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Amid Egyptian Protests, UN Dormant, Ban Silent on Emergency Law

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- Chants of “Mubarak must go” echoed Saturday against the white metal walls of the UN's temporary North Lawn building on 1st Avenue in Manhattan. But the UN was empty.

  Both Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Deputy, Asha Rose Migiro were out of town. And the UN system has had little to say or do about the calls for an end of censorship and repression in Egypt.

  Friday in the UN's noon press briefing, Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked if Ban thought that Egypt's 30 year old emergency law should go. Nesirky said that "one of the ground principles of democracy is to protect and ensure the freedom of speech of the people," but refused to directly comment on the emergency censorship law.

  Earlier this month, Ban had little to say about Tunisia. He did not send an envoy to the country -- a decision taken, Inner City Press is informed by well placed UN sources, on the advice of Ban's chief of staff and Myanmar envoy Vijay Nambiar.

  The UN Security Council did not meet on January 27 or 28, and has not scheduled any meeting for January 31, the last day of Bosnia's quiet presidency.

 US President Barack Obama called Mubarak and talked to or at the press for four minutes on Friday, but did not mention the UN, just as he did not mention it and Darfur in his State of the Union speech earlier in the week. -- all men -- but not Susan Rice, his Ambassador to the UN.
  On Saturday Obama held a meeting on Egypt with "his national security team" which included eleven people

  In an interview for CNN's show GPS with Fareed Zakaria, the prime minister of the Permanent Security Council member United Kingdom David Cameron called Mubarak a “friend of Britain... We’ve worked together over many issues, not least the need to combat Islamic extremism.”

  A week ago and on Saturday morning, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky when Ban will act on the request by the UK, Mexico and others that he replace Nambiar with a full time envoy to Myanmar.

  Nesirky by press time did not answer that, nor a request for UN comment on Myanmar affirming the disbanding of the political party of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sat Jan 29 by empty UN, Ban comment on emergency law not shown

  And so as people take risks to oppose repression from Tunisia to Egypt and elsewhere such as Yemen, the UN is increasingly silent, un-transparent, marginalized. Saturday's chants echoed off empty UN buildings. How long can this go on? Watch this site.

From the UN's January 28 transcript:

Correspondent: Egypt. Does the Secretary-General concur with Ms. Pillay that the 30-year-old emergency law should be lifted and then that investigations should be conducted into the use of excessive force and the reported deaths of five civilians participating in the protests?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, clearly, it is obvious that where there are reports of excessive use of force, that those reports should be investigated. I think that is fairly clear. Yes?

Question: My other question was concerning Ms. Pillay’s call for the end of the state of emergency that legalizes censorship and enhances police powers and so forth.

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General said very clearly this morning that he believes that one of the ground principles of democracy is to protect and ensure the freedom of speech of the people. And he also spoke about the need for freedom of expression and association to be fully respected. Yes?

Question: Thank you. Is the Secretary-General worried of any kind of domino effect, because of what has happened in Tunisia and what is going on now in Egypt? Is he worried because the Arab world order is in danger now?

Spokesperson: He has made very clear… he has spoken today about Egypt, but not just about Egypt. He spoke about Tunisia and Egypt and indeed elsewhere. And the key point is that leaders in the region should understand that it is an opportunity to address legitimate concerns that the people in those countries have. And it is through dialogue with the people that the leaders can better understand what the people of those countries aspire to, what they wish for. And then they will be better able to address the challenges that they all face. But the key thing is that this should be done without violence and through dialogue.

Question: Has the Secretary-General taken note of the incarceration and house arrest of Mr ElBaradei? Does he have anything to say about that?

Spokesperson: I was asked a similar question just earlier, and the Secretary-General is aware of the reports — and there are differing reports out there. He is aware of the reports that there are, and if I have anything further on this topic then I’d let you know a bit later.

Watch this site.

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At UN on Tunisia, Pillay Considers Visit But Ban Does Not, Double Standard Alleged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 17 -- While in Tunisia Ben Ali's foreign minister Kamel Morjane, who served for years as deputy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, still remains in his post, in New York on Monday Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if there is any discussion of sending a UN team to Tunis.

  “Not to my knowledge,” Mr. Nesirky said. Video here, from Minute 19:48.

  Sources tell Inner City Press that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights contacted Ban Ki-moon's office to say that it is considering sending a mission to Tunisia and wanted to know if Ban's Secretariat is also making such plans, in order to coordinate.

  Ban's Office according to sources within it subsequently answered no, no plans for a mission to Tunisia.

   The sources describe a background memo to Ban about Tunisia, urging that he support efforts to override a two month Constitutional period to form a new government, granting six months so that "Communists and Islamists" don't have an advantage over "moderate forces."

  At Monday's noon briefing Nesirky was asked why Ban has been so weak in his response to Tunisia. While Nesirky contested this, some compare the response to that in Cote d'Ivoire, where Ban urged the UN General Assembly's credentials committee to remove recognition for Laurent Gbagbo's UN ambassador.

  Inner City Press asked President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss if any similar move is afoot in the GA's credentials committee regarding Tunisia. “Not so far,” Deiss answered, explaining that the Ambassador appointed under Ben Ali had yet to be contested. Video here, from Minute 19:57.

UN's Ban & Mohamed Ghannouchi, still Prime Minister of Tunisia

  Last month Inner City Press questioned Tunisia's Ambassador in press conference at the UN after he bragged about human solidarity and banking in his country. Inner City Press asked about the youth conference Tunisia had said that it would hold. The Ambassador blamed other states for not coming through on financial pledges.

In New York over the weekend, while there was rally in Union Square, Tunisia's elegant Mission just north of the UN was not targeted. 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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