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On Yemen, ICP Asks UN What IOCA Has Done On Hisham al-Omeisy's Detention, Hotel Bomb

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video here

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 – When the UN Security Council belatedly met about Yemen on July 12, only three of the Council members spoke in the open meeting: Uruguay, Bolivia and Sweden. On August 18, even Sweden did not speak. The UK, the Council's "penholder" on Yemen, did not speak in public in either session. But on August 21, Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi and Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Supervisor General of the "King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center,"came and took questions at the Security Council stakeout. Inner City Press asked if Saudi Arabia is (rightly) put back on the children and armed conflict list of shame, will Saudi Arabia again organize a group of (Sunni) countries to threaten the UN and get them off? Video here. Al-Mouallimi replied that he would not comment on a draft report, but that Saudi Arabia has "full consultation with the UN agencies involved" and "we hope positive conclusions can come out of that." On August 24, Inner City Press quoted that while raising the detention of Hisham al-Omeisy, and asked the UN what steps if any its envoy or anyone else at the UN has taken to #FreeHisham. None, it appears. More on this to follow. On August 23, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask first about this airstrike in Yemen, reported airstrike that hit a hotel and killed either 35 or 40 people.  Does the… either the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, or anyone in the UN system… can they confirm how many people were, were killed? And can you give now a readout of that meeting with the King Salman Centre?  We got a very rosy picture from, from the head of the Centre at the stakeout, but does the, does the Secretary-General believe that the safeguards that were described at the stakeout are being taken by the Saudi-led Coalition? Spokesman:  I think it's two, two different things.  First of all, on the, on the attack, we've seen the reports of, of the attack on the hotel just outside of Sana’a.  We've seen the reports that there's been numerous casualties, many people wounded.  We're not in a position to confirm it.  Our colleagues at the Human Rights Office are, I'm told, are investigating the incidents. What is clear is that any attack on civilians is unacceptable.  And this is a message we've often repeated, and we will continue, we will continue to repeat. I think, as I said, the King Salman Centre is a, a partner of the United Nations in, in humanitarian, in humanitarian work.  As far as the Coalition and the military side, I think we have made it clear, in repeated briefings to the Security Council, our concern that parties to the conflict are inflicting huge damage on civilian infrastructure and are just adding to the suffering of the, of the Yemeni people. Inner City Press:  At their joint stakeout, the Permanent Representative of… of Saudi Arabia said that he's, he is fully in touch with the United Nations system about possible relisting on the Children and Armed Conflict.  So, I'm just wondering, one, did he attend… the Secretary-General's meeting with the King Salman Centre, did the Permanent Representative attend?  And did this issue come up, or is it only being discussed with Ms. Gamba? Spokesman:  I don't know if he attended.  It wouldn't be surprising to me that he did attend.  Often Permanent Representatives, as a matter of course, attend meetings with visiting delegations. The Secretary-General will make a decision on the Children and Armed Conflict report.  It will be a decision that he will feel is the right decision and that's regardless of the, of the pressures he may be receiving from both outside the house and inside the house.

  We'll see. Before the August 18 meeting, Inner City Press asked new UK deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Allen about UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, last seen tweeting about ice cream and churros in California, amid Yemen's famine. Now on August 19 from Sana'a, this from the Houthi spokesman: "the unfair role of the UN Envoy to Yemen IOCA adopting the aggression point of views every time he shows up, also said that since head of political council in Sanaa Saleh Alsammad decided that there would be no further meeting or talks with UN Envoy to Yemen, our delegation adhered to these decision and haven't make any contact or discussions with IOCA since then which showed him recently as a man with no job to do." From the UK's August 18 transcript: Inner City Press: On the political front, how long can Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed remain the envoy when at least one side won’t speak to him. Is it your understanding that he can speak to the Houthi and Saleh side and visit Sana’a and if not, should there maybe be another envoy.
Amb Allen: So, the SRSG, the Special Envoy, he is the envoy of the Council as well as of the Secretary-General. We all have complete confidence in him. I think to answer your question is that we call on the Houthis to have dialogue with him and to ensure that they are talking to him as we try to get to a political settlement. So yes, we have got confidence in him and all parties in this conflict need to understand that and need to have dialogue with him.

