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On Haiti, Pillay Was Banned From Speaking on Cholera, UN Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- To censor dissent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's decision not to provide a remedy to the victims in Haiti of the cholera UN Peacekeeping brought, even then UN High Commissioner on Human Rights was enlisted, it has been alleged.

Stephen Lewis, who was the former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS and former Deputy Director of UNICEF has given a speech discussing then High Commissioner Navi Pillay saying in October 2013 that she "stands by the call that ... those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.” 

  Lewis reveals that he tried to speak with Pillay about it but that she was "silenced":

"…[A]t that very moment, I was about to do a CBC interview on cholera, so I immediately put in a call to Navi Pillay (whom I knew; not long before we were on a Panel together in Geneva). She was allegedly unavailable. Finally, we reached her personal assistant. On December 4th, 2013, at 10:02 am, my Executive Assistant, who conveys messages with impeccable perfection, wrote me an e-mail as follows: “I just received a call from the personal Assistant to the High Commissioner. She conveyed the following message: The High Commissioner sends her greetings. However, she will not be able to speak with you on the subject of Haiti. She’s happy to speak to you about issues of human rights, but a conversation about Haiti needs to be dealt with by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.”

  That is censorship. Supporters of the UN who do not even acknowledge its problems do not, in fact, help the UN.

 Take for example a recent 700 word article by an official of the UN Foundation, a UN supporter, about the UN's work in Haiti. The article, published by or on Huffington Post, does not even MENTION the charges that the UN introduced cholera to Haiti, which has killed at least 8000 Haitians.

   The charges, and now litigation in New York, are in the news. It is impossible to believe that UN Foundation is not aware of the issue. So why not at least mention it, even if only to deny the charges -- as UN Peacekeeping does, while refusing to take follow up questions -- or to argue that accountability would be a bad precedent?

   To not mention the issue is telling: officials in the UN Secretariat, particularly in UN Peacekeeping, surround themselves with positive voices (yes-men and -women) and are ill-advised by them. This includes, as another example, UNCA which has become the UN's Censorship Alliance -- where, we note, Pillay recently spoke. We're open to, and will have more, on this.

Background, with a song -- On the UN having brought cholera to Haiti, the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon didn't even "appear" at the October 23 court hearing. Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq again on October 24. Haq replied, "I can confirm there was a hearing yesterday. In light of its immunity, the UN did not appear in court. The US asserted the position that [the UN] officials are immune." Video here (October 24) and here (October 23).

  Inner City Press asked Haq about U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain arguing to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken that the case could unleash a huge set of claim against the UN. Why, Inner City Press asked, doesn't Ban Ki-moon just waive immunity in this case, while maintaining it in others? No answer.

  Twenty minutes later when pianist Lang Lang appeared in the UN Press Briefing Room as a UN Messenger of Peace promoting the evening's UN Day concert, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked him and asked what he thought of the UN's impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, and if he would think of any other ways the UN should improve.

  Lang Lang apologized, saying he hadn't heard of the case.

  That the UN Secretariat tries to downplay it, with UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refusing Press questions about it is one thing. But earlier on October 24 the so-called UN Correspondents Association took a briefing that would and should have been in the same webcast UN Press Briefing Room as Lang Lang appeared it and put it, without webcast, into the clubhouse the UN give to what has become its UN Censorship Alliance.

   UNCA, this UN Censorship Alliance, angled to privatize this event after itself promoting, protecting and having provided photo ops to Ban Ki-moon, and seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN.

  One continues to wonders why those involved in this event and broadcasters' film didn't go to the UN's Press Briefing Room, sponsored by a member state like St. Vincents which spoke on the issue, as covered here by Inner City Press. That way it would have been promoted to and have included all journalists at the UN, not just that subset which pays money to UNCA. Also, that way it would have been in UNTV webcast, viewable around the world including in Haiti. As noted, an important documentary and panel, but the means are the end: today's UNCA gives Ban Ki-moon's UN more impunity. We'll have more on this.

