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On Yemen, ICP Asks Ban Spox How Saudi Sell-Out Discredits UN Blacklists

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.

Now Ban's bungling and worse have become more public. He put Saudi Arabia on the annex to his Children and Armed Conflict report, for what it has done in Yemen. Then he reversed course - and when slammed by human rights groups and others, had his officials spin scribes about how he had been blackmailed, how he had only sold out in order to help Palestinians who would be left without aid.

 In this version, it's the Security Council that's to blame, for not backing up Ban against Morocco. Because he cares so much, and because others care so little, he had to sell out: This is the party line. This compounds the bungling.

On June 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, if he couldn't deny that Saudi monetary threats led to its deletion from the annex (he did not deny that), to explain how this doesn't discredit UN human rights blacklists. Those on them just can't afford to buy their way off.

Dujarric said, without explaining, that he disagreed, then disallowed Inner City Press questions later in the briefing, finally outright refusing to take one about refugees. This is Ban's UN. 

   At 1 pm on June 6, Dujarric told the press the report was "done" and wouldn't be changed. Vine here, below from the UN transcript. Then at 4:08 pm, Dujarric's office said Ban was dropping the Saudi led coalition from the Annex. What changed?

On June 7, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, Video here,

UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: yesterday you'd said we had received demarche from Saudi Arabia and others regarding the inclusion of the Saudi-led Coalition in the Annex.  Who are those others?  Have you received demarches from any other countries or entities that are on the Annex?  And can you just describe, between 1 p.m.  or whenever the briefing was and when you said it stands and your statement at 4 p.m., what exactly happened?  Just to understand how the office operates to have a complete, pretty serious reversal of policy.

Spokesman:  I don't think it's a reversal of policy.  It's… the world turns.  The situation evolves.  And that was the decision that was taken.  There have been contacts from… from Jordan, from the UAE and others.

Question:  U.S? [United States]?

Spokesman:  Not that I'm aware.  And we have not been contacted by anyone else who is in… who's listed in other parts of the report.

Inner City Press:  And if they… they'd get the same treatment and hearing.

Spokesman:  As I said, I'm not going to speculate, but as I said, we've not been contacted by anyone else. 

  As to Jordan, once wonders what (Jordanian) Prince Zeid thinks of it. As to the UAE, they hired / bought Ban's Libya envoy Bernardino Leon.

From the June 6 transcript:

Spokesman Dujarric: "The report, I think, speaks for itself.  It's out... Ms. Zerrougui has done a lot of work on the report.  She does so every year.  And there are mechanisms that are outlined in the report, monitoring mechanisms that follow General Assembly resolutions, and those… that was followed.  And the result is… is the report as it stands... Whenever a report comes out, a UN report comes out, there is debating. There's discussion within the house.  The report is done when it's issued.  And it has been issued.  And it is done." 

  It sounded definitive. Then three hours later at 4 pm Dujarric' office announced that Ban took the Saudis off the list, ostensibly pending a review.

By contrast, despite the total collapse and exposure of the stated reasons for throwing Inner City Press into the street outside the UN on February 19, evicting its filed on April 14 and now seeking to give its office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom which asks no questions, Ban has stood pat, said "That is not my decision." This while South South News, used as a vehicle for bribery after infusion by Macau based businessman Ng Lap Seng with $12 million, keeps its UN office.

  So, money talks. What does Ban's reversal on and for Saudi Arabia portend, for example, for what for now his call to return 80 some members of the MINURSO mission to Western Sahara?

   At the UN Security Council stakeout on June 6 after Ban's spokesman's statement, Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the UN crowed that he was sure the removal was also permanent.

   Inner City Press asked him about the evidence the Saudi-led Coalition has dropped cluster bombs on Yemen. He flatly denied it. Video here.  Then Inner City Press asked him about others on the list -- most with many fewer resources -- who would like to get off the list or get due process. He said, We're off.

Here's Ban's statement, it might be contrasted with standing beyond this decision, on this flimsy basis, here

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

The Secretary-General has stated repeatedly his alarm at the civilian casualties caused by all parties to the fighting in Yemen. He has reminded all parties of the need to avoid civilian casualties and move immediately toward a lasting cease-fire. On the CAAC report, he accepts a proposal by Saudi Arabia that the United Nations and the Saudi-led Coalition review jointly the cases and numbers cited in the text. The Secretary-General shares the objective that the report reflect the highest standards of accuracy possible.

In this regard, the Secretary-General invites the Coalition to send a team to New York as soon as possible for detailed discussions, ahead of the Security Council's discussion of the report currently scheduled for August. Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the Secretary-General removes  the listing of the Coalition in the report's annex.

After the UN of Ban Ki-moon and his envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said nothing about the Saudi bombing of a rally in Sanaa on May 24, now on June 4 Ban Ki-moon has issued this:

"The Secretary-General condemns the attacks with heavy weapons, including rockets, mortars and artillery in Taiz. Rocket fire reportedly hit a busy market in the city. Attacks directed against civilians and populated areas, including markets, are strictly prohibited. He underscores to all parties that targeting civilian areas is a violation of international humanitarian law and urges them to fully respect their obligations in this regard. The Secretary General calls for an independent investigation to ensure that perpetrators are hold accountable.
The Secretary-General continues to urge all parties to the conflict to cease all military activities in accordance with the nationwide cessation of hostilities. He further calls on them to refrain from any actions that could result in further civilian casualties. It is particularly regrettable that Taiz continues to pay a heavy toll in civilian losses despite the cessation of hostilities.
The Secretary-General calls on those participating in the peace talks in Kuwait to negotiate in good faith and urgently work with his Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to bring a peaceful end to this devastating conflict. In this same spirit, he also urges the importance of the immediate release of prisoners and detainees.
The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured."

 On May 9, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Saudi-led Coalition air strikes on Amran, and if the UN would admit that the Houthis have controlled the base there since 2014. "Not for us to say, "was the answer from Dujarric, who as it happens blocks Inner City Press on Twitter just as the UN Envoy blocks journalists in Yemen. Video here. From the UN Transcript:

Inner City Press:  does the UN believe that this base was already controlled by the Houthis…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  That’s not for us to say.

But see below.  On May 24, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask, on Yemen, it's reported that the side of President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi has told the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, that not only [Ali Abdullah] Saleh but also Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi should be excluded from any settlement so the… I wanted to know, what is the UN's head mediator, its position, particularly on the Houthi role?  And also it's said that some of the envoys or the UN's teams in the country is supposed to be observing the ceasefire or finding their work have informed the envoy that their work has become impossible due to attacks in Marib and elsewhere.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, regarding the situation on the ground, as the Special Envoy, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has made clear the cessation of hostilities has… is not fully holding, but it has largely been holding in most areas.  And we are working with the parties and with the committees that have been set up to make sure that the cessation of hostilities will continue to hold and, indeed, will be more pervasively observed even than it is right now.  Regarding negotiations, I can't give details of the negotiations as they continue.  What I can say is, regardless of what each side wants, what the Special Envoy and the UN are trying to do is find a workable plan that will bring the parties together.  We are trying to be as inclusive as possible, and as I just mentioned, he did meet over the past day with both the Government delegation and the delegation representing Ansar Allah and the General People's Congress, and he will continue with his talks with all the various participants.

Earlier, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's repeated trips to Dubai, without answer. Now we've heard: IOCA has been importing luxury cars from there into his native Mauritania.

 Kicking the tires, indeed. He has STILL not released the public financial disclosure that Ban claims he urges from his senior officials. Then again, Ban and his officials like USG Cristina Gallach are embroiled in the UN bribery scandal, and respond by evicting the files of the critical Press, video and petition, and trying to hinder reporting. We'll have more on this.

 On April 27, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about complaints to his envoy about violations of the cessation of hostilities by Saudi Arabia, and if a "plenary" had been canceled. Video here, UN transcript here.

 A month before the one year anniversary of the Saudi-led Coalition's campaign of airstrikes on Yemen, Inner City Press exclusively published, not for the first time, an email leaked to it between UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeff Feltman.

  As Inner City Press subsequently reported, Feltman conducted questioning -- some called it a witch hunt -- of DPA staff to try to find out who had leaked it to Inner City Press. And then the UN moved to evict Inner City Press from the UN, video here and here.

But still, the UN is supposed to send out its Yemen news or statement beyond its own "UN News Center." On April 20, Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here.

   Over the April 23-24 weekend, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the / his UN News Center did it again, here:

"Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, said in a press release that 'significant differences in the delegations' points of view remain but nonetheless there is consensus on the need to make peace and to work intensively towards an agreement.'"

The UN's media practices have moved from evicting independent critical media to controlling like state media their own UN "scoops."

On April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here.

 On April 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Vine here, UN transcript here.

  On April 15, the eve of eviction, Inner City Press asked Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to respond to Ali Abdullah Saleh, to a large rally on March 26, saying he would not work with the UN on anything. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed replied he does not comment on public statements, just the presence of Saleh party members in the negotiations.

 On March 28, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had refused to let Inner City Press ask Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed a single question at his length press conference at the UN, Ban's top lawyer issued a threat of imminent eviction threat to Inner City Press.

  Not surprisingly, particularly given Feltman's witch hunt, some viewed the UN's escalation against Inner City Press as a response to its publication of UN leaks.

 On March 29, Feltman wrote to Inner City Press and we publish it in full:

"Dear Matthew,

On Yemen:  Your job is to publish what you consider to be news.  My job includes the protection of what is UN sensitive information.  So we are naturally going to be at odds over things such as leaked e-mails; that's just part of the respective roles we play.  I don't blame you for publishing what you had -- were I a journalist, I would likely do the same -- but you are surely sophisticated enough not to be surprised that I would try to stop leaks.  

As for your status at the UN, you are of course welcome to continue to send e-mails to me, but, as I expect you know, others, not DPA, have the appropriate responsibilities in this case.  DPA is not involved.

Jeffrey Feltman
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
United Nations, New York"

 Feltman cc-ed his spokesman, who ironically used to work at Amnesty International. Feltman's statement that the retaliation against Inner City Press is only attributable to Cristina Gallach's DPI does not wash. While not absolving Gallach, it goes to the top. We'll have more on this.


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