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UN Half-Speaks on Detained Staff in Myanmar, Quiet on Ethiopia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- After UN spokesman Martin Nesirky brought up the UN's work in Myanmar at Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked him about reports that authorities there detained six UN system staff and six members of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

   Nesirky said he would respond quickly with a prepared statement, and in fairness he did:

The UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar has already reported to Government that some UN staff members were detained by the authorities in Rakhine State for questioning. The UN is still trying to get access to these staff, and out of concern for their privacy, the UN has decided not to release any personal or professional information about any detained staff. The Resident Coordinator has asked the Government for information about each detained staff member, making reference to the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN. The UN is still awaiting a formal reply.

  It is a formal answer, understandable perhaps given the desire to simply get them freed. But, for example, the UN has stayed quiet about its Security staffer in Ethiopia who was first convicted, and then sentenced to eight years.

 A week ago on Friday, June 22 Inner City Press asked Nesirky:

Inner City Press: the case in, in Ethiopia where a UN staff member was found guilty of terrorism for having met or allegedly met with the Ogaden Liberation Front. You said that the UN was asking the Government for clarification... Now Abdulrahman Sheikh Hassan has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Did the UN get any clarification from the Government and is the UN lodging any protest at the imprisonment of its own staff member for speaking to a rebel group?

Spokesperson: We’re obviously aware of these reports, and if I have anything further beyond what was said on Monday, then I’ll let you know.

   But a week later, nothing. Sometimes could silence be consent? We'll retain an open mind. Watch this site -- and this Twitter timeline.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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