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After UNHCR Censors Western Sahara From Its Report, No Explanation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 26 -- The UN's lack of transparency on Western Sahara, where is has failed to hold the referendum on independence for which it has long had a UN Peacekeeping mission, has hit a new low.

 The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees censored even the words "Western Sahara" from its revised report on Saharawi refugees. And two separate UNHCR spokespeople have not provided any explanation, two days after Inner City Press sent them:

"a Press request for UNHCR to explain why its report(s) on Saharawi refugees "Nutrition Survey, Western Sahara Refugee Camps, Tindouf, Algeria," was initially released, here, with multiple references to “Western Sahara” but was finalized and re-issued with all of those references removed. (The "revised" new version, "Nutrition Survey Saharawi Refugee Camps, Tindouf, Algeria," can be downloaded for example here.)

"Why did UNHCR do this? What were the communications between UNHCR and Morocco before this change was made? Who made this change or revision? Who is responsible for it? Is this reflective of UN systemwide policy, or only UNHCR's policy? If only UNHCR's, please state why (and under what authority or mandate, given applicable General Assembly and Security Council resolutions) UNHCR adopted this policy. On deadline."

  Two full days after this was sent to UNHCR spokespeople Christopher Reardon and Melissa Fleming, no explanation. We'll stay on this.

  At UN headquarters while UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric still refuses to comment on the leaked cable showing UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous undermining the MINURSO mission on human rights, on November 7 Inner City Press asked Dujarric about Morocco's King's speech.  Video here.

  Inner City Press asked Dujarric about these quotes of King Mohammed VI: "Morocco’s sovereignty over its entire territory is effective, inalienable and non-negotiable... 'No' to any attempt to reconsider the principles and criteria of the negotiation process, or any attempt to revise and expand the MINURSO mandate to include such matters as the supervision of the human rights situation."

   While Ladsous' views in the cable support or even parrot this last, against a UN role in human rights despite Ban Ki-moon's supposed "Rights Up Front" plan, Dujarric on November 7 had a prepared "If-Asked" about the speech, and read:

"We’ve seen the speech. We remain committed to our work as per the mandate of the Security Council on Western Sahara and in that respect one looks forward to the speedy resumption of the negotiation process and the facilitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary General, Christopher Ross, as well as the deployment of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Western Sahara, Kim Bolduc, who’s also the head of the MINURSO mission there. As you know, both Mr. Ross and Ms Bolduc briefed the Council on October 27 and afterwards the Council reiterated its desire to see Mr. Ross’s facilitation resume, as well as to see Ms. Bolduc take a her duties at the helm of MINURSO as soon as possible. We look forward to Mr. Ross’s visits to the region, as well as to the deployment of Ms. Bolduc."

   Other leaked cables discuss Ms Bolduc, and Mr Ross -- we'll have more on these. Inner City Press asked Dujarric to provide by e-mail the "if-asked" text that he read; Dujarric refused, despite the fact that his Office routinely provides this service to other, presumably more friendly, correspondents. We'll have more on this as well.

   Document leaks from inside the UN have identified improper service of Morocco, on the question of Western Sahara, by a staffer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Anders Kompass.

  Inner City Press waited to report on the leaked cable(s) - the spokesperson for the High Commissioner on November 5 said his office is aware the leaked cables, which contain the perspective of certain diplomats, and that the situation is being investigated to clarify the facts.”

  Whatever the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, now under Jordan's Prince Zeid, does about the content of the leaks, more will be required in the UN Secretariat in New York -- particularly at the top of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which runs the MINURSO mission in Western Sahara.

  The cables show that Herve Ladsous, a long-time French diplomat now the boss of DPKO and thus of MINURSO, was flacking for Morocco on the supposed quality of its human rights mechanisms. This directly undercuts the MINURSO mission, for which Ladsous is supposed to be working.

  African Union members of the Security Council, from Uganda to South Africa to Nigeria, have demanded that MINURSO have the same type of human rights monitoring mechanism as the UN Peacekeeping missions in the DR Congo, Mali and Central African Republic.

  Now Ladsous is exposed undermining extending this to Western Sahara -- the policy of his country, France, but undercutting DPKO.

  During General Assembly debate week in September 2014, Ladsous refused to answer Press questions and ended up blocking the Press' camera, Vine here.

  This is a scandal. And since Ladsous had refused to answer Press questions, about rapes by his mission's partners in the DRC, about DPKO bringing cholera to Haiti, about under-reporting attacks on civilians and even peacekeepers in Darfur and now Central African Republic, it is time for the question to be asked.

Update: on November 6, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this, video here.

  Immediately after the briefing, Inner City Press emailed Dujarric the cable it had asked about. Watch this site.


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