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At the UN, Financial Disclosure Is Withheld As Freedom of Information Is Promised, Of Hollywood and Dictators' Gift Shops

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 14 [tweaked Sept. 22] -- A day after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan evaded Inner City Press' media conference question of if he had filed his financial disclosure form, the Associated Press Thursday afternoon ran an "exclusive report" that Mr. Annan has not filed the disclosure. Reuters ran essentially the same story, although in India at least pushing Mr. Annan's Wednesday presser to Thursday.

   After Associate UN Spokesman Yves Sorokobi Thursday at noon answered questions from the New York Times and Inner City Press about the disclosure, rejecting the "has-not-filed" interpretation of Mr. Annan's answer of the previous day, elite media source were told that more will be disclosed. Mr. Annan at press time was en route to, and then had arrived in, Cuba, where apparently there's been an embargo on telephones through which to directly confirm or deny the filing of the financial disclosure form.

   Mr. Annan had concluded his Wednesday press conference by calling it a "healthy development" that "in many countries now [we] are seeing very active press who are being heard and questioning. In some cases they are suppressed, and we should resist that."  Minutes prior to that statement, Mr. Annan had given an answer that now, if AP's to be believed, was intentionally evasive. And his Spokesman's office stuck to that position until and past press time on the following day as well.

   Moments before a Thursday press conference by Christopher Burnham, Under-Secretary for Management, a hefty 392-page Consolidated Report on the UN was made available. (USG and book pictured below.) Journalists were hard pressed to read or even skim the report in two minutes, and therefore questions began with the issue of housing subsidies by governments to UN officials, and proceeded on to whether Mr. Annan should have filed the financial disclosure form. Everyone should file, Mr. Burnham twice replied. Video here

UN as open book? [Ed.'s note: For the record, above is USG Burnham, photo by the great Devra Berkowitz. Our correspondent today was so busy chasing an upcoming story his filing was fragmentary but reproduced here in full, in the spirit of cinema verite.]

   On August 28, Inner City Press had asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton at a stakeout interview (transcript here) if he knew if Mr. Annan had filed his financial disclosure. Amb. Bolton replied that he was not aware. The afternoon's AP story noted that Mr. Burnham was among those privately urging Mr. Annan to file. Then again, the United States, for whom Mr. Burnham began his tenure by saying he works for, has yet to release the Secretariat's two letters about the housing subsidy by governments issues. Ah, transparency.

     But perhaps open governance is coming. Mr. Burnham spoke Thursday of a proposed UN Freedom of Information office or procedure, which he said is being considered by the General Assembly. "It will be the gold standard," Mr. Burnham said. When asked how and where a person denied access to information could appeal the withholding, Mr. Burnham said the policy is still subject to improvement.

            Mr. Burnham was asked what parts of the UN system's budget are still off-balance-sheet. After a brief chuckle, or chortle, Mr. Burnham explained that UNDP, for example, does its own report. UNDP is apparently a world unto itself, in that for example neither UNDP nor the UN Spokesman's office has yet given any answer to Inner City Press' question from two weeks ago on why UNDP partners on issues of open source software with Uzbekistan's Karimov regime, which uses software to block access to news websites like the BBC. Thursday at noon, Associate Spokesman Yves Sorokobi had a prepared statement ready on why UNESCO had given an award to Karimov. It was not as president, Mr. Sorokobi said. And the award was a coin that's available for sale in the UN's gift shop in Paris. But what then of targeted sanctions?

            Continuing the chain of free association, one thinks of Uzbek migrant workers doing construction in Moscow for example. The issue arose at a briefing by the Secretary-General's point man on migration, BP's Peter Sutherland. With a candor he displayed in a previous interview on June 8, Mr. Sutherland let drop that the notion of a conference on migration is opposed by the United States. Asked for Russia's position, he said he didn't know it. Asked about Australia, in light of that country's outsourcing of asylum-seeker review to the sun-baked island of Nairu, Mr. Sutherland opined that Australia might be another opponent, and urged reporters to ask nations for their positions.

   Two similar pollings took place. First in the Security Council, a straw poll was held on the five current candidates to be the next Secretary General. The results, by country, were reportedly as follows, by encourage, discourage and no opinion: South Korea, 14-1-0. India (& UN), 10-3-2. Thailand, 9-3-3. Jordan, 6-4-5. And Sri Lanka, 3-5-7.

   The president of the Security Council and his press counselor Theodossis Demetracoplous were asked if any candidates were being encouraged to drop out. The former said of course not, the latter showed reporters, but not for photographs, what the ballot looked like. Alphabetical, with ST at the bottom.