  After the session, Inner City Press asked this month's UN Security Council president, Egypt's Ambassador, if children and armed conflict envoy Virginia Gamba had written to Council members to say her report is still just a draft; he seemed to say "Not yet." He read out "elements to the press, Periscope video here. Outside on 47th Street there was a protest, Inner City Press Periscope video here. On August 14, Inner City Press asked Allen if the UK thinks the Saudi-led coalition which it arms should be put back on the UN's Children and Armed Conflict list of shame. From the UK transcript: Inner City Press: On Yemen, there is a petition to the Security General about the death of children, largely by the Saudi-led coalition. So I wondered what’s the UK position on the children in the armed conflicts list, should the Saudi-led coalition be listed again? Should the list be frozen? What’s your view?
Deputy PR Allen: So, on Yemen, of course we are going to be discussing that issue later this week. We’ve got an opportunity to talk to the SRSG there, we are going to be focussing very much I think, on Friday, on the humanitarian side and of course we would also always say that all sides should avoid any attacks on civilians, any causalities, any children being involved. We will be making that clear.

  So Special Envoy IOCA will participate. Inner City Press asked audibly asked Ambassador Allen about Cyprus, to the failed talks on which he led the UK delegation, but the question was not answered. Later on August 15, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Yemen, yesterday I'd asked Farhan [Haq], groups have said that they delivered 37,000 signatures to the Secretary-General's Office yesterday.  I guess he wasn't back yet, but they say that it was delivered, concerning the killing of children in Yemen.  IHe said he would check, but has he?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen it, but I'll… we can check.

Inner City Press:  And… and… and perhaps relatedly, I see, on Amina Mohammed's schedule for today, a meeting — it's already taken place — with Virginia Gamba.  When is that report going to come out?  Can you now, as it gets closer, hopefully, respond to the idea that it will be frozen, that no new parties will be listed or…

Spokesman:  No, I'm not going to… I think… I fully understand the high level of interest in this report.  I think everybody will have to judge the report and its annexes once it comes out.  My understanding is that it will be on the Council's schedule for either late September or early October.  But I think that's… it's up… we're waiting to hear from the Council when they actually want the report.

Inner City Press: Also on her schedule, I see a visit by Merck, the company Merck.  Given developments here in the United States, I just wonder, can we get a readout, the Deputy Secretary-General meeting with Merck? When was the meeting scheduled and what does…

Spokesman:  I'll see what I can get you.  But, obviously, the private sector, including pharmaceutical companies, play a big role in our efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

 On July 12 Uruguay cited an airstrike on a market and noted that the rebels don't have air support. Children are being killed, but still no report of or (re) listing of the Saudi led coalition by the UN's Children and Armed Conflict representative Virginia Gamba. On August 14, Inner City Press asked the UN's Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Yemen, I understand that some a 37,000-signature petition regarding the… the… the country was somehow delivered to the Secretary-General's Office.  And I wanted to know… one, if you can just, maybe now or after the briefing, confirm it was received, and also, just, in connection with that, I did want to ask where the Secretary-General is.  It was said he'd be back on, I guess, the 11th. Now it's the 14th.

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  He'll be back tomorrow.  He's travelling back today to New York, and he'll be back in the offices tomorrow.

Inner City Press: What about this Yemen petition?  Are you aware?

Deputy Spokesman:  And I'll check and see whether we've received that.

  Seven hour later, nothing. Inner City Press also on August 14 asked Haq, on the UK's Tony Blair: does the UN get conflict-of-interest disclosure forms from its envoys, including the Quartet envoy?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Quartet envoy, as you know, had a special status where he represented the US, the UN, the European Union, and the Russian Federation.  He was not under the purview of any one of those four groups, and so we didn't have the same level of information about those arrangements for him as we would for envoys who are under the employment of the Secretary-General.

Question:  But what level did you have?  Was there any form filed with the UN about his outside finances?

Deputy Spokesman:  He did not file financial disclosure forms...

