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Probe of Afghan Murder of UN Staffer Maxwell Stalled by “Cultural Sensitivity,” Starr Says, Glitch of Karzai Firing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 18 -- The murder by Afghan National Forces of UN Security officer Louis Maxwell last October is supposed to now be investigated by the Hamid Karzai government.

Inner City Press has learned that the Karzai administration has yet to do anything, and now that the UN is only half heartedly following up, for reasons of “cultural sensitivity,” as UN Security chief Gregory Starr told Inner City Press -- or cynical political accommodation, as diplomats close to the case put it.

Asked about the Maxwell case on July 14, Starr told Inner City Press, “The problem is, in many cases you're asking the Afghans to really follow up on one person. How many thousands of Afghans have died? So you've got to be sensitive culturally.”

Other UN Security personnel since interviewed by Inner City Press have expressed concern. “He's supposed to represent us,” as one put it, asking that his name not be used for fear of retaliation. “He's not supposed to accept the cover up of the murder of a UN staff, to suck up to the Afghans - or to the Americans.”

A UN Board of Inquiry report, still be withheld from the public and Mr. Maxwell's family, calls on the Afghans to identify the individuals who killed Maxwell long after an attack on a UN guesthouse, which Maxwell fought off.

When Inner City Press asked UN peacekeeping official Susana Malcorra for any progress, she said that the head of the UN Department of Safety and Security Gregory Starr had traveled to Kabul, and to ask him. But Mr. Starr has yet during his tenure to hold a press conference.

On July 14, Inner City Press waited outside the UN's ECOSOC chamber to ask Starr about the case. After six o'clock he emerged, and to his credit agreed to answer some questions from the Press. He said:

There's a joint investigation by the American FBI and the Afghans. We know Louis was killed after the attack. The circumstances of that are still under investigation. I spoke to the minister of the interior of Iraq [sic] myself and they are looking into it. I hope ultimately to find all the circumstances. There is the video. The problem is interpreting what really happened in that video. We're not an investigative agency. We've turned it over to the proper investigative authority.”

Significantly, Starr added as a concession, “I think there is a momentary glitch. The Minister of Interior was dismissed.”

UN's Ban swearing Starr in, Maxwell murder follow through not shown

After a pause, Inner City Press asked Starr about (non) answers it got on June 30 from UN envoy to Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura (video here) and from then Security Council president Claude Heller of Mexico, who'd led the Council's trip to Kabul (video here). Inner City Press concluded, it seems like the issue is falling off the map.

Staff considered it, then said, verbatim: “The problem is, in many cases you're asking the Afghans to really follow up on one person. How many thousands of Afghans have died? So you've got to be sensitive culturally.”

Not only other UN Security officers but also diplomats and non UN military personnel since interviewed by Inner City Press have expressed deep concerns. “They are covering up the death of this guy, because the UN and US want good relations with Karzai,” one said. “So if they go to Somalia, if the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] or Ugandan peacekeepers kill a UN staff, they'd cover that up too?”

  Perhaps Mr. Starr, and Ms. Malcorra's deputy Tony Banbury who asserted there was no cover up, but then ducked questions, will now provide more answers, including to the Maxwell and UN family. Watch this site.

And see cell phone video, here, esp. at Minute 1:01 to 1:04

* * *

As UN Council Moves to De-List Taliban for Karzai, Louis Maxwell Probe Stalled

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- When the UN Security Council was in Afghanistan last week, Hamid Karzai announced that they had committed to remove people from the Al Qaeda / Taliban sanctions list of the 1267 Committee. On Monday at the UN in New York, Inner City Press asked this month's Council president, Claude Heller of Mexico:

Inner City Press: When you were in Afghanistan, did the government of Hamid Karzai stressed particular names to the Council [inaudible] mediating between the authorities of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Were particular names discussed [inaudible] removed from the list?

CH: I think it’s important to say that the Sanctions committee, all of the sanctions committees, are touching very sensitive issues, but of course they do it on a confidential basis. The fact that the chairman of the sanctions committee was in Afghanistan was an opportunity that he had to be in touch with the authorities. President Karzai publicly mentioned this issue, and the willingness of his government to cooperate with the sanctions committee.