  The other more open polling took place in Conference Room 9. George Clooney came to town, along with the author of "Night." The press stakeout was packed, with even radio reporters, especially the females, crowding in to take photos. A wise and raffish scribe offered a possible lede: "Clooney today urged the Council to green-light a mission to Darfur."

   The day at UN Headquarters ended with an event in the basement (video here), after which the local Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reflectively defended the failure to release the Ivory Coast report of the SRSG on the Prevention of Genocide.  Some reports, Mr. Craig Mokhiber said, are not meant to be released. They're for secret human rights diplomacy. Secret indeed...

[On September 22, Mr. Mokhiber approached Inner City Press' correspondent in the UNHQ's lobby to say, he hadn't called the report secret. For now, completed-but-not-released equals what? Secret. A more complete explanation of the genocide report's withholding will continue to be sought, and will be appreciated when received. September's Security Council president said of this Ivory Coast genocide report, at his start-of-month plan of work briefing, that sometimes you have to choose peace over justice. And sometimes, you get neither.]

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UN's Annan Says Dig Into Toxic Dumping, While Declining to Discuss Financial Disclosure

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Calling for serious enforcement action be to taken against the companies responsible for dumping toxic waste in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday said the world "needs to be careful that the developing world, the poor countries, do not become the dumping ground for this type of waste."

            Inner City Press also asked Mr. Annan why he has apparently not filed his UN Financial Disclosure form, despite at least two statements by his spokesman that he would. Mr. Annan answered, "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done." (Video here, from Minute 45:25, transcript here.) While technically the UN Financial Disclosure form must be filled out by all senior UN officials except the Secretary General, spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said Mr. Annan would file, in at least two press conferences this year.

  On May 3, Mr. Dujarric told reporters that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out, I have no doubt" including so that the Secretary-General could "be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out." In another briefing he repeated, "The Secretary-General will, as we had said, fill out the form." Now it's said the form has not been filled out, and Mr. Annan reverts to the cryptic position that "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done."

            Behind the toxic dumping in Ivory Coast, which has killed six people and sickened ten thousand more, is a company which leased the ship and owned the waste, Trafigura Beheer BV, which also figured in the UN - Iraq Oil for Food scandal. In Abidjan, the Ivorian directors of Trafigura's subsidiary Puma Energie have been arrested. For the record, Trafigura states that it "acted lawfully." Facts on File reports that:

"in May 2001, the Essex tanker, chartered by Dutch oil-trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, had been topped off with an extra 230,000 barrels after inspection at an off-shore Iraqi oil platform. Trafigura had purchased the oil in the shipment from French oil-services company Ibex Energy France. The cargo had been seized in the Caribbean Sea after the captain alerted U.S. and U.N. authorities. Later, according to the Journal, Ibex's general manager, Jean Paul Cayre, in an affidavit filed with Britain's High Court of Justice, had said the two companies performed the same routine with the Essex in 2000, under Trafigura's direction, paying Iraq $5.4 million for the extra oil. At Trafigura's direction, Cayre said, the two companies had shredded records of the deals and replaced them with false ones."

Dump in Abidjan SG

    Documents tie French President Jacques Chirac's friend Patrick Maugein to the 25 million barrels allocated to Trafigura Beheer BV, which employed Patrick's brother Philippe as a consultant. Trafigura was accused of evading taxes on oil imports into Thailand; the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has taken testimony on Trafigura's involving in the Sudanese oil industry.

    Public reporting on Trafigura comes even closer to the current UN.  The Financial Times' Claudio Gatti one year ago reported:

"Kojo Annan, son of Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, received more than Dollars 750,000 from several oil trading companies now under investigation for their role in the UN's oil-for-food program (OFFP) for Iraq. The funds were dispatched between 2002 and 2003 to an account Kojo  Annan opened under his middle name - Adeyemo - in a Swiss branch of Coutts bank... In 2003, one company - Trafigura Beheer BV, a Dutch-based entity founded by traders who formerly worked for the then fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich - sent $247,500 to Kojo Annan's account at Coutts... The company found records of the payment in question, but explained that it was related to a transaction with PPI, the Nigerian company that employed Mr Annan as a director. 'The request (of payment) was received from a PPI fax and it was assumed that this was a PPI account.' Mr. Annan's lawyer said PPI 'conducted business with Trafigura in 2002 and 2003' clarifying the deals were confined to Nigerian gas oil and petrol. PPI's representative in Geneva is Michael Wilson, a Ghanaian friend of the Annan family, who has attracted scrutiny in the oil-for-food investigation. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Annan both worked for Cotecna, the Swiss inspection company that in 1998 received a UN contract under the oil-for-food program ultimately worth $60 million. Between spring 2002 and spring 2003, Mr. Annan's Coutts account received over $200,000."

