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On Syria, Talk of Witnesses Killed While UN Plays Hide the Ball

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- When the Syria Commission of Inquiry's chairperson Paulo Sergio Pinheiro briefed the UN General Assembly on Monday morning, it had the feeling of a ritual, one that the UN made it difficult to cover.

  It was supposed to be in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at 10 am. Inner City Press arrived there at the same time as UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant -- but the room was shut. Even he had not been told of the move.

  Running to the North Lawn building, where the new General Assembly hall has banned the press from the floor up to a Media Booth with no table and no interpretation, Pinheiro had already begun. His fellow Commissioner Carla Del Ponte, who previously spoke of strong suspicions the rebels used chemical weapons, was again not with him.

  But Pinheiro did cite the recent execution of soldiers in Khan al Asal, and named the opposition armed group responsible.

  Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari when he spoke said these executions were to eliminate witnesses to the rebels' use of chemical weapons there, just as the UN's Angela Kane and Ake Sellstrom reached a still undisclosed agreement about probing such use.

  Ja'afari derided petrodollar policies and sexual jihad; he chided Pinheiro for not describing the Al Nusra Front as a terrorist group. As Inner City Press has reported, Al Nusra is not on the UN's list of child soldier recruiters, either.

  While Ja'afari spoke, the UK's Lyall Grant took notes and tweeted (including a responsive tweet to Inner City Press about Somalia, here) then got up to speak. He cited sexual violence; he echoed the EU's Thomas Mayr-Harting that the rebels' abuses do not match in scale or intensity those of the government.

  France was not represented by Gerard Araud, who on July 26 claimed the immense majority of GA member states recognized the Al Jarba groups as the only legitimate representative of the Syria people but did not cite chemical weapons.

   Instead Araud's stand-in for France cited the ICC, while Herve Ladsous the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping met this month with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir.

Turkey spoke of keeping its borders open (Ja'afari said they let terrorists flow into Syria). Qatar's speech was translated, on the webcast heard in the hallway, as citing "crimes wars" -- while the rebels it funds commit them.

  Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative said they embrace in full the Pinheiro report -- perhaps because it does not cover which countries are funding the armed extremist rebels.

  Ban Ki-moon met Monday morning with Angela Kane, but by the time of the noon briefing there was no read-out. Some wondered why.

  Inner City Press ran from the North Lawn to the briefing to ask why the UN Media Alert did not even list the meeting, no Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit staff were there, and there was no interpretation in the Media Booth, which the Free UN Coalition for Access raised to the Department of Public Information back on June 10, still without any action.

  During this Syria meeting, the UN Correspondents Association used the room the UN gives them, S-310, to host the Club des Chefs des Chefs -- those who cook for heads of state.

  UNCA 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS was with the chefs -- she had already fronted for Saudi-based Syria oppositionist al Jarba on Friday, it was time for other spoon feeding.

  The one UNCA Executive Committee member at the noon briefing did not raise the lack of access, or answer why an UNCA intern has a press pass while actual journalists are being threatened. and in another case were banned from using a "focus booth" then taken by the intern of the UN Censorship (and Spying) Alliance. So it goes at this UN.


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