  In the second case against Ban Ki-moon and the UN, filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, more than 1,100 more plaintiffs have just been added, bringing the total in that case to 2,600. The lawyers in the second case affirm that Ban Ki-moon was served the court papers as he entered the Asia Society on Park Avenue in Manhattan -- the UN, which long evaded service by the lawyers in the first case, denies service in the second -- and now the UN has taken to publicly contradicting itself, then trying to censor.

 After Edmond Mulet was quoted -- told France 24 in an on-the-record interview -- that the Nepali peacekeepers were screened for cholera before the UN sent them to Haiti, Inner City Press on October 10 first asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who had previously made this claim, if it is in fact true. October 10 video here.

  Haq on October 10 didn't directly deny it - but MINUSTAH spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese when asked about it by Jonathan Katz directly denied Mulet's claim of screening.

  Then on October 13 Inner City Press asked Haq about this direct divergence in UN statements, between Mulet and MINUSTAH's Pugliese. To this, Haq said that given pending litigation he did not want to "prejudice" the case by saying anything. Video here and embedded below.

  The France 24 report noted that "shortly after the interview, Mulet’s press officer asked FRANCE 24 not to air the recording." On October 14 France 24's Jessica Le Masurier read out the specifics of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' spokesman's email asking France 24 to confirm that the Haiti portion of the interview would not be aired. Video here and embedded below.

  Inner City Press asked Haq if this attempt at censorship is appropriate, if it is now UN practice. Haq said that his Peacekeeping colleagues thought Mulet about "be more secure" if he re-did the interview at some later date after being prepared. Haq encouraged France 24 to give Mulet this do-over.

  On behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access which has opposed this type of selective or privatized UN communication, particularly by UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press asked that Mulet now do a real press conference for all correspondents, to answer questions.

  Haq laughed and said all France 24 was asking for was an interview. But that's not the only request.

  In fact, it was the big-wigs of the UN's Censorship Alliance who sought to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, initially at the behalf of UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous and the Sri Lankan government, and have not reformed since. Here is current UNCA president's on the record "presentation" to Inner City Press and FUNCA, audio here, and here, and here. They market themselves as a cheap way to get into the UN -- as they marketed or sold themselves to the Sri Lankan government. Why aren't those trying to achieve change at the UN more circumspect? Apparently the UN causes this (bad) reaction.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has identified and is opposing a range of censorship at and by the UN. Sample Vine here.

  Haq on October 13 insisted this was not censorship, only that UN Peacekeeping (who's communications chief under Herve Ladsous is Nick Birnback) has understood the interview with Mulet to be about Mali and the Central African Republic and then offered Mulet on Haiti after he had been "prepared."

  But, Inner City Press pointed out, Mulet was the head of MINUSTAH when cholera entered Haiti - isn't that preparation enough?

  Haq said Inner City Press since it has been in journalist should understand what being prepared for an interview is. Video here.

  Frankly, it sounds perilously close to being coached.

  Haq went on to claim that the France 24 reporter afterward indicated awareness or even agreement that the interview was supposed to be limited to Mali and CAR. We'll await some correction of this: peacekeeping, as a topic, obviously includes the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti which Mulet headed. We'll have more on this.

  The UN still has not answered Inner City Press' repeated question whether the UN will be sending any representative to the October 23 oral argument in Federal court on the topic. This is impunity.

  On October 9, Ban Ki-moon gave a speech at the World Bank about water and cholera in Haiti, without mentioning the question of how cholera was brought to Haiti, much less the litigation against himself.

  So at the October 9 UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci if Ban's statement that his "heart ached at the losses that so many thousands of people have had to suffer and die" was a reference to the UN bringing cholera to Haiti. Video here.