            Paul Volcker, in an interview last week, stated that Kojo Annan had lied during the Oil-for-Food investigation, and that Kofi Annan's failure to launch a credible investigation in a timely manner is something he will have to answer for. (MP3 here.) Some in the UN believe that Mr. Annan pulled back from his spokesman's commitments earlier this year that he would file Financial Disclosure due to complications such as the entrepreneurial projects of his son Kojo Annan, and believe that Mr. Annan is making an error by refusing to file or even explain why he has not filed.

            Inner City Press last week asked the spokesman's office point blank if Mr. Annan had filed, and was told that the official response is that Mr. Annan has met his legal obligation, and that this means that since the Secretary-General is the one high UN official who is not required to file, he has not done so. Inner City Press then referenced, without any response or explanation being given, previous statements on the issue:

            Under-Secretary General for Management Christopher Burnham on February 11, 2005, as summarized by the UN itself, said of the Financial Disclosure forms that "the Secretary-General would not only fill one out, but would probably be the first do so."

   On May 3, Mr. Dujarric told reporters that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out, I have no doubt." In another briefing he repeated, "The Secretary-General will, as we had said, fill out the form."

    Now it's said the form has not been filled out, and Mr. Annan reverts to the position that "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done" - that is, that he "acted lawfully."

  Just before 5 p.m. press time, Inner City Press again sought an explanation from the Spokesman's Office and was again told that the Secretary-General follows all laws, and no law requires his filing of the UN's Financial Disclosure form. Asked to explain the change between, for example, the May 3, 2006 statement that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out," including "to be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out" and what has happened (or not happened) since, there was no verbal response. Tough job, at least on this.

            Somewhat similarly, the incoming president of the General Assembly, Sheika Haya Al-Khalifa, was asked if she will during the coming year continue the private practice of corporate law through her law firm, which has represented among others the global banks HSBC, Mizuho, Arab Banking Corporation and BNP Paribas. (Click here for a sample project; video here, from Minute 21:55.) The response appeared to be that her firm will continue such representation; it was not clear that any safeguards are in place, despite the fact that such banks have partnered with the UN. Inner City Press asked about the UN Global Compact, corporations and human rights more generally. "You mean the NGOs?" was the answer.

  Analysis: one observer longed for the type of language used at times by Mr. Annan, for example that the world "needs to be careful that the development world, the poor countries, do not become the dumping ground for this type of waste." Less appealing is the statement by Mr. Annan, called incipiently Trafiguran by one wag, that he honors his obligations -- that is, acts lawfully. One (wag) wonders is that's the standard Mr. Annan was referring to in his comment that those who dumped toxic waste in Abidgan should be held to account.

  Mr. Annan concluded his press conference Wednesday by saying that today "people are aware of their human rights, and civil society has become very active in this. And I think it is a healthy development. And you also in many countries now are seeing very active press who are being heard and questioning. In some cases they are suppressed, and we should resist that." Hear, hear.

One update: Inner City Press still not not have a copy of the Secretariat's response to U.S. Ambassador John Bolton about housing subsidies to UN employees by governments. Requests for the document, of public interest, have been made to the Secretariat and to the U.S. mission, 24 hours ago. Developing...

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From the September 13, 2006, transcript:

[Inner City Press] Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this is on Cote d'Ivoire, following up on an earlier question. I know that you're meeting on the 20th of September in the G.A., or on the sideline of the G.A. Do you think with the postponed elections, when should they be held? Should President Laurent Gbagbo stay in power until the elections are held? And what about this toxic dumping that's taken place? It's actually by a company, Trafigura, which shows up in the Volcker report in connection with Cotecna.

Also, if you could just address one thing, and this is for your able spokesman, that said, Have you filed your financial disclosure and if so, why not?

SG: Let me take it in turn. First of all, on the question of Cote d'Ivoire, we are going to have a mini-summit here with all the leaders of the political parties and regional leaders. And we will resolve some of the issues that you have raised.

On the question of the toxic waste, I think that this is a serious issue. We need to be careful that the developing world and the poor countries do not become dumping grounds for these kinds of waste, and I hope serious action will be taken against the company and all involved. And of course UN agencies have been active in helping the Government resolve this.

As to your second, your third question, I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I have always done.

