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In Libya, UN Observer of Jail Trials Detained, UN Won't Observe Any More

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- When the UN's envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri briefed the UN Security Council on June 9, he cited the detention in al-Hadhba prison "of an UNSMIL's senior staff attending as observer the trial session of 11 May."
  Mitri said, "his personal effects have not been returned. We suspended the attendance of our staff to other trial sessions until the case of our colleague is fully resolved."

  Inner City Press asked Mitri at the Security Council stakeout, isn't that just what the prison authorities want? For there to be no outside observation?

  Mitri replied that he could not speak to the motivation of those who detained the UN staff. But to others it seemed clear: moments later at the stakeout an analogy was made to police saying, we won't go to the crime-filled community anymore as a response to them shooting at us.  Except that the UN is hardly operating as police -- witness the UN's inaction on the 130 rapes in Minova in the DR Congo after only two soldiers were convicted.

Background: With the UN winding down in DR Congo, as in Burundi, Libya is one of the few countries where the UN could play the mediating role for which it was created. Issues like Israel and Palestine, Iran and North Korea have been taken from it; it has shown itself one-sided on Ukraine. But Libya? Why not?

   On May 19, after days of chaos throughout Libya, Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing and asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any comment or response to the storming of the parliament and the seizure of airports, which have led to the closure of countries' embassies and consultates in the country.

   No, Dujarric had nothing. Later on May 19 a one page press release was placed in his UN Spokesperson's Office -- not emailed out nor announced by email -- in which the UNSMIL mission, with none of its officials quoted, “expressed deep concern.”

    Why is the UN phoning it in, even on Libya? Sources tell Inner City Press that Secretary General's envoy in Libya Tarek Mitri, “a perfectly nice guy,” has shown little interest in Libya -- they say he hoped to get a position in the new government of his native Lebanon but it did not come through.

 Mitri was Information Minister when Fouad Siniora was prime minister. But for now he hasn't gotten a new Lebanon post.

   Why isn't he even quoted in UNSMIL's bland and belated May 19 press release? This is the state of the UN at present. This is its legacy.

  While the UN talks a lot about women's rights and political participation, activists in Libya tell Inner City Press a different story.

  They describe a May 20, 2013 meeting with UN envoy Tarek Mitri at which he called the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) "nothing."

  They say the new agency UN Women promised to give them information how to reach UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and didn't, and did not attend a May 30 follow up meeting. Now the 35% quota for women is about to be eliminated. And where is the UN?

  On June 19 at UN Headquarters in New York, Inner City Press put these questions to Mitri, and then to Ban's deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey.

  Mitri said it was up to the women to do more, including a "sit in" he said he encouraged them to hold. He admitted saying "wala’ishi" or "nothing" as to CEDAW, explaining that he meant that a Parliament could not be sued. Video here and embedded below.

  "I have spoken to the media on three occasions on this, the UN did everything it said it would," Mitri insisted. "They are nascent, sometimes they are able to act more decisively. It is easier for the UN to support Libyans rather than act on behalf of them."

  Del Buey said Ban Ki-moon supports women. Well, despite UN Women not giving the email address, Ban is set to receive a letter from Libya on this, Inner City Press has learned. So we'll see. Watch this site.

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