  Maestracci responded about the UN trying to raise money for sanitation in Haiti. Inner City Press waited to re-phrase what it had asked, about accountability. Maestracci said "I can see that you really don't care about my answer, you just want to ask another question."
  But it was the same question, about accountability and the rule of law. And neither it nor the factual question of whether the UN will sent anyone to the October 23 court hearing has been answered.

 On October 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN, which has dodged service of the legal papers, will at least appear in court. Video here. Dujarric said the UN's legal position remains unchanged. Maestracci repeated this on October 9. One might assume it means the UN will ignore the court hearing. But that would be an assumption.

  Also on October 8, and also on UN impunity, Inner City Press asked spokesman Dujarric about a detailed report of rapes in Haiti by UN peacekeepers, for which the UN also refused to waive immunity. Dujarric said he hadn't heard of it, but would be happy to look for it -- it is here. We'll see.

  Back on August 28, the plaintiffs in the Haiti cholera case against the UN, Ban and Mulet filed their sur-reply, which Inner City Press put online here.

 On September 17, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti held a conference call about the status and background of the case. IJDH's executive director Brian Concannon said that cholera was introduced to Haiti in October 2010 by UN peacekeepers.

   Concannon said the UN waited 15 months then called the claims "not receivable" -- the same phrase the UN used as to whistleblowers in a belated answer it sent to Inner City Press during the IJDH call, click here for that.

  He described serving the legal papers on Ban Ki-moon and Edmond Mulet, the head of the MINUSTAH mission (and, also on September 17, briefing the Security Council about peacekeepers giving over their weapons, vehicles and even uniforms to the Jabhat al Nusra rebels in the Golan Heights).

  IJDH Legal Fellow Shannon Jonsson described how the UN failed to provide any out of court process to consider claims, in violation of two treaties (and the UN's Status of Forces Agreement.)

  Finally, IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom described broader advocacy , in Congress and among UN member states, to get justice for those harmed by the UN's introduction of cholera to Haiti. She quoted Martin Luther King that the arc of history is long but bends toward justice. There will be an upcoming demonstration at the UN's logistics base in Haiti. We'll have more on this.

   The US' 15-page letter cited in support of UN immunity the case of Cynthia Brzak, regarding sexual harassment by UNHCR's Ruud Lubber, and a letter to US Ambassador Samantha Power from the UN's counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares, which Inner City Press is putting online, here.  The US letter to the court is here.

  Beyond supporting Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dodging the service of legal papers -- on which Ban's spokespeople have themselves dodged and more -- the US letter cited the UN - Haiti program on cholera on which the UN's Pedro Medrano has still to take Press questions.

  The US letter says, "The General Convention and the SOFA provide that any dispute between a state party and the UN shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice, see General Convention, art. VIII, § 30; SOFA art. VIII, § 58; and the SOFA provides that any dispute between MINUTSAH [sic] and the Government of Haiti shall be submitted to arbitration, see SOFA art. VIII, § 57."

  So much for "we the peoples."

  The sur-reply filed August 28 states that "under the doctrine of unclean hands, the request for immunity should be refused.  The Government fails to present any response to this argument."

   Back on May 15, opposition to the US' first iteration of its position was filed, with amicus support from a bevy of law professors, an ex judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and former UN human rights rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak.

  Nowak said, "the UN needs to understand that immunity cannot mean impunity. If it refuses to provide people alleging harm with a path to justice, courts will refuse to uphold its immunity.”