[See above]

UN Admits To Errors in its Report on Destruction of Congolese Village of Kazana, Safeguards Not In Place

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 11 --  The UN today admitted to some of the errors in its July 2006 report on its role in the destruction of the village of Kazana in the eastern Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

   After seven weeks of questions, the UN Monday acknowledged that it got even the date of the incident wrong in its report, and that it misstated the sequence in which Congolese soldiers and UN peacekeepers entered the village. In response to Inner City Press questions, UN Associate Spokesman Ari Gaitanis provided a written statement on behalf of the UN that before the UN peacekeepers entered the village, the Congolese army had burned the "huts" in the village down.

   The events at Kazana, and the UN's misleading self-exoneration seven weeks ago, highlight the dangers of the UN's decision to join forces with the Congolese army, known by its French acronym FARDC. Particularly in the eastern Ituri district, the FARDC includes former rebels and militias, many accused of human rights abuses. The UN's mission to the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, conducts joint military patrols with the FARDC. In Kazana in April, a village was burned to the ground, and the UN was left in the position of defending, some say covering up, the incident.

    Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman's Office concerning the destruction of Kazana including by fire on June 19 and July 18.

   On July 28, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General gave Inner City Press a one-page report stating

"There are media reports alleging that a number of civilian casualties may have resulted from a military operation by the Congolese armed Forces (FARDC) with the support of MONUC troops on 22 April 2006, in the village of Kazana, Ituri District, in North East DRC. These allegations have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue. On 22 April 2006, a joint MONUC (1 Pakistani company, 1 company South African) FARDC (3 companies) operation was launched against militia positions in Kazana. After being fired upon by hostile elements, MONUC and FARDC forces engaged the militia positions with mortar fire from 0600 to 1000hrs. At 1200hrs, MONUC and FARDC troops entered the village which was condoned and searched. During the operation which lasted was over [sic] at 1600hrs, 1 FARDC soldier was killed in action, 3 others were wounded, and 4 dead bodies were recovered."

       On July 28, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan about Kazana. Mr. Annan responded, "I do not have details on the issues you raise." Video here, at Minutes 16:45 through 18:18.

    On July 31, Inner City Press asked the head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno about MONUC's one-page self-exoneration. We are still looking at it, Mr. Guehenno responded.  On August 2, Inner City Press asked the head of MONUC, American William Lacy Swing, about the one-page report. Mr. Swing responded that from MONUC's perspective, "the investigation is done."

       Seven weeks later, Inner City Press submitted some further written questions to the UN Spokesman's Office, some of which are reproduced below along with answers the UN provided in writing on Monday:

Q.)  Our  sources  say  the destruction of Kazana occurred on April 21, not April 22. Which is it?

A.) The attack on the Kazana Village occurred on 21 April.

  Note: the report the UN handed out on July 28 didn't even have the date of the incident correct.

Q.)  The  one-pager  says  MONUC  and FARDC fired mortars from 0600 to 1000 hours. Our sources say it was from 0700 to 1400 hours. Which is it? Q.)  The  one-pager says MONUC and FARDC at 1200 entered the village "which was cordoned and searched." Our sources, including one who entered with the South  African Blue Helmets, say that FADRC entered the village first, from 1400 to 1500 hours, and set the houses aflame, and that MONUC did not enter until 1600 hours. Which is it?

A.)  On 21 April 2006, a joint action was launched to clear village Kazana. Elements  of 1 [Pakistani] company, elements of 1 [South African] company and 3 FARDC companies

participated  in  the  action. The engagement began at 0900. Opening mortar fire started with smoke rounds Fire support requested by FARDC was given by MONUC  forces  only on selected, and observed, positions from where militia were  engaging  joint  forces. After four hours of fighting UN peacekeepers and  FARDC soldiers conducted a search of the village and found no civilian casualties.  Before  the entry of MONUC troops entered Kazana (1 platoon of South African  company),  FARDC burned down huts.

  Note that in the report the UN put out on July 28, there was not admission that the huts of Kazana were burned down, nor that the Congolese soldiers entered the village before the UN peacekeepers did. The reason for the sequence, which allowed at least the burning of the village, is inquired into by Inner City Press' next question, which the UN declines to answer:

Q.)  As  FARDC forces advanced after 1400HRS they yelled over the radio for MONUC  to stop firing in case they got hit. The Pakistani mortar bombs that were  called  in  by  the  South  Africans  on that hillside overshot their targets and cut up a party of FARDC soldiers on the other side of the hill. One  FARDC soldier was hit in both legs. The FARDC soldiers were angry with MONUC  for  the  mortar friendly fire. That may be why the MONUC forces did not sufficiently quickly or thoroughly search Kazana. Please respond.

