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UN Belatedly Replies on Whistleblowers, Proud Case "Not Receivable"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 17, more here -- In today's UN there is little to no accountability. The UN preaches transparency, but has no Freedom of Information Act. The UN has an International Labor Organization, but broke and leaves broken its own union.

  On whistleblower protections, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman on September 5, twelve days ago:

Inner City Press: There was this decision over the Labor Day weekend in the case of Mr. [James] Wasserström, which was a big whistleblower case...Tthe decision that was made that still upheld $15,000 against the Secretary-General for having refused to comply with production and discovery orders, but it cut back on the rights and protections of whistleblowers and that this may violate this 2014 law, requiring the US Government to withhold funds if the UN doesn't enact best practice for whistleblowers.  What is the UN's response to this criticism?

Spokesman:  I should have something more detailed for you.  But, obviously, you know, we respect the decisions made by the internal justice system here.  As for whether or not those decisions violate the laws of the United States or any other country, that is not for me to interpret.

Inner City Press:  What about the decision that the Secretary-General erred in not complying with discovery orders, do you accept that?

Spokesman:  As I said, I hope to have something further.

   Twelve days later, the whistleblower question has still not been answered. So Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, who said something had been received from the UN Ethics Office. Why was it not provided to Inner City Press? Then this email:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 12:58 PM
Subject: Your questions on Wasserstrom ruling
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

In response to your questions, we would like to reaffirm the Secretary-General's strong support for the professional work done by the Ethics Office. Beyond that, in the case you have referred to, the UN Administrative Tribunal has ruled that Mr. Wasserstrom’s original UNDT application was not receivable, on the basis that the Ethics Office does not make administrative decisions, but rather is limited to issuing recommendations to the Administration. In not making administrative decisions, findings of the Ethics Office are not subject to UNDT review pursuant to the requirements of the UNDT Statute.

The Ethics Office concurs with this judgment. Due to its independent status, and in order to protect its essential role as an independent and impartial body within the Organization representing neither management or staff, the Ethics Office considers that its determinations cannot be deemed attributable to the Secretary-General, and therefore cannot constitute administrative decisions.

  As this was sent, Inner City Press was on a press conference call about the litigation against the UN for bringing cholera to Haiti; it was said the UN after 15 month called the claim "not receivable" -- just like in the whistlblower case. This is today's UN.

  Inner City Press on September 17 asked Haq for an update into the inquiry into whistleblower protections that Ban Ki-moon ordered. We'll have more on this.

  Eight days after Inner City Press exclusively reported that Chambas as the head of the peacekeeping mission being investigated for under-reporting attacks on civilians was being given the UN Office in West Africa post in Dakar, and asked about it, on September 12 the UN on September 12 confirmed the move.

  Inner City Press had asked on September 5, and did again on September 12, if this move didn't undercut or pre-judge the UN's investigation into charges that the Darfur mission under Chambas under-reported attacks on civilians.

  On September 12, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric insisted he didn't want to "pre-judge" the inquiry.  But by giving the new post, this has already been done. There is little to no accountability in today's UN.

  Chambas was quoted last month that the UN “cannot stop Government forces from entering camps for the displaced,” despite a supposed protection of civilians mandate.

   Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it on August 22 and he said “we will check with the Mission to verify the quotes and see what actually they have been doing.” But in the two weeks since, nothing.

   Now Inner City Press has exclusively learned from multiple sources that Chambas is set to be rewarded, or moved, to the Dakar, Senegal UN Office on West Africa post vacated by Said Djinnit.

   This would be classic UN: amid a scandal about UNAMID under Chambas covering up the murder and abuse of civilians, a promotion, in a game of musical chairs.

   On August 22, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: in Darfur, it seems that Mr. Mohamed ibn Chambas went to Kalma Camp and met with residents who expressed a variety of complaints, but he was quoted as saying there that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] cannot stop Government forces from entering camps for the displaced, and it has left many people confused whether, what is UNAMID’s role in terms of protection of civilians given these [inaudible] entrances in the camp and people lying on the ground?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I will… we will check with the Mission to verify the quotes and see what actually they have been doing.

  Two weeks, no answer. Now this. 

  UN Peacekeeping and its mission in Darfur continue take a selective and lax approach to protecting civilians. 

   This example concerns the UN's evolving statements on the Al-Salam camp.

  After whistleblower Aicha Elbasri further exposed UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous as covering up attacks in Darfur, on June 17 several Security Council members joined International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in calling for an investigation.

  On August 7, Inner City Press asked the Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, about the status of the probe.

   Chambas told Inner City Press he had met earlier in the day with the commission, whose members will be on their say to Darfur.

 Inner City Press asked if the report will be public. Chambas only said his staff will cooperate. Apparently it will be up to Ban Ki-moon, or even Herve Ladsous, to decide to release or withhold the report.

 Back in Khartoum on August 11, Chambas said this:

"And on the attack on Alsalam camp, let me state that we have information about this. We have always stated that the responsibility for maintaining law and order in Sudan lays with the Government. This is a sovereign country, it has law enforcement obligations, it has its justice system and the AU, the UN is only here to facilitate and ensure that law and order and justice are maintained and are enforced according to due process of law. So, we want to say that we will continue to engage with the Government of Sudan in accordance with its own protection of civilian mandate and to ensure that the activities on law enforcement agencies are carried out without infringement of the rights of innocent civilians specially vulnerable communities in IDP camps. We hope that on the other hand residents of IDP camps can understand and do understand that possession of weapons, carrying of weapons is not allowed in IDP camps under international humanitarian law.

"It’s also imperative, and it’s a responsibility of the leaders of IDP camps to ensure that no one is using these camps to keep weapons or to hide weapons, because this is against international humanitarian law. These are the issues involved there and we as UNAMID we will continue to work with both sides, with IDP leaders to educate them what is permissible in these camps and what is not, and at the same time working  with Government to enforce legitimately law and order but to do that respecting the civic and human rights of the citizens and also respecting due process of law. Thank you."

  Since this seemed to defer to Sudan's Abu Tira, and even to blame the victims, Inner City Press on August 13 asked:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Darfur, Missouri and Afghanistan.  On Darfur, photos have come out of the Sudanese uniformed Abu Tira forces going through a refugee camp or [internally displaced persons] camp in El Salam and making the residents lie on the ground.  And Mr. Chambas was asked about it and said that this was entirely up to the Sudanese and it just seems sort of strange. I mean, I know there is a Human Rights component to these peacekeeping missions.  Does the UN, does UNAMID [United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] or does anyone in the Secretariat, are they aware of these photographs?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I will check.

  Twenty three hours later, Dujarric sent nothing to Inner City Press. But UNAMID issued a belated statement, which seems to contradict or attempt to rehabilitate Chambas' dismissive August 11 comments:

"Following a security raid conducted on Al Salam IDP camp on 5 August when individuals were arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs, weapons and ammunition, UNAMID monitored the trials of those arrested during the operation; most of whom have since been released. UNAMID has been engaging relevant state authorities on the conditions of those still being detained.

"Other security raids have been conducted in Otash and Dereig camps and are part of a wider campaign by the South Darfur authorities to address the high level of criminality in the State, especially around Nyala.

"The security raids have generated alarm and anxiety amongst IDPs in Kalma camp, who are anticipating a similar operation at their camp and have expressed their concerns to UNAMID."

 We'll continue on this.

  Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if an independent investigation of Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping will be done, and if not, why not? Video here.

  Haq claimed that UN Peacekeeping is already acting on Elbasri's complaints, and that it had been telling the press about it. Inner City Press asked, where have these updates been provided.
  Haq cited a read-out given in March, largely generic; then he said the requests made on June 17 would be studied.

 Ban's spokesman Dujarric - in the midst of a controversy about UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous' mission in the DRC flying sanctioned FDLR leaders around, said "you can pick up the phone" - after siting next to Ladsous while he refused to answer Press questions on DRC.

  On May 29, Ladsous refused Press questions, video here, compilation here.

   Back on April 24 when Darfur as such was the topic of the UN Security Council, three major Darfur rebel groups wrote to the Council to investigate "all reports of the Peace Keeping Mission, including reports presented to the UNSC by [Under] Secretary General for Peace Keeping Mr. Ladous and the reliability of the sources he had relied on."

   But unlike his abortive stakeout on the evening of April 23 about South Sudan, video here, Ladsous did not come out to answer any questions. And at the April 24 UN noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq for a response to the request for an investigation of Ladsous and his reports, there was none: not one modified or corrected report was cited.

  Instead, from the "holy seat" of the UN Correspondents Association a long time scribe followed up to say that it is not all Ladsous' fault, and to cast blame on the government. This reflexively shifting of blame from the UN to the government, whose new Permanent Representative spoke in the Council on April 24, is in this case particularly absurd: how can the government be responsible for the UN's own reports being inaccurate?  There is little to no accountability in today's UN. And the new Free UN Coalition for Access is now taking this on.

  We'll be following this. Watch this site.


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