UNCA? It's now called the UN's Censorship Alliance.

Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked Jeremic about criticism it has received from some African Permanent Representatives, that his upcoming debate on Africa seems focused on “conflict rather than renaissance.”

  Jeremic pointed out that the sub-title involves the nexus of development and conflict, and that the panels will go in that direction (assuming, of course, no cancellations).

  Inner City Press asked about the draft Syria resolution, on which it first reported and put online two drafts. Jeremic said he has been traveling - China, Istanbul - and will now become more engaged. He said switching Syria's seat to the opposition raises concerns for many, as a precedent.

  Following up on the “Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation” cancellation, Inner City Press first tweeted the question to Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth, then sent him and Jeremic's office this:

This is a Press request for all correspondence concerned the PGA's February 13 invitation, the stated February 18 confirmation and March 13, 2013 cancellation regarding the April 10 debate on the “Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation.” A request was an explanation of the reversal was sent via Twitter during the PGA's press conference:

While no explanation has been received, we are following up on the PGA's direction to e-mail a request for all correspondence, with a cc to the interlocutor Ken Roth. Here it is.

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