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On W. Sahara, As Mendez Favors Ongoing Rights Monitoring, Ladsous' Silence

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- After the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez briefed the General Assembly's Third Committee on Tuesday morning, Inner City Press asked him about his September visit to Morocco and Western Sahara, and if he believes the UN mission MINURSO should have a human rights component.

  Mendez replied that in Western Sahara, and in Morocco, he found evidence of mistreatment in interrogation, especially in connection with demonstrations and when there is a sense that national security is involved.

  Alluding to UN Security Council discussions, he said he heard about it in Layoune. "In my experience, permanent monitoring is always more helpful that once in a lifetime" visits. Should it be by MINURSO or some other entity? He said he is studying that.

  In the Security Council debate about MINURSO, not only Morocco but France opposed any human rights component to MINURSO. Some say that at least during Morocco's remaining 14 months on the Security Council, the addition of such a component is unlikely. But France's seat on the Council is, like four others', Permanent.

  The supervisor of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and thus ultimately of MINURSO is Herve Ladsous, who without any "insulting innuendo" is not only French but has represented France in the Security Council as its Deputy Permanent Representative in and around 1994.

  Earlier in October Inner City Press received contacts from Morocco asking about Ladsous' visit to that country, saying "there was a near total blackout, we didn't even know Ladsous was there!"

  When Ladsous held what was called a press conference on October 22, he did not mention his Western Sahara trip in his opening statement -- there was much on Mali, where France now says it will send drones, and on Syria.

  In what was called the question and answer session, Ladsous refused to answer any Inner City Press question, saying "Mister I told you already that I would answer your questions when you stop making insulting insinuations about me."

  But it is not an insinuation to note France's position on Western Sahara and no human rights component in MINURSO, to note that Ladsous was the Deputy Permanent Representative of France, and to expect him to answer questions for example about his views on the peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara.

  Just for comparison, the current head of the Department of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has answered questions about possible conflicts of interest due to his prior service in the US State Department.

  Ibrahim Gambari, who had that DPA job and worked under or in DPKO, has answered questions about any connection between his former roles in Nigeria's foreign service and his UN and African Union work.

  So what is different about Herve Ladsous? As some now surmise, could his thin-skinned refusal to answer Press questions, and characterization of questions as "insulting insinuations," be indicative of actual conflicts of interest of the type Feltman and Gambari took questions on and addressed, in their fashion? Watch this site.

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