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Wittig Won't Say If His Committee Used Info Obtained by Torture, But Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 14 -- When Germany's Permanent Representative to the UN Peter Wittig spoke Friday on the end of his two year term on the Security Council, he mentioned as one of the highlights having chaired the Council's Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctions committees.

  Inner City Press asked Wittig if during these two years, he or the Committees used information obtained by torture. This was recently charged by UN Special Rapporteur Ban Emmerson, at a session held at the Germany mission ten days ago (story here.)

  Even Ombudsperson Kim Prost, purporting to rebut Emmerson, said that torture was "plausibly raised" in at least two of the 22 sanctions cases she reviewed. So Inner City Press asked Wittig on Friday, have you or the Committee handled information plausibly related to torture? Video here, from Minute 25.

  To this, Wittig said that the proceedings of the Committee are confidential, so he "could not speak about the contents." He said that the Committee "itself has not been seized" of the question of torture. One might ask, why not?

  (In fairness, some argue the no Security Council member, even a Committee chair, can speak for other members, even to answer a question about using information obtained by torture. Whether this reticence is wise or an excuse is another question.)

  Inner City Press also thanked Wittig and his spokesman Alex Eberl, on behalf of the beta Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, for the time they took, monthly or more frequently, to explain Germany's views if only on a background or off the record basis. The views, especially from the top floors of the German Mission on 49th Street, were illuminating.

   Wittig's deputy Miguel Berger continues past January 1 as chairperson of the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee, now facing issues ranging from re-costing of the budget to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's mobility plan, on which questions raised by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Affairs have yet to be answered.

   Unlike some at the UN, Wittig on Friday at least purported to answer the questions raised. We wish him well.

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