A.) Those are rumors which [the UN / Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has no comment on.

            Whether or not the UN's mortar fire hits Congolese troops is a questions of fact, not of rumor. These facts continue to be inquired into by the television journalist present at Kazana that day, Aidan Hartley. Sources tell Inner City Press that the UN was dismissive of Mr. Hartley's account in part because it came out just before the Congolese presidential election. Inner City Press has noted that the timing is related to that of broadcast television, not election-spoiling.

   Still unacted on by the UN are Inner City Press' requests to interview the MONUC commanders at Ituri, for updates on villages around Kazana, and for records underlying the UN's July 28 report and September 11 contradicting supplement. Inner City Press has told the UN spokespeople that there will be more questions. And there will be.

            Another questions Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman on Monday concerned UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland speaking by phone with the LRA's Vincent Otti, who is under International Criminal Court indictment for war crimes including (ab)use of child soldiers, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General confirmed the telephone call, and added that Mr. Egeland met face to face with Vincent Otti. Asked to asking the seeming incongruity between Mr. Egeland's call for the enforcement of ICC indictments and his meeting an indictee face to face, Assistant Spokesman Brendan Varma made reference to peace first. When it was pointed out that Mr. Egeland would in all probability not meeting face to face with those still on the lam from the Hague tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Varma pointed out that those individuals are not at this point involved in peace talks, as are Vincent Otti and Joseph Kony. What this means for impunity remains to be seen, and remains to be asked of Mr. Egeland upon his return.

   Finally, an interim update: Inner City Press has been asking the UN spokesman's office and others for weeks about the propriety of governments giving free or cut-rate housing to UN employees, including as inquired into by a June 2006 letter to Kofi Annan from U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. (An employee of the UN showed Inner City Press the letter, which the U.S. Mission a week after inquiry was willing to confirm.).

  A week ago, Inner City Press asked the UN Department of Peacekeeping to "answer if any DPKO personnel receive free or cut-rate housing from a government (or non-UN, non-government) source."  No response has been provided.

   On Friday, September 8 Inner City Press asked outgoing General Assembly president Jan Eliasson about housing subsidies by government, and Monday Mr. Eliasson said it's a matter the Secretariat should deal with, should abide by rules and set principles of international civil servants, "I understand they are looking into it." Video here, from Minute 32:22.

  Monday UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press an answer would be coming soon. In a presentation later on Monday, Amb. Bolton stated that he has received a response, but that it is insufficient. Mr. Dujarric indicates that the matter will be addressed during his press conference Tuesday at noon, prior to the presentation by the UN's head legal officer. We'll see.


With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (updated 7/30, below) -- Two days before the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN hastily issued a six-paragraph statement that allegations of abuse and negligence by UN asserting that allegations of abuse and complicity by its mission in the DRC "have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue."

   Hours before this exoneration was given to reporters, the day's New York Times appeared with an op-ed by the television journalist who had filmed the underlying events and their aftermath in Kazana village in April. He wrote that "United Nations investigators never asked to see the many hours of footage we took."

            While the UN's Kofi Annan attended a Security Council briefing on Lebanon, his spokeswoman Marie Okabe was asked by Inner City Press about the op-ed. Video here. On June 19 and July 18, Inner City Press had also asked about the UN's investigation of events at Kazana, and on July 26 Inner City Press asked the UN's head of peacekeeping in Africa Dmitry Titov about the status of the investigation.  Mr. Titov called the investigation "ongoing," and added that "we are interested... to come out of this as clean as we can."

            Less than 48 hours after Mr. Titov's statement about the ongoing investigation, the investigation was ostensibly concluded, and all allegations deemed "untrue."

Mr. Annan in DCR, March 23, 2006

 The UN's one-page statement, provided to Inner City Press full of typographical errors andnot even on letterhead, states that "fighting against militiamen is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the recent death of a Nepalese Blue Helmet in a 28 in operation" [sic; full MONUC statement is below].

            The referenced UN peacekeeper from Nepal was killed on May 28, when East Congo militiaman Peter Karim took hostage seven other UN peacekeepers. Earlier this month after negotiations involving Peter Karim and the UN, the peacekeepers were released and Mr. Karim was offered the post of colonel in the Congolese Army. After initial waffling by the UN spokesman's office, Dmitry Titov on July 26 acknowledged that the offer of "a post" to Peter Karim was "as a result of the deal" to release the UN peacekeepers.

