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UN Libya Lovefest Ignores Tortured Africans, NATO Killings in Majer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7, updated -- Amid something of a Libya TNC lovefest at and by the UN, discordant notes of fragmentation and torture of black Africans seemed swept under the carpet. UN envoy Ian Martin began the Security Council open meeting by lavishing praise on Prime Minister El-Keib.

  During the meeting a letter described as "coordinated" from the Libyans was circulated, asking for a 12 month renewal of the UN mission.  Russia is said to want a shorter time: six months.

  But Ian Martin might have become too close to those in power in Libya.  Back on February 26, Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for Martin and the UN Support Mission in Libya:

What have UNSMIL and Ian Martin done about the abuse of Tawergians

Has Mr. Martin seen this video? What is his comment? What is the status in Tawergha?

They are caged, handcuffed with green flags pushed their mouths; the end of the short clip is particularly troubling. My question is both what UNSMIL / Martin think of it and what they have done or will do about it, such as identifying those involved or expecting / ensuring that Libyan authorities take some action.

After a couple days, the UNSMIL spokesperson replied:

Subject: Press Q re Tawergha and public video of abuse: has Ian Martin seen it? What have he and UNSMIL done?
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Here we go: The plight of Tawergha and human rights abuses against them as well as against other detainees are of high concern to the United Nations and have repeatedly been referred to in the SRSG's briefings and in public reporting/statements. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has called on the Interim Government to investgate allegations of mistreatment of the Tawergans and to ensure better security for them. Meanwhile, the UN has been providing humanitarian assistance to alleviate their current living conditions, and is also working with the Libyan authorities to find a permanent solution to their displacement and to ensure the improved protection of their human rights.

Spokesperson/Senior Advisor on Public Information and Communication
United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Tripoli - Libya

  But again: did Martin take the time to see the video? Was anything done about it?

Update: after the meeting, unlike many of the SRSGs, Ian Martin did not take any questions at the stakeout. Inner City Press asked him to answer one question. "No," he said, "It's Prime Minister El-Keib's day."

  Inner City Press asked, have you seen the Tawergha video? But Ian Martin walked away.

  Later at the stakeout, the UK's Mark Lyall Grant said that issues of detentions and torture were discussed in consultations. But there remains this part of the question: is Ian Martin doing enough? Or is he too close to the government?

  Likewise, the UN International Commission of Inquiry reported on March 2 that in a single incident "in the town of Majer on 8 August 2011... the Commission found NATO bombs killed 34 civilians and injured 38. After the initial airstrike killed 16, a group of rescuers arrived and were hit by a subsequent attack, killing 18."

  The report was put online on the website of the UN Human Rights Commission, and NATO chief Rasmussen was asked and answered about it on March 5. Later that day, Inner City Pres asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey about the report, how it related to Ban's earlier statements on NATO and international humanitarian law.

  "It only came on out Friday," del Buey replied, "give us time." How much time? Two more days have passed. Note: it is paragraph 87 of the Report, which is online here.

  Then after Prime Minister El-Keib spokes to the Security Council, Russia brought up the ICI report. US Ambassador Rice replied that NATO complied with all laws; she was echoed by German Permanent Representative Wittig and French Deputy Permanent Representative Martin Briens.

  But what about the 18 rescuers killed? Another Western member of the Council told Inner City Press, "I'm sure there will be a follow up by NATO."

   Vitaly Churkin came out and told the Press, they keep being coquettish and answering the wrong question. The question is, were there civilian casualties in Libya? We will keep pushing.

  When the Security Council open meeting was over, Inner City Press asked Prime Minister El-Keib which countries he was referring to as not protecting Libyans' investments.  He replied, some in Africa, they nationalize the investments. Inner City Press asked him to name a country. Zambia, he said.

   Later a major African country came to Zambia's defense, telling Inner City Press that El-Keib's comment were unfair, "There is an asset freeze, you can't just accuse Zambia."

   At the stakeout, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant about the issue. He said the the chairman of the Council's Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Cabral of Portugal, spoke in consultations, but that the feeling is that the Committee says "yes" to every request from the government.

  After that, another Council member said El-Kebi should not have just named Zambia.  We hope to get Zambia's response.
  One wonders if Ban Ki-moon raised the issue during his recent visit to Zambia, after which Ban visited Angola but did not meet with the opposition. Ah, democracy -- no African spring?

From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: I’ve heard the idea of a 12 month [mandate], is there unanimity around that and also was there any discussion of this issue of African Libyans that were being detained, locked up, there’s a video circulating of people with flags in their mouth and being told to salute the new government, I just wonder do you think UNSMIL is doing enough on that? I just tried to ask Mr Martin and didn’t get an answer. What’s the Council’s stance on the treatment of people perceived to be Qadhafi supporters in Libya?

Lyall Grant: "On the first issue, there was certainly one Member State that raised the question of whether it should be a six-month or a 12-month mandate renewal. Mr Martin said that he thought it should be a 12-month renewal and referred to a letter from the Prime Minister to the Secretary-General and members of the Security Council in which he specifically requests the 12-month renewal. So certainly our view, the British government’s view, is that it should be a 12-month renewal.

"The question of detentions was certainly raised.  There are concerns about the detentions, particularly by some of the militias which are not properly under central government control yet, and that is an issue of concern to the Council, and a number of Members raised that issue. And Mr Martin said that UNSMIL was certainly working on that issue."

Inner City Press: Mr el-Keib the Prime Minister said that some African countries are not respecting or returning Libyan investments.  Another member afterwards said maybe these are subject to freeze, and the Council should do something. Was there discussion about what to do with the still frozen assets?

Lyall Grant: "There was some discussion of that, about what the Prime Minister had said and what it meant, and we had a briefing from the Ambassador of Portugal who chairs the Sanctions Committee, and he made the point that he felt that UNSMIL and Mr Martin were in a very good position to advise on lifting any remaining sanctions on assets, but the Council as a whole didn’t feel there was a problem, in that when the Libyan Government requested a lifting of asset sanctions, in all cases the Sanctions Committee had responded promptly. So it seemed to be a view that there wasn’t a major problem that needed to be fixed."

Footnote: As El-Keib spoke across First Avenue at the International Peace Institute, UN official slash IPI chief Terje Roed-Larsen told El-Keib, "everyone in this room thinks you are a hero."

   Of course, Roed-Larsen's IPI made the invitations in such a way to bring that about. Roed-Larsen has refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about his "non-UN UN trip" to Bahrain, nor other questions about double service and possible conflicts of interest.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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