   But then as now, the UN under  Ban Ki-moon wouldn't even bring its envoy on cholera Pedro Medrano forward for questioning. Inner City Press has asked, for example on April 21:

Inner City Press: … seemed to quote Mr. Medrano as predicting in advance that this panel he would be on with the Government may provide assistance, but he said, like, the word “compensation” won’t be used. So I wanted to know, is that a UN position? Is it his prediction of that the Government doesn’t want the word “compensation” used? And is there some way that we can have by video or otherwise, a kind of, some kind of presentation by Mr. Medrano?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: Sure, on Haiti, over the weekend, the terms of reference on this high level committee on cholera, which would be a UN and Government of Haiti committee, have been officially agreed on. And the aim is really for the joint effort of to fight cholera between the UN and the Government of Haiti. The Committee aims at further improving the coordination response to the epidemic and obviously we expect to have an official announcement in the next couple of days. But this is a very important… the establishment of this committee is a very important one in terms of our efforts, and most importantly the Government of Haiti’s efforts, to address not only cholera but also the associated water and sanitation issues....

Inner City Press: Just on Medrano, I will like to say again if you could do a briefing in this room it would help.

Spokesman Dujarric: I hear you.

  But did he? There has still been no briefing. Members of the US Congress have written to State Department diplomats about this case in the past. Based on this letter, will they do so again?

   As the first US answer was released, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was partying with in-house scribes, most of whom never pursued this most outrageous case of UN impunity, or even asked if Ban Ki-moon like a scoff law was hiding from the process server.

 Now on July 8, these same scribes are offering symbiosis, bread and circuses, or pretzels and beer, in the large room Ban's UN gives them, usually sitting empty even as the News Agency of Nigeria was evicted due to lack of space. This is today's UN.

  Inner City Press, having twice asked asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople to confirm Ban has been served with legal papers, on February 28 asked about Gallon's report:

Inner City Press: on Haiti, there is a recent report just out by Gustavo Gallón, who is the UN independent expert on human rights in Haiti, and he says, as a direct quote, that full compensation for the damage suffered by the Haitian people by the introduction of cholera to the island should be paid as quickly as possible. So, I understand that he is an independent expert and doesn’t work for the Secretariat; at the same time, it’s a respected position and a mandate formed by the Human Rights Council, so I wanted to know what in the face of this sort of either intra-UN or intra-UN system critique, what is the response of the United Nations?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, simply, that you answered the question yourself. The Human Rights Council-appointed special rapporteurs and other special advisers of various kinds are independent and they are not appointed by the Secretary-General and I don’t have anything further to say on that.

Inner City Press: But does the UN system expect, for example, countries when when they are subject to these type recommendations or criticism by an independent experts of the Human Rights Council to respond in some way to them to say: we agree or disagree, or that is why we disagree?

Spokesperson Nesirky: That’s for each individual Member State to decide.

Ah, leadership. Meanwhile, while the UN has refused to answer if Ban was served the court papers, beyond this song, Inner City Press will now publish the sad litany of attempts to serve what could be described as a scoff law:

On December 19, 2013, at approximately 3:11 PM, a paralegal for Plaintiffs’ counsel contacted OLA by telephone and spoke to a woman who identified herself as “Mae” (who, upon information and belief, is Mae Arkoncel, Assistant to the UN Legal Counsel). Mae confirmed that OLA had received the faxed documents from Plaintiffs’ counsel and stated that the UN was currently 'reviewing the documents'...

Service of process by delivery to Defendant Ban personally through the use of a private process server... was attempted again on January 20, 2014, at approximately 10:05 AM, at Defendant Ban’s residence located at [redacted by ICP]. A security guard informed the server that Defendant Ban was not present, and refused to open the door or accept service.

8. Service of process by delivery to Defendant Ban personally through the use of a private process server... was perfected on January 20, 2014, at approximately 2:00 PM, at Defendant’s Ban residence located at [redacted by ICP]. A male who identified himself as 'security' answered the door and informed the server that he would not accept service and that Defendant Ban was not present. The server affixed the process to the front door with masking tape and informed the security guard that he was doing so with the intention that the documents would be forwarded to Defendant Ban. The server then mailed another copy of the process to Defendant Ban at the same address.

That's called "nail-and-mail," and it's what's used with a fugitive or scoff law. Is that what this UN has become? It's the basis of this lyric, can't serve the papers up in the townhouse, song here. Watch this site.


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