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UN Belatedly Confirms Palestinian Hunger Striker Letter, DRC Wire Contrast

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 – What forces the UN to respond, and how? A week ago, Palestinian Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour told Inner City Press he had just delivered a letter to the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking for action on hunger striking prisoner Samer Issawi.

  Inner City Press went to the February 12 noon briefing and asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm receipt of the letter, and what would then be done:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask whether the Secretary-General has received a letter from President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, or the State of Palestine, about this prisoner, Samira Sami, who has been on hunger strike for 200 days. I was told that this letter was given to the Secretariat, I don’t know in what format. Are you aware of the letter and if asked the Secretary-General to use his good offices to somehow work on this case?

Spokesperson Nesirky : I think I will need to check further with our colleagues in Jerusalem — Mr. Serry’s team — to find out a little bit more about that, I don’t have anything concrete here right now.

Inner City Press: The reason I ask is because Ambassador Mansour came back, it was in the middle of all this DPRK action, came by the stakeout and said that he had given this letter, I don’t know if it was to the Secretary-General himself, or someone else --

Spokesperson Nesirky: Yeah, we will check, Matthew.

  But neither that Tuesday, nor Wednesday February 13, Thursday February 14 or Friday February 15 did the UN answer the question. Then over the weekend in Ramallah there were protests at the UN, of the UN's inaction.

  After the UN's three day weekend at the next noon briefing on Tuesday February 19 Inner City Press asked Nesirky again about the letter. This time he confirmed that it had been received, and said that a response would be forthcoming.

  In the afternoon, Nesirky's office e-mailed out a comment to its mailing list that began, “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the rapidly deteriorating condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody who are on hunger strike, in particular the critical health condition of one Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi. The Secretary-General received a letter from Palestinian President Abbas.”

  Why didn't the UN confirm to Inner City Press, in the full week after its public question at the February 12 noon briefing, that the letter had been received?

  By contrast on Saturday, February 16 after a Rwandan diplomat tweeted about a signing in Addis Ababa on February 24 of the Eastern Congo framework agreement, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office immediately -- in less than two hours -- gave a wire service a confirmation, but did not send the news to other media interested in the Congo and the agreement.

 Nesirky's office has so far offered this explanation:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <[at]
Date: Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Subject: Questions
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

On DRC framework: A member of the Rwandan Permanent Mission tweeted about the agreement on Saturday afternoon, reporters asked and we confirmed.

  What is the difference? The Free UN Coalition for Access is asking. Watch this site.

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