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After UN's Ladsous Met Sudan's Bashir, DSG Eliasson Did It, Sans ICC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- After UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous met with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir last year and Inner City Press repeatedly asked about it, a diplomat supportive of ICC told Inner City Press the new standard was or would be for the UN to check with the ICC before such contacts.

  On December 11, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told Inner City Press that the ICC had not been told before Ladsous' meeting with Bashir.

   After the Financial Times reported on February 2 from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa that Bashir "met UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson for an hour or so in private," UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq was breathlessly asked and said, " I was informed that he followed all the appropriate procedures in terms of having the meeting."

  But what did that mean? There was at first no follow up. So Inner City Press, after asking about US official Victoria Nuland's leaked audio about UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman, asked:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask on this question on the International Criminal Court and the procedures for UN contacts with indictees. Back in July there was a meeting between Under Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous and Omer al-Bashir. And I’ve spoken to Fatou Bensouda, and she said that they were not contacted in that case. I wanted to know, just sort of yes or no, is that… In the answer you gave on the Deputy Secretary-General, are you saying that before meeting someone indicted, like Omar al-Bashir, the UN is supposed to check with the ICC or inform them in advance?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: No, what I said is that any such meetings have to be on the basis of operational necessity. And that was the case for both the meeting that was held by the Deputy Secretary-General and also with regard to the meeting by Under-Secretary-General Ladsous.

Inner City Press: Who makes that determination? They ask OLA? Or each individual makes his own-

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The Office for Legal Affairs is routinely consulted on any of these particular meetings, yes.

   So under the new chief of OLA, the UN is saying it does NOT have to check with the ICC. Is this backsliding? What will those ICC proponents do? Seems like it's time for a briefing by OLA, or by DSG Eliasson, since Ladsous has been allowed to refuse to answer questions. We'll have more on this.

  December background: When on Sudan the International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed the UN Security Council on Wednesday, about the need to arrest Sudanese president Omar al Bashir, there was an elephant in the room: UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who met with Bashir in July.

  Actually, Ladsous had been in the Security Council in the morning, but unlike the other two briefers did not speak to or take any questions from the press when he left.

  Bensouda said that either Sudan could come contest the indictment of Bashir (and others including Ahmad Haroon, to whom Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping has given free flights to and from Abyei) -- or, arrests should be made. Ladsous made no arrests in July.

  After Wednesday's meeting, Inner City Press waited and asked Bensouda what she as prosecutor thought of UN official Ladsous having met with Bashir.

  Bensouda said, "we are consistently saying that these non essential meetings should be avoided.... I do not know what was the purpose of that meeting."

  She cited a UN policy -- put out by the Office of Legal Affairs but apparently not respected by Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations -- of only essential meetings being held with indictees.

  Inner City Press asked her if, as a major / vocal state party to the Rome Statute told it, the UN is now going to give the Court or Association of State Parties prior notice before contacts like Ladsous' with Bashir.

  Bensouda replied that she wouldn't call it notice, but "we have discussed some visits before, why it was essential."

  So, Inner City Press asked, what about Ladsous' July 2013 meeting with Bashir?

  Bensouda said, "the one in July, we have not had any information about it."

  Ladsous has a history, of not answering Press questions. Video here, UK coverage here. But this is one he should answer. Will he?

  Sudanese Permanent Representative Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, after harshly criticizing Bensouda in his speech in the Council, agreed to answer a few Inner City Press questions afterward in the so called Turkish Lounge next to the Security Council.

 While this used to be the media's space, during the UN renovation the UN took money from Turkey for the space. Now, it is said, reporters can only go there if invited by a diplomat. This is challenged by the new Free UN Coalition for Access as a decline in working conditions and access under this UN.

  Wednesday as noted Inner City Press was invited into the Turkish Lounge area, but nevertheless was told to get back in the penned stakeout. (In noting this, the focus is not on the one endeavoring to implement the vague policy, but on the policy and vagueness themselves, which are an invitation, too often accepted, for more UN double standards.)

    Meanwhile scribes favored by -- and spying for -- the UN and its Censorship Alliance (click here) plop down in the Turkish Lounge to make cell phone calls.

  Likewise while disfavored NGOs are told they cannot be at the stakeout, last week Human Rights Watch's UN lobbyist, a former France 24 and Le Monde journalist, was at the stakeout spinning Central African Republic, with no mention of its problems' French colonial roots. As Sudan says: double standards. As Inner City Press says: Ladsous is the elephant in the room. Watch this site.


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