            Kofi Annan took questions from the press on Friday afternoon. Inner City Press asked about the hastily-issued exoneration of the Kazana allegations, without the UN having asked to see the underlying video, and about Peter Karim being offered a colonel's post in the Congolese army. Video here, at Minutes 16:45 through 18:18)

         "With these two as the backdrop, is the UN system so committed to the elections that it is issuing half-dash exonerations" and "why would Peter Karim, who you said would face personal accountability, be allowed into the Congolese army?"

         Mr. Annan answered, "I do not have details on the issues you've raised... I was not aware that Karim had been abducted, recruited into the Lebanese, Congolese army."

         "But Mr. Titov--"

         "Titov. But I am not aware of it. I will have to follow up."          

            But on Monday Mr. Annan was provided, in hand, a Reuters article describing the offer of a colonel position to Peter Karim. Inner City Press waited more than an hour outside a meeting between Mr. Annan and the chief executives of large pharmaceutical companies, endeavoring to ask Mr. Annan about Peter Karim. When Mr. Annan emerged, he said his mind was too full with the pharmaceutical and other issues, but he took the Reuters article, in the margin of which was written, "Personal accountability? May 30, 2006. Or impunity?"

            The May 30 reference was to Mr. Annan's answer, at another stakeout interview, to Inner City Press' question about the then just-kidnapped peacekeepers. Mr. Annan said

"we have been in touch with Karim's group Ė we think that is the group holding them, and demanding their release. And hopefully, we will get them released. But Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable... They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts."

            On the afternoon of July 28, two months later, Mr. Annan said: "I will have to follow up." We'll see.

Update of July 30: During the afternoon of Friday, July 28 in New York, Kofi Annan answered Inner City Press' stakeout question -

"I do not have details on the issues you've raised... I was not aware that Karim had been abducted, recruited into the Lebanese, Congolese army."

   Further cursory web research shows that earlier on July 28, Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in the DRC Haile Menkerios said, in an interview on the UN's, that " the agreement with Peter Karimís group and the MRC is very positive not only for the elections, but for the future extension of state authority." Click here for the interview, at, click here for SRSG William Lacy Swing's letter to the IHT, which among other things doesn't specify just when this investigation was completed; Developing...


UN MONUC statement as distributed July 28, 2006

"There are media reports alleging that a number of civilian casualties may have resulted from a military operation by the Congolese armed Forces (FARDC) with the support of MONUC troops on 22 April 2006, in the village of Kazana, Ituri District, in North East DRC. These allegations have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue.


"On 22 April 2006, a joint MONUC (1 Pakistani company, 1 company South African) FARDC (3 companies) operation was launched against militia positions in Kazana. After being fired upon by hostile elements, MONUC and FARDC forces engaged the militia positions with mortar fire from 0600 to 1000hrs. At 1200hrs, MONUC and FARDC troops entered the village which was condoned and searched. During the operation which lasted was over [sic] at 1600hrs, 1 FARDC soldier was killed in action, 3 others were wounded, and 4 dead bodies were recovered.


"On May 20 the operation ITURI EXPLORER was launched in Tchei, 65 kilometers south west of Bunia, to clear it of the presence of militiamen. Approximately 1000 MONUC soldiers as well as 3000 FARDC were involved in this operation.

"Ex-FPRI militia armed groups had stepped up their activities and presence in the territory of Irumu since the beginning of the year. MONUC, in support of the FARDC, conducted operations in order to re-establish the authority of the state in this territory. These actions culminated with operation ITURI EXPLORER which removed the militia from Tchei. Isolated groups of militiamen, who managed to escape, were on rampage, killing and robbing civilians in the vicinity of Komanda and Marabo, North of Tchei. Operations were conducted to make the area more secure.

"MONUC forces do not open fire indiscriminately and investigations are conducted in case of alleged infringement of their rules of engagement. Fighting against militiamen is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the recent death of a Nepalese Blue Helmet in a 28 in operation [sic]. Armed men in civilian attire often take position in villages, don't hesitate to hide among the population and use it often as human shield. Moreover, women and children have, oftentimes, been among combatants engaging MONUC and FARDC troops.

"In spite of challenges and often facing greater number of hostile elements, MONUC forces try to put an end to the impunity of the armed groups they are battling and help re-establish the authority of the state in Ituri, in order to allow the coming elections to take place. Collaborating with the FARDC is a necessity, as it is the Congolese national army which has the primary responsibility for the security of the country and its people. Any FARDC wrongdoings are brought to the attention of their command."

* * *

June 19, 2006 briefing Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General

 ...Question:  Over the weekend, on British television Channel 4, there was a documentary, or kind of expose, about MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) having provided support to Government troops in razing a town called Kazana -- torching of huts and deaths of civilians -- so it seems like a pretty serious charge.  It's also in the Observer newspaper of the Guardian.  I don't know if the UN has checked into this... if there is a response from the UN?

Associate Spokesman:  In fact, we are checking into this.  I don't have anything for you on it now, but the Department of Peacekeeping Operations did inform me today that they are looking into this, and so we will examine what these charges are and what's behind them.

Question:  Can we expect some kind of update in this room?  How will this be handled?

Associate Spokesman:  We'll provide you an update when we have some more information.

* * *

July 18, 2006 briefing Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General

Associate Spokesman:  Matthew.

Question:  Two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It's reported that Peter Karim, who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers that were since released, has now been made a Colonel in the Congolese army.  So, I guess my question is: was the UN deal to get the peacekeepers released -- did it envision Mr. Karim being incorporated into the Congolese army?

Associate Spokesman:  Release of the Nepalese peacekeepers was unconditional.  We did not try to have any conditions attached to their release.  No ransom was paid and no other arrangements were made.

Question:  Was the UN aware that this would be the end-game of that?

Associate Spokesman:  Well, this is something that has happened afterwards.  And this is, frankly, news.

Question:  The reason I am asking, and I am asking you, I guess, to respond to this: given what Mr. Karim did, and other reports about it, it seems like a setup for further abuse of civilians.  What's the UN's position on the individual who kidnapped UN peacekeepers being made part of the Congolese army?  That's my question.

Associate Spokesman:  I have no specific guidance on this, and, you know, it is not my place to comment on decisions that are made by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  But, at the same time, the basic point is, as a principle, we don't believe that people who kidnap out personnel or any others are to be rewarded for their actions.

Question:  Four weeks ago, MONUC said it was going to investigate a documentary on English television about the burning down of the town of Kazana with UN troops standing by -- is there any update on that?

Associate Spokesman:  The latest is simply that our investigation into that is continuing.  When we have something more, we will share it with you.

 [See update of September 11, 2006, above.]

On a previous press conference by Mr.  Annan

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- The UN's Kofi Annan, with six months left in his term, answered twenty media questions on Thursday. Most dealt with the issues of UN reform, and the triple B's of Bolton, budget and Mark Malloch Brown. As question 19 out of 20, from Minute 51:15 through 55:50, Inner City Press asked about the Secretary-General's recent praise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's members' initiatives against separatism, in light for example of Uzbekistan's imprisonment and torture of opponents. The full Q & A is below.

Uzbek refugees Mr. Annan

   Mr. Annan responded that he has been speaking with the High Commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, about Uzbekistan and both the bulk of those fleeing and specifically the four Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan; he used the terms of art enforced refoulement, "particularly if they may be at risk if they are sent back against their will." The Secretary-General said he has in the past spoken with the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov; perhaps that is needed again. Mr. Annan said he's increasingly concerned with the "excesses" he's seen in the fight against terrorism. "It's been too easy for some governments to put the T word on someone and then move against them and expect that nobody asks questions," he said, an apt description of China's use of the "E.T." word, East Turkestan, as well as the usual lack of questions about Xinjiang and places like it at the UN.

            On Inner City Press's second question, which Mr. Annan called the third, whether he support and will implement a Freedom of Information Act during his final six months, Mr. Annan asked for clarification, which was given by reference to the UN Staff Union's report on internal justice and even the calls for transparency from US Ambassador Bolton.  "Yes," the Secretary-General said, "I think we should be more forthcoming." 

   He mentioned that some documents would have to be withheld, concerning confidential communications with heads of state.  That should be no obstacle or excuse: all FOI laws have exemptions, for pre-decisional and other information, within an overarching presumption of a fight to information, such as that contained, too vaguely, in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

            Minutes later, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if he might work with Kofi Annan on a Freedom of Information mechanism. The response was not yes, but neither was it no. Amb. Bolton referenced his meeting Wednesday with the Staff Council, and said he'd follow up.

            In more marginal news, just before the Kofi Annan briefing, journalists were cleared from Room 226 so that a bomb-sniffing dog could go through.  Later by the 46th Street entrance, the dog and his handler were interviewed. The former's name is Storm.  Meanwhile Sandy Berger floated off the UN grounds with a big name tag on, and no documents in sight. In the basement, the plasma TV sign for a meeting of the Friends of the International Criminal Court said, "Closed meeting." Some friends...
Later at the Security Council stakeout, the Palestinian Permanent Observed answered Inner City Press' request for an update on whether a funding mechanism for the Palestinian Authority, previously discussed at the UN, has been found.  No, was the answered, talks remain ongoing in Brussels.

            Pakistan's UN envoy Munir Akram played diplomat upstairs before the UN Correspondent's Association. When Pakistan come forward with its candidate for Secretary-General, now that India has? It is complicated, he said, while stating that no country with eyes on a (permanent) Security Council seat should also field a candidate for Secretary General. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Akram about Baluchistan, the few English language articles regarding which invariably use the adjective restive, as well as about mass evictions of the poor in Karachi

  On the former, Amb. Akram spoke dismissively of "three Sardars" who used to work with the government, but who then wanted more money. Amb. Akram said that their Baluchistan Liberation Army has funding and arms from "outside sources." When Inner City Press pointedly asked if that means India, Amb. Akram declined to answer. The evictions, he said, probably relate to attempts to give the poor more rather than fewer property rights -- a position not shared by close observers.

   Finally, Inner City Press asked Amb. Akram if Pakistan would consider as its S-G candidate the human rights lawyer, previously UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir. "I suppose not," Amb. Akram answered dryly. Later over a Pakistani lunch he spoke of Somalia, calling it "Taliban Two." Given the links between Pakistan's ISI and Taliban One, the irony was as pungent as the spinach, yoghurt and rice. Let the Games continue.

June 15, 2006 Question and Answer

Inner City Press question: This is a question about Asia and human rights. The media in China and Central Asia reported your remark earlier this week that you praised the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its meeting for its work against terrorism, extremism and separatism. And it said that you praised this, as I am sure you know, UNHCR has criticized Uzbekistan for requiring that people be deported and locking them up. China has cracked down on its Uighur minority. So I wonder if you have any guidance for the balance between human rights and fighting terrorism and, totally separately, whether you would consider supporting a freedom of information act at the United Nations in the six months that remain to you, maybe even imposing it in the Secretariat, as an experiment? Those are two different questions.

      The Secretary-General: May I ask for clarification on your third question? What do you mean by ďfreedom of information act at the UNĒ?

      Inner City Press clarification: Okay, Iím sorry. The Staff Union report that just came out suggested that documents be made available not just on a whim, but as a right, to the media or to the public, as many Member States have such a law. I think Mr. Bolton has said, and a variety of people have said Ė and I think you even said in your reform proposal that you would favour something like that. So I just wanted to hear whether you would actually implement it.

      The Secretary-General: I think, on the question of effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights, my position is very clear: that there can really be no tradeoff between effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights of the individual, and that if we undermine human rights, if we undermine the rule of law in our fight against terrorism, then we are giving the terrorists a victory they could never have won alone. And this is why Iíve been quite concerned about some of the excesses Iíve seen around the world when it comes to the fight against terrorism. Itís been very easy for many Governments to just put the T-word on someone and then move against them, and expect that nobody asks questions. So we have to be very, very careful not to undermine the basic rule of law in the fight against terrorism.

      As to my message to the others, I think it was a gathering that was going to talk about security and the fight against terrorism, and it was to encourage them in that direction. Iím very much aware of the High Commissionerís difficulties with the Government you mentioned. Iíve had the opportunity to speak to the President myself at the time when the bulk of them were allowed to leave. And we are working on the four, and in fact the High Commissioner, Mr. Guterres, spoke to me about it, that we should make sure that thereís no enforced refoulement, particularly when they may be at risk if they are sent back against their will. And not only that: he has made arrangements with other Government that are willing to accept these four. So, itís not that they will be stateless; we have homes for them. So we are asking the Government to hand them over to the High Commissioner for Refugees; and Mr. Guterres has worked very hard and has homes for them, and I urge the Government to let them go.

      On your freedom of information act Ė or, freedom of information in the sense of making information available Ė I think, as an Organization, we are pretty open. In fact, sometimes I say this is one of those buildings, [if] you have two copies, consider it published. And itís all over. But I think we should be more forthcoming. We should release as much information as we can. Of course, there are certain informations that you cannot release, because it does cause problems. Sometimes, some of you have asked

me what is the nature of your conversations with this President or that Prime Minister or others, and Iíve had lots of confidential discussions and others that I cannot release till much later. And so, we do have rules where certain things are embargoed for a certain period. But beyond that, we should be open and forthcoming. [Q19 of 20 in]

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