After Heller's polite dodging of the question, the chairman of the 1267 committee Thomas Mayr-Harting came to speak with the Press, on the record but off camera. Inner City Press asked, if the standard to remove a Taliban is that they are not in contact with Al Qaeda, how the Karzai government can make this negative proof.

Mayr-Harting said that his Committee in the past has applied four tests: renunciation of violence, laying down of arms, no contact with Al Qaeda and accepting the Afghan constitution. He said that Afghanistan's specialized services should be able to provide information about accepting the constitution -- some of the list are members of parliament -- and perhaps about contacts with Al Qaeda.

UNAMA, UNSC members, action on Louis Maxwell not shown

He said he is hoping to remove dead people from the list, and that the Afghans can help by providing proof of death. But that's not the group of people of most concern to Karzai.

It is not clear whether during the Council's visit any member raised the killing of UN staff member Louis Maxwell by Afghan National Forces, as described in a UN Board of Inquiry report that calls on the Karzai government to further investigated. It appears that no Afghan investigation has been done or even begun. Some think that should be a condition for removing Karzai's friends from the sanctions list. We'll see.

* * *

As Karzai Visits US, More Questions of Who Killed Louis Maxwell Raised by Sister: An Inconvenient Death

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 -- An inconvenient death casts a shadow, at least for some, over this week's visit to the U.S. by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and over the UN.

  The murder of American UN staffer Louis Maxwell in October 2009, following an attack on a UN guesthouse of international elections workers in Kabul, has belatedly been described by the UN as "friendly fire."

   But a cell phone video suggests, and Mr. Maxwell's sister among others believes, that Maxwell was summarily executed by Afghan National forces after the firefight was over. The UN never retracted its version, that Maxwell and four other UN staff were all killed by the Taliban, until the video became public and questions became to be asked, including by Inner City Press.

See cell phone video, here, esp. at Minute 1:01 to 1:04

  Maxwell's sister over the weekend wrote to Inner City Press for a third time, now putting into words the doubt that the Taliban were (solely) responsible for the attack on the UN guesthouse. She focuses on the conflict of interest the UN has, in confining itself to an internal investigation -- which it described as external and independent -- and then refusing to release a copy of its report, even to the family.

  But the U.S., too, has a conflict, as a press conference call by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute on May 7 shows. Lute repeatedly described Karzai as "our partner" and spoke about the training and evaluation of Afghan National forces. (Lute is, as Inner City Press has reported, the husband of former head of the UN Department of Field Support Jane Holl Lute.)

   Karzai's pre-trip Washingotn Post op-ed says he will "convey my deepest condolences to families of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan." Lute and his staffer emphasized that Karzai will spend three full hours with Obama. In all that time, will the matter of Louis Maxwell be raised? Inner City Press was on the press call and put itself in the question cue as soon as it was open, but was not able to ask the question. But the questions will continue. Below is Louis Maxwell's third letter to Inner City Press (click here for 2nd)

Karzai and UN's Ban, public and credible report on Maxwell's death not shown

Subject: Who Benefited?
rom: aijalon
Date: Sun, May 9, 2010 at 3:39 PM
To: Matthew Lee [at]

* Around October 20, 2009, Kai Eide the top UN official of the mission affirmed that the August 20 elections had been tainted. It was stated that about one to five of the votes should be discounted and that most of the election fraud came from Karzai supporters.

* On October 28 the UN guesthouse was attacked. The same guesthouse where UN monitors for this same election was staying.

* After the attack it is stated by top UN officials that senior afghan officials were uncooperative in providing information and that they(UN) were completely stonewalled.

* On November 1 the runoff candidate to Karzai drops out of the election race,

* On November 7 Karzai is declared president.

* And this is the same government that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wants to investigate their deliberate killing(murder) of my brother Louis Maxwell

You be the judge....

Watch this site.

And see cell phone video, here, esp. at Minute 1:01 to 1:04

 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.

* * *

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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