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On Khobragade, UN Still Won't Say If Told US Of Her Accreditation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 2 -- While the UN refuses to answer if it notified the US as host country of the accreditation it granted Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for the most recent General Assembly, the US State Department, through spokesperson Marie Harf on January 2, just wants to move forward.

 But will this be possible, without the public answer to basic questions?

   Back on December 26 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's two top spokespeople to

"please confirm that Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was accredited to this session of the UN General Assembly, that the UN accreditation runs through December 31, and state if such accreditation confers full diplomatic immunity."

  But for five days, the UN spokespeople provided no answer at all. So at the last UN noon briefing of the year on December 31, Inner City Press asked spokesperson Martin Nesirky in person about the immunity, and also if the UN had informed the US, as "host country," of Khobragade's accreditation to the General Assembly. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: there’s a statement today by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs [video here from Minute 13:10] that they believed that the UN informed the US that the diplomat was accredited to the General Assembly up until today, and they also separately believe that that accreditation to attend the General Assembly involves full diplomatic immunity. I wanted, I don’t… the second one is a legal question that the UN may have an answer to. But the other one, does the UN routinely inform the host country of all individuals who are accredited to the GA? And separately, does that mean that she had full diplomatic immunity?

Spokesperson: I would need to check with the Office of Legal Affairs on this. This is primarily, as you know, almost exclusively a matter between the Indian authorities and the host Government. If there is a UN angle related to a GA pass, then of course, I would come back to you. But I need to check again with Legal Affairs on that.

  Although he had the question in writing for five days, Nesirky said he'd have to check with the UN Office of Legal Affairs; he insisted the question is mostly or almost entirely between the Indian authorities and the US as host country. Video here and embedded below.

  Well, no - the question of whether the UN informed the US of of Ms. Khobragade's accreditation is for the UN to answer. And the UN should answer on that type of immunity being accredited to the UNGA provides.

  But on January 2, Nesirky's acting deputy Farhan Haq offered no answer to the previously asked question, nor did he answer Inner City Press' January 2 questions about India's critique of UN Peacekeeping in South Sudan (and implicitly in the DRC, with the UN's Force Battalion).

  This dodging is more and more the rule: also at the December 31 noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked about a ruling by the UN's own Dispute Tribunal that its acting head of investigations Michael Dudley "altered and withheld" evidence about scandal in the UN Medical Service (which Inner City Press exclusively uncovered), Nesirky said he doesn't speak for the unit Dudley works in, the Office of Internal Oversight Management, but that he'd ask them for an answer. OK - but when? Next year?

Footnote: The UN Dispute Tribunal ruling on Dudley cites Inner City Press' reporting, and calls Inner City Press "a daily online media outlet that specializes in reporting on the United Nations." Inner City Press on December 31 also asked about another case it first exposed, that of David Bax of the UN Mine Action Service in Mogadishu sharing genetic information with US intelligence and other abuses.  From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I just wanted to be sure I ask again about this David Bax in Somalia. There was a UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] investigation, it was about the middle of the year that it was said that it had begun. I wanted to know, you know, if it’s finished or when the idea for finishing it is? And the second one, there was a decision in the last week by the Dispute Tribunal on the Head… Acting Head of Investigations for OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services], Michael Dudley, and it seemed to… it was pretty damning and it said that evidence was altered and withheld in an investigation of the UN Medical Service. So, I wanted to know, now that that investigation, or the Dispute Tribunal process is finished, what is the thinking of OIOS in terms of a Head of Investigations that was found by a UN body to have altered it or withheld evidence?

Spokesperson: I do not speak on behalf of the Office of Internal Oversight. As you know, it reports separately, so therefore, I will check to see if they have anything to say. But I do not speak on their behalf. And with regard to the investigation you were referring to out of Mogadishu, I don’t believe we have any update on that at this point.

  The UN alongside trying to rehabilitate Bax tried to put the clamp on any follow up by saying the Office of Project Support is investigating. But it's been six months now. We'll have more on the UNOPS, and who will head it, soon. Watch this site.


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