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In Sudan, UN's Tchalian "Met Daily" With Harun, Now UNAMID Chief of Staff: War Criminals Not Banned

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- The UN's intimacy with war criminals is exemplified in Sudan by UN official Karen Tchalian, now the chief of staff of the Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.

  While Tchalian worked for UNMIS in Southern Kordofan, complaints were made to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that he was meeting frequently -- "daily" -- with Ahmed Harun, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, Inner City Press has learned. Tchalian's dubious positions, beyond Haroun, also appear in cables obtained and published by Wikileaks:

"The UNMIS head of the Section IV office in Kadugli, Mr. Karen Tchalian, said he was 'cautiously optimistic' that demobilization of SPLM units and reintegration of SPLM-controlled areas in the Nuba Mountains was making reasonably good progress after a long delay. He expressed concern at the availability of inflammatory misinformation on various internet sites about tens of thousands of armed men massed in the area, and criticized a recent Small Arms Survey report on the situation there."

  Rather than be admonished, Tchalian was promoted to a higher UN position, in the region for which Harun was indicted: Darfur.

  The UN claims to only deal with ICC indictees "as necessary." But Tchalian's new boss in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, took photos with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir at a wedding reception for the daughter of Chad's Idriss Deby and Musa Hilal, founder of the janjaweed militia.

  After Inner City Press asked about it for more than a week, the UN announced that Gambari had been told to avoid this in the future. But Gambari has said that he will do it again, and Ban Ki-moon has not responded.

  Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon has another alleged war criminal as a Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations: Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, whose 58th Division is depicted in Ban's own Panel of Experts report as engaged in war crimes. As with Tchalian, will Ban's UN offer Silva an ever higher advisory post next time?

   Harun is in the news, as much as the UN tries to play it down. Inner City Press on April 2 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman:

Inner City Press: footage has come out over the weekend of Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of Southern Kordofan, shown in very clear video fashion telling troops in Southern Kordofan to take no prisoners and to clean them out, and a general stands next to him and says, “let’s eat them raw”. And many are saying that this is proof of a war crime and obviously into some [inaudible] back to the UN actually flying Ahmed Haroun to Abyei and back. Does the UN, given its continuing interest in this area, Southern Kordofan, and its role in the past with Ahmed Haroun, have any view of this tape and what should happen now?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, listen, as you know, we don’t have direct full access to Southern Kordofan in the fashion that we would obviously like. So, it is very difficult for us to have a full picture of what is happening on the ground. We are obviously extremely concerned about the reports that are coming out of there. I think it is a bit of a stretch to be linking what may or may not be happening now with previous engagements of the kind that you mentioned — transporting this gentleman by helicopter. But, I understand what you are saying. I don’t have anything further on that particular point, except simply to stress that we are concerned about the reports that are emerging from there. But, we don’t have the direct access that we would need to be able to really understand fully what is going on.

   So, the UN sought not to respond to what Harun was filmed saying, and even to avoid commenting on what is going on in South Kordofan by citing its lack of access.

  Beyond the UN's Tchalian's meeting with Harun, the UN  has offered free helicopter flights to Harun after he was indicted by the International Criminal Court.

  On April 4, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Nesirky about it again. This time, Nesirky said "there's a couple of points here. There appears to be some controversy around the video itself.... as a general principle any incitement that could potentially lead to war crimes we would not welcome... There are already outstanding accusation against Mr. Harun, that's within the bailiwick of the prosecutor of the ICC, it's for them to deal with that."

  Of Silva and Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping, coverage of which Ban's minders are now trying to hinder, Ban told Inner City Press, it was a decision of member states, and nothing since. From photos with Bashir to no comment on Silva and now Harun: this is Ban's 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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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