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At UN, Rapporteurs Run Wild, De Zayas on Richard Falk, Ziegler, Geneva

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- Halfway through UN human rights rapporteurs week, with three press conferences a day ranging from Iran to democracy, North Korea to migration but excluding transnational corporations, it's time for a review.

Monday after Inner City Press asked Alfred de Zayas, the UN's "Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order," about France controlling UN Peacekeeping four times in a row, a more in depth questions and answer was possible.

  Inner City Press asked de Zayas about the gloss that his mandate was created by Cuba, the blockade on which was being denounced by state after state on Tuesday morning.

 De Zayas said there was a yearly General Assembly resolution on the topic, and finally Cuba proposed a mandate and expert on the topic, which Jean Ziegler in mind.

But the way selections are made, he said, is by a group of five ambassadors (he named them), and one of them said no to Zeigler. And so de Zayas got the post at the last minute, with an OK from US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eileen Donahoe. The US is not favor the mandate. He will meet with the US Mission in New York this week (not with Samantha Power, he noted) and ask how they'd like to see the mandate used.

  After he got the mandate he was hounded, de Zayas said, for a book he wrote about German suffering and displacement in World War Two. Inner City Press on Monday asked obliquely for his views on the Nuremberg trials: not positive. Inner City Press put this in a story which de Zayas retweeted. He says he wants coverage; hence this story, intended to provide some off-beat illumination of the UN special rapporteur process, and thus to serve that process, in some way.

  All this is lower profile, he acknowledged, than Richard Falk. He described Falk at a gathering of UN rapporteurs, isolated, with the other rapporteurs not wanting to be seen as associated with him. But Falk is not concerned with that. (Inner City Press has previously reported on US diplomat Rick Barton joking about Richard Falk as his tennis partner. Small world.)

  Inner City Press asked de Zayas if the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights offers any training for rapporteurs. He said there is an "induction," two days in length, in which rapporteurs are told to "first do no harm" -- oh that the UN in Haiti had followed that advise, now in the time of cholera -- and to not needlessly antagonize governments.

  Just do your work, de Zayas said the rapporteurs were told, and perhaps through time some good will come of it. Perhaps. We'll have more, deeper into Rapporteurs Week. Watch this site.


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