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At UN, Liechtenstein Says Uganda Would Arrest Sudan's Bashir, Kampala Says Not So

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- Uganda is a state party to the International Criminal Court, and a member of the African Union. These two roles came into conflict this week, when Uganda officials were quoted that if he visited Uganda for a summit, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would be arrested on the ICC warrant against him. Then it was reported that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who referred Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army to the ICC, called al-Bashir to assure him that Uganda would not enforce the ICC warrant.

On July 17, Inner City Press asked the President of the Assembly of State Parties of the ICC and its Rome Statute, Liechtenstein Ambassador Christian Wenaweser about Uganda's double message. Wenaweser said that on July 16, he had a long conversation with Uganda's Ambassador who gave assurances was committed "to its obligations under the Rome Statute" -- that is, to arrest al Bashir. Since Museveni had invited al Bashir to Uganda, Inner City Press asked Wenaweser if this might be a set up. "Ask him the question," Wenaweser said, referring to Uganda's Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda. Video here, from Minute 6:42.

As luck would have it, Ambassador Rugunda, July's president of the Security Council, came to the stakeout an hour after the ICC Justice Day briefing. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rugunda to respond to Wenaweser's characterization of their conversation and his alleged commitment to live up to Uganda's Rome Statute obligations to arrest. Ruganda noted that the African Union has set up a committee of former heads of state, led by South African Thabo Mbeki, and said that Uganda is waiting for a report from Mr. Mbeki. Ruganda said this should make his country's position clear.

Inner City Press asked, so if al Bashir visits, he will not be arrested? Ruganda said his country has invited al Bashir and is a "respectable state" -- they did not invited al-Bashir to Uganda in order to arrest him. Video here, from Minute 1:26.

So Wenaweser claims Uganda's Ambassador committed to live up to its Rome Statute obligations to arrest al Bashir, while Uganda's Ambassador himself said that his country will not arrest al-Bashir. And this on Justice Day.....

Yoweri Museveni at UN, Kagame shown, al Bashir not shown

Wenaweser also bragged that al-Bashir, since he was indicted by the ICC, has not visited any state party, leading some to believe that there is a method to the confusion in the run-up to al-Bashir's scheduled trip to Uganda, which got canceled. Also, a day after Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson was asked but did not answer if chief UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy met with al-Bashir during his recent trip to Sudan, Inner City Press asked Le Roy if he had met with al Bashir. He was out of the country, Le Roy answered, "in Egypt" at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. But would Le Roy have met with al-Bashir? He shrugged at the hypothetical question.

   Wenaweser said that the UN's policy is to meet with ICC indictees only if it is essential. Inner City Press, beyond asking if dinner with indictee Jean-Bosco Ntanga in Goma is essential, later asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas if the UN World Food Program met with Al Shabab in Somalia. Ms. Montas replied that UN agencies meet with whom they have to, "on the ground," but said to ask WFP about Al Shabab. The staff of the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee this week told Inner City Press there is good reason to believe that Al Shabab is affiliated with Al Qaeda. And so it goes...

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At UN, Rapp Raps on Taylor Trial, Dodges on Johnson Sirleaf and Obama War Crimes Post

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- Already nominated to become President Obama's Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, Iowan Stephen Rapp came to the UN on July 16 to cautiously discuss the Charles Taylor trial ongoing at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. In a nine-minute stakeout interview which only Inner City Press attended -- call it an exclusive -- Rapp and the Court's President Renate Winter took five questions and answer three and a half. Video here.

Inner City Press asked about the 227 witnesses that Taylor has called for his defense. Will the prosecution be trying to whittle the list down? Renate Winter said that will be up to the presiding judge. Rapp noted that in the case of the interim leader of the RUF, the defense named 330 possible witnesses and ended up calling 59.

  Inner City Press asked about the missing and perhaps dead indictee Johnny Paul Koroma. Rapp said that either an internationalized court could be set up within the judicial system of Sierra Leone -- but then amnesty might apply -- or that the case could be transferred to other countries which would have jurisdiction. He said that discussion have begun with two such countries, which he would not name.

Stephen Rapp at UN on July 16, 2009, 2 countries not shown

  Since the recent press coverage of the trial has revolved around the skulls Taylor acknowledges authorizing his forces to display at roadblocks, Inner City Press asked what probative value if any this might have, and if Rapp thinks the media is focused on the wrong things at the trial. Rapp said he will not comment on anything under judicial consideration, but that skulls could constitute a "gruesome display of human remains" and have some probative value.

  As it has asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson, the UN envoy to West African Said Djinnet and Congo envoy Alan Doss, Inner City Press asked Rapp to comment on the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendation that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf be barred from public life for thirty years, in part for providing financial support to Charles Taylor. Rapp said "what happened in Liberia... is up to Liberians," and noted that Liberia's parliament must consider the TRC's recommendations.

  Now that Rapp has been nominated for his new U.S. job, Inner City Press asked Renate Winter what provisions are being made to replace him. She said there will not be a day with out a prosecutor. Rapp added that if he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will begin arranging for a transition, seeing how much notice he should provide.

  Rapp is a lawyer's lawyer, but whether his soft spoken style is best suited for the Obama Administration's Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, as the Administration considers joining the International Criminal Court, remains to be seen. The fact that only one reporter waited to question him even after the nomination speaks either to lameness within the UN press corps, or to a perceived lack of news value. Rapp knows the system, and could well advise a more public face of the fight against impunity. We'll see.

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On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the 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

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