Inner City Press:  Bernardino León, when he was the envoy on Libya, he was a full-time UN employee.  What's the UN's final conclusion on whether it was appropriate for him to negotiate a job with the UAE Diplomatic Academy while he was the UN's envoy on Libya?  And if anything's learned from that, would it be appropriate for a current envoy, for example, the one on Yemen… are there any limits on… on… on seeking outside employment, particularly either in countries or funded by countries that are party to the conflict that he's mediating?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are limits, and certainly we want our envoys to avoid conflicts in terms of dealings with the parties with whom they are negotiating.  Regarding Mr. León, we made our concerns known at the time.  I don't have anything to add to what we said then.

  On August 11 the UN's often invisible envoy on Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed went gone public on Twitter with his love of churros, tweeting an article in Cosmopolitan magazine urging readers to book a trip to California immediately. Inner City Press preserved the ice cream shot in a photograph, here, in part because IOCA has a pattern of blocking journalists on Twitter, which the Free UN Coalition for Access has questioned along with other UN censorship. On August 8, Inner City Press asked about the bombings, and the UN's envoy, to the UN Spokesman. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  You may have seen the International Committee of the Red Cross has issued deep concern about airstrikes on Sa’ada and Taizz in great detail.  They issued this today.  And so, inevitably people wonder, given that the UN has a Special Envoy on Yemen, is he equally as concerned, either well documented…?

Spokesman:  I think we have… The UN system, through its Resident Coordinator, expressed its concern at the airstrikes and the death of children and civilians over the weekend.  Anyone who works for the UN is obviously troubled and concerned about the continuing suffering of the civilians, and that's why the Special Envoy is continuing his work and trying… and keep… and not giving up on trying to get the parties around a political settlement.  And I think, if you… as I'm sure you do pay attention to the various Security Council briefings, I think our outrage at the continuing deaths and suffering of civilians is clear. 

And then: Inner City Press: this came up on a few other officials, but I've been informed or… that the UN envoy on Yemen, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, blocks journalists, including a guy, Mr. Shwaib al Musawa [sic], who's like a… the stringer for The New York Times who covers Yemen.  So, I'm just wondering, is there some policy from the top?  I haven't seen Mr. Shwaib [sic] really, you know, be as critical as some others are of Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, but is there some guidance from the Secretary-General that people that are envoys on a country shouldn't block journalists that are covering that country?

Spokesman:  No, I'm not aware of any particular guidance.  I don't monitor people's Twitter accounts, who they block, who they don't block.  So, no.

  The ICRC has issued this: "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely alarmed at a pattern of recent airstrikes that have killed and injured dozens of civilians in the Sa’ada and Taiz governorates in Yemen. In the latest such incident, nine members of one family were killed and three critically injured. The casualties were between 3 and 80 years old. 'Our colleagues have been to the village of Mahda, on the outskirts of Sa’ada city, where they saw a house literally flattened by the explosion, while a crater showed where the impact had occurred,' said the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, Alexandre Faite. 'According to two eyewitnesses, a single strike hit the house in the early morning of 4 August,” continued Mr Faite. “We strongly deplore the trend whereby public places, such as markets, as well as private houses, have been targeted by the belligerents.'" Back on July 21 after the airstrike on civilians near Taiz, the UN's own human rights office has said there was no military target nearby, and the strike was by the Arab Coalition Forces and killed ten children. Still it seems that the UN Children and Armed Conflict report, pushed back under Antonio Guterres and Virginia Gamba to September, will continue another of Ban Ki-moon's shameful moves and leave the Saudi Coalition out of the list of child killers. At the UN, more are saying, reforms have been canceled or at least "postponed." From OHCHR: "Our office in Yemen has gathered more information about a deadly airstrike that took place in a small village in Taizz Governorate in Yemen on Tuesday, 18 July. The Arab Coalition Forces airstrike took place in Al Asheerah village, which is near the town of Mawza, and is currently controlled by the Houthis, at around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. According to witnesses who fled the area and were interviewed by one of our monitors, the airstrike destroyed a makeshift house made of straw, killing all three families who were inside it at the time. At least 18 civilians in all, including ten children and two women, are believed to have died in the incident.
The three families had been recorded by our office in Yemen as displaced, along with three others, from their homes in a different village nearby three months ago as a result of other airstrikes, and had set up four rough shelters in an open area in Al Asheerah. The village is located approximately eight kilometres away from Khalid Bin Al Walid Military Camp, where clashes between pro-Hadi forces, backed by the Coalition Forces, and the Houthis are taking place, and, according to available information, there do not appear to have been any military objectives anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the destroyed house. Attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects or indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law, and we also remind all parties to the conflict, including the Coalition, of their duty to ensure full respect for international humanitarian law and to respect their obligations under international human rights law. We call on the relevant authorities to carry out a comprehensive and impartial investigation into this incident." We'll see. After the July 12 meeting Inner City Press asked the representative of the Hadi government about what Uruguay said. Video here. Rather than comment on air strikes, he called Uruguay a "revolutionary" countries that, essentially, should mind its own business. Perhaps he confused it for another Latin American country? He emphasized he's said it in quotation marks. On July 19, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the Saudi-led Coalition, the blocking of the plane with the journalists on it.  There's a quote in one of the stories quoting a Coalition source saying that “the UN must ensure the journalists' safety and make sure they do not carry out any other activity”.  What is the UN's role?  Does the UN believe there should be increased international coverage of situations like that in Yemen?  What does it do to bring that about?  What is it trying to do to get journalists into Sana'a?  And what does it think of this position that it's the UN's job to make sure what journalists do once they arrive?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we do try to get access for journalists whenever we can do so, including into Yemen.  It's not specifically the duty of our humanitarian flights to carry journalists, but there have been times when we've been willing to do that in order to increase access to this area.  Regarding this specific situation, our humanitarian colleagues have informed us that the UN Humanitarian Air Service flight, which was cancelled by the Coalition yesterday due to three BBC journalists carrying Government visas being on board, was rescheduled for today.  The flight took off from Djibouti and landed in Sana'a with 26 humanitarian workers on board, but not the three BBC journalists.  As our colleagues have said, this partially explains why Yemen, which is one of the world's largest humanitarian crises, is not getting enough attention in international media.  The lack of coverage is hindering humanitarian workers' effort to draw the attention of the international community and donors to the man-made catastrophe that the country is experiencing.

Inner City Press: Can you give a status of what the children and armed conflict report that normally may come out by this time… when's it going to come out?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's being worked on.  I believe it is expected to go to the Member States sometime in… probably in early September.  We'll give you advanced notice before that happens. 

 Sure. On July 17, after the Houthi said said that UN enovy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will be replaced, Inner City Press asked deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq, who replied "At this point, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed remains in the job. You're aware he briefed the Security Council recently on his work." Back on May 30 when IOCA took questions, Inner City Press asked him about the call to re-open the Sanaa airport to commercial traffic. He replied with a proposal to open it one day a week, video here, and said he hadn't been able to talk about it with the Houthis (with whom the UN and UK said that he had spoken). Now after swirling rumors IOCA would be removed from Yemen and shifted to Libya to replace Martin Kobler, Lebanon's former Culture Minister Ghassan Salame has been tapped by Secretary General Antonio Guterres for the Libya post. Inner City Press story here. So whither IOCA? How long must things continue as they are in Yemen?  On June 15, hours before the UN Security Council was to formally adopt a Presidential Statement on Yemen, Inner City Press asked the Council's penholder on Yemen, the UK's Matthew Rycroft, if the Statement puts the UN in Hodeida port. Video here. From the UK transcript: Inner City Press: Is the UN going to be in Hodeidah port?
Amb Rycroft: Well, I think there’s a continued discussion about that. There are some operational complications about a UN role there. But talks continue.

So, no. And on IOCA, Rycroft said he'd leave it to the UN to make personnel announcements. On June 6, after the Supreme Political Council in Sanaa said no more IOCA, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the Supreme Political Council in Sana'a has now said formally that the envoy is no… is… they're not going to deal with him and he's not welcome to go to Sana'a anymore because they find him biased.  And I know you always say you stand behind him; he's not biased.  But if one party is literally basically PNGing [persona non grata] him, although they're not the Government, if he can't go there, what's his role?

Spokesman:  We've seen the statements. I think his… his work continues.  His dialogue with all the parties continues.  I think we've seen these statements from one side or… in any sort of mediation effort the UN is involved in, it's part of the work, and he continues his work. 

   How? Back on May 30, Inner City Press asked the Security Council's president for May if the Council would be calling for the re-opening the airport in Sanaa. That's up to the negotiations of the envoy on the ground, was the answer. This is dysfunction. When the Council's penholder on Yemen, Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, spoke before the monthly meeting about the country on May 30, he again expressed full support for the UN's holdover Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad despite the lack of any progress. Inner City Press asked, loudly, for the UK's view of the non-governmental organization's letter including that the UK and Council should "demand the re-opening of Sana’a airport for commercial flights so that additional humanitarian supplies can enter the country and people in need of medical treatment can leave and call on the parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Special Envoy to work expeditiously on a plan to resume the effective functioning of the Central Bank, thereby enabling the payment of public sector salaries as well as the disbursement of social-welfare cash transfers." Rycroft, who has answered three pre-picked questions from Reuters, CBS and US state media, did not answer. Video here. IOCA is viewed as so one-sided that he was protested in Sanaa on May 22, and the Houthis refused to meet with him , according to their spokesperson. But the UN claimed IOCA met the Houthis. So on May 26, Inner City Press asked the UN, transcript here: Inner City Press: Yesterday, Stéphane said that the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had met with a representative of Ansar’Allah or the Houthis, and there's a statement by the Ansar’Allah spokesman, Mohammed Adbul-Salam, that no such meeting occurred, that they refused to meet with them in part because of the non-payment of civil servants throughout the country and in part because they just think that he's on, one-sided.  But, can you confirm, I mean, did the envoy say to the Secretariat that he'd met with the Houthis?  And if so, at what level?  Who did he meet?  Because the spokesman for that party says that there was no meeting.

Deputy Spokesman:  I will just reiterate what we put out in our note to correspondents that there was such a meeting.  We can check with his team who that entailed.

  Four hours later this spokesman Farhan Haq closed the office without having provided any more on this or other Inner City Press' questions. Back on May 23 Inner City Press asked the UN who these guards were - "local" - and with what the envoy was attacks: only plastic bottles and eggs? UN transcript here and below. On May 24, the UN issued this: "The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, concluded today a three-day visit to Sana’a where he met with political leaders from Ansar’Allah and the General People’s Congress and Representatives of other political parties. The talks focused on possible agreements which would to prevent the spread of military activities to Hudeidah and practical ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nation-wide.

During his visit, the Special Envoy met as well with members of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security and representatives of civil society organizations to discuss current political challenges and security concerns in addition to the economic crisis and recent outbreak of cholera. In a meeting with Yemeni youth, the Special Envoy discussed mechanisms for greater youth contribution to international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict in addition to possible solutions to reopen Sana’a International Airport and prevent further deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation.

At the end of his visit, the Special Envoy expressed his deep concern regarding the grave attack on his convoy while traveling from the airport to the UN compound on 22 May. The Special Envoy reminded the parties that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure the safety of all UN personnel in the country and urged them to investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and prevent any such incidents in the future.  The Special Envoy indicated that the incident increased his determination to continue with his efforts to find a negotiated political settlement that serves the best interests of the Yemeni people.

The Special Envoy’s visit to Sana’a, follows visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar where he met with government officials as part of his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. He also met with senior World Bank officials in order to support the World Bank – UN collaboration to address the growing food insecurity and economic crisis in Yemen. "

From the May 23 transcript: Inner City Press: there are these reports of the guards of envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed opening fire in the air.  It's unclear if they're… who the guards were, whether they're UN DSS [Department of Safety and Security] or not, and whether he was attacked by bottles and eggs, as one account puts it, or a more serious attack on his convoy.  What are the facts…?

Spokesman:  Yesterday, he was attacked by a… by demonstrators.  My understanding is that there were eggs and other things thrown at him, and a number of shots were also fired at the vehicle.  He is continuing his engagements with the General People's Congress in Sana’a, as earlier planned, as well as Ansarallah.  Obviously, the security and safety of UN personnel is the responsibility of the local authorities, and it's their responsibility to investigate it.  And we reiterate our call on all the parties to engage constructively in the negotiations over cessation of hostilities and resumption of the peace talks.

Inner City Press:  But did those protecting him also fire?  And, if so, who were they?  Were they UN personnel or were they [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi personnel?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that they were local security personnel.

Inner City Press: A private company?

Spokesman:  They were local security personnel working for the authorities

   Inner City Press is informed that UN DSS, now in a scandal involving its chief Peter Drennan "burying" reports about Irina Bokova of UNESCO in Paris, previously employed in Yemen an individual who passed information to Sauid intelligence. This is today's UN, entirely UNreformed. When the UN's holdover Spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked on May 8 about the UN bringing expired medicine and medical supplies into Yemen, he didn't deny it. Video here.
  Now on May 15, still without an explanation of the expired UN medicine, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about the day's Saudi-led Coalition bombing. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Yemen... a Saudi-led coalition air strike near Taiz killed 23 people.  And its so-called loyalist, meaning [Amb Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi-side people, said the number is 20.  Does the UN have any… is there any comment on this?

Spokesman:  I'll check.  I'll check and see what we can get.

  Hours later, nothing. See also letter, here. UN Spokesman Dujarric is aware there's an issue, but reflexively blamed it on delays in getting supplies in. It's been eight days and counting. On May 15, Inner city Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in Yemen, now that the Government or the authorities in charge of Sana'a have declared an emergency.  They say there's 115 deaths by cholera.  What is… what is the UN's role in helping to respond to it?  And have you yet gotten anything back on the reports of expired medicines delivered by WHO…?

Spokesman:  No, not on the medicines.  I mean, as I think I said just a few minutes ago, the UN's role is… through WHO, is to support the Government of… support the Government of Yemen through the establishment of rehydration centres, diarrhoea centres, helping with medicines in every way and every way we… we can.

Inner City Press: That's one of the reasons I'm asking.  It's been almost 10 days.  Do they have no response?

Spokesman:  I'm sorry. I was answering you on the outbreak of cholera… I'll check… no, no, I'll check…

Inner City Press:  If you're saying count on W.H.O.…?

Spokesman:  No, I think… that was an isolated incident.  I don't think it impacts WHO's work.

  Back on May 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Yemen, did you ever end up getting an answer from OCHA or WHO on the expired medicines that I asked about?

Spokesman:  No, not specifically.  I'm still waiting for something.

  Back on May 9 Inner City Press asked him again, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: yesterday, I had asked you about the issue of this expired medicine moved from warehouses in Ibb to Taizz.  Do you have any response on that?

Spokesman:  No, not at this point.  We've asked our colleagues at OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] to look into it, and I'm trying to get something. 

On May 8 Inner City Press asked Dujarric for more information, citing (but mis-pronouncing) the work of intrepid journalist Shuaib M. Almosawa, who also facilitated / translated this [annotated] WHO spin: Of the 8 trucks sent to Taiz, four trucks are still being held by health authorities. [the ones carrying the expired medicines but UN won't (yet) admit where they're being held--in Taiz-- and why they're being held?] The World Health Organization  expresses its appreciation for the quality assurance mechanism followed by the Ministry of Health which has helped remove expired medicines." So despite the obfuscations, the expired medicines were removed, by non-WHO parties. Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric but is still waiting. Watch this site.

. At the Yemen conference in Switzerland, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, again, that only a political solution will put an end to the crisis in the country. But why then, some says, did Guterres reflexively extend the mandate of Ban Ki-moon's (and Saudi Arabia's) envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who doesn't even purport to comply with the UN's rudimentary public financial disclosure law, despite his lack of not only accomplishment but visibility? Now as we enter May, with Uruguay taking over the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month, Inner City Press on May 1 asked the Council's penholder on Yemen, UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, what will be done. From the UK transcript: Inner City Press: On Yemen, what does the UK want to have this month in the Council. Are you expecting an open meeting, something to follow up on Geneva, or about the port of Hodeidah? What’s your thinking?
Amb Rycroft: I think it will depend a lot on the progress in the talks led by the UN in the form of the Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. If there is progress to report then we will want to get behind that. If there continues to be a lack of progress then we will need to really press the parties to adhere to a political process to give up any attempt at a military solution, and to get back on track with the political talks.

   We'll see. On April 26 Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: one follow-up on Yemen.  I know I’d asked you in the past about a letter that was received from, I guess you would call them, the de facto authorities in the capital, Sana’a, concerning Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.  You didn’t… you never kind of confirmed receipt of that letter?  You did say that, of course, there’s full confidence in the envoy.  Is there some way you can go back and just similarly confirm receipt of a letter, as you just did now?

Spokesman:  We can check.  And we continue to have full confidence in the envoy… [inaudible]

Inner City Press: Is there a different policy for…

Spokesman:  For what?

Inner City Press: In a situation where you have a mediator trying to talk between two sides, do you confirm one side’s letter and not the other side’s letter…? [inaudible]

Spokesman:  No, we con… I mean, you know, if I’m aware the letters are received, I will… I confirm it.

  Six hours later, nothing. Inner City Press has been informed, by the protagonists, that several respected international NGOs, all of them "pro-UN," have mulled publicly urging the removal of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. But they are still worried about their continued access to the UN: what if Guterres simply ignores their call, as he ignores others? Where has IOCA, as some call him, been during all this time? He took one vacation, then another, in the middle of the conflict. How many days has he been in Sana'a since Ban Ki-moon named him the envoy? There are Press questions that three-SG spokesman Stephane Dujarric, also unwisely kept on by Antonio "No Change" Guterres, has refused to answer. (By contrast to Dujarric, who moved to throw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room (Para 9-10) and has it still restricted after 14 months, the IMF for example answers Inner City Press' questions, for example last week here.) Bigger picture, what is the role of Hadi and why should his insistence that thousands die so he can return to a position he was never elected to be given so much deference? We'll have more on this.

In advance of Guterres' first Children and Armed Conflict report, at the UN on April 20 a detailed call to re-include the Saudi-led Coalition for its killings in Yemen was made by the non-governmental organizations Watchlist and Save the Children. Tellingly, the UN did not list the press conference in its Media Alert nor begin webcasting it - so Inner City Press live-streamed this Periscope, here. Inner City Press asked the panelists (Christine Monaghan, Sarah Ashraf and Laura Silvia Battaglia) and moderator Eva Smets if they had spoken with Guterres' selection as Special Representative, Virginia Gamba. Not yet, was the answer; Watchlist had not been familiar with Gamba as a child rights advocate. (She has been working on Syria chemical weapons, in which capacity Inner City Press has covered and questioned her). Watchlist did, however, praise Guterres for the speed with which he replaced Leila Zerrougui, not leaving the position unfilled. Gamba is set to begin on May 1. Inner City Press also asked about Guterres' holdover envoy on Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, his perceived pro-Saudi bias and if he has been open to NGOs on humanitarian issues. It seems not. As Inner City Press has reported and questioned Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has refused to make even the most basic public financial disclosure in the UN program. He is otherwise invisible too. So on April 18, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you on Yemen, James Mattis is in Riyadh, and he said, this is a quote, “Our aim for this crisis”, meaning Yemen, “is to be handled by a team of negotiators under the aegis of the United Nations.”  So I'm wondering, is there any communications between the administration…? There is, not a team, but there's Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.  What's he been doing?  And is this call by Mattis understood by the UN to be for something different than what Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been doing?

Spokesman Dujarric:  No, I don't understand it as something being different.

 Then Dujarric, as he increasingly does on Inner City Press and its Yemen and other questions, quickly turned to another correspondent. Related in a way, is the recent BBC The Inquiry show into "Why Is No-one Trying to Stop the War in Yemen?" - it mentions the ineffectiveness (but not the corruption) of the UN, but does not mention Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. He is trying to air-brush himself out amid the double standards and suffering. We'll have more on this.

With the UN's involvement in the slaughter in Yemen more and more openly twisted by obsequiousness to the Saudi-led Coalition, from the firing of Leila Zerroughui who put the Coalition on the UN's Children and Armed Conflict annex only to have Ban Ki-moon remove it (she's been replaced by Ms Gamba) to the more recent ignoring of communication from those in control on Sana'a, now there's more. Fishy UN envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, sources exclusively inform Inner City Press, has only bee extended for six months and not a year. "He's on a shorter leash," one said. But why was he extended at all?

Inner City Press has exclusively been told by a number of trusted sources that Saudi Arabia has pushed the UN to "dump" the current head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien, who was already soft on the Saudi, in exchange for an "even more pro-Saudi Brit." And, we reporte here, the name is Mark Lowcock. Watch this platform.

As one source put it to Inner City Press, "It's a new low." And that's saying something. Another UN source opined, "That's what makes the Security Council such a side-show on Yemen, the power has been delegated out to non-Council member Saudi Arabia." And yet, after the Security Council's closed door meeting on March 29, hours later, this is what the UN's envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed put out: "
The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed briefed the Security Council members today on the situation in Yemen and the efforts to continue negotiations on the peace process at a closed-door meeting.  The Special Envoy expressed his deep concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation amidst a worrying escalation of military operations. "The only real way to prevent a worsening of the situation is to reach a peaceful resolution to this tragic conflict which has been going on for too long. It is my firm belief that further military escalation and humanitarian suffering will not bring the parties closer together.” The Special Envoy had presented to the parties a framework that included a set of sequenced political and security measures which were designed to ensure a rapid end to the war, withdrawals of military formations and disarmament in key areas, and the creation of an inclusive transitional government. He urged the Security Council members to put pressure on the parties to engage constructively in discussing the framework. He said "the Government of Yemen should agree to engage in talks based on the framework, and Ansar Allah and the General People's Congress must end their long-standing refusal to undertake serious discussions on security arrangements." The Special Envoy presented a bleak picture of the current situation. He warned that the impact of the conflict on the economy and food security will be felt long into the futureand jeopardise attempts to restore stability.  The Special Envoy reiterated his call to the International Community to speak with a unified, consistent and bold voice to the parties, now more than ever. He concluded by urging the Council to “use all of its diplomatic weight to push for the relevant parties to make the concessions required to reach a final agreement before more lives are lost. We must give peace another chance.” Shades of John Lennon. Watch this site.

After the killing of at least 43 Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen, Somalia's Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer has said "we call on our partners in the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the raid. It is very sad, targeting a boat carrying Somali migrants near the coast of Hodeida in Yemen." So will Somalia, on the agenda of the UN Security Council, formally act the Council to ensure that an investigation takes place, and that those responsible are punished? Inner City Press on March 17 asked the Council's president for the month, Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who will investigate it, and it remains UNclear, see below.

  Also on March 17, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Yemen, this attack on what are thought, people say they had UN travel documents, that these were certified UN refugees being moved from Yemen to Sudan, given that the attack was by Apache helicopters and there's only a certain number of parties using them, is the UN calling for an investigation to find out who did it?  And do you consider it a war crime to sink a boat of refugees?

Spokesman:  Clearly, we stand firmly against the sinking of… the hitting of civilians.  I mean, my understanding is that these were Somalis who had been… sought refuge in Yemen.  Yemen has been… the people of Yemen have been extremely generous to Somali refugees.  They receive, mostly on prima facie evidence, refugee papers.  I don't think they were travel papers per se, but they were papers certifying that they are refugees, and there needs to be accountability for this crime.

  Also on March 17, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about the  bombing, UK transcript here:

Inner City Press: In the Yemen consultations, did this bombing of a ship full of refugees come up? And is there a desire among Council members to find out whose Apache helicopter may have been behind it? Including if UK armaments were used, if in fact it was a Saudi attack, if not a US attack?
Amb Rycroft: Yes, it came it. I raised it first for all at outset of this part of the meeting, Jeff Feltman as part of his briefing, he was the briefer on it, and at least one or two other Council members raised it as well. I think it’s too early to be reaching any definitive conclusions on it, but rest assured, that in my national capacity, the UK is following up in detail and with urgency to get to the bottom of it.
Inner City Press: Who will do the investigation?
Amb Rycroft: We’ll follow up on that.

  Back on March 10, Inner City Press asked Rycroft about the bombing of Khokha, and if the Saudi-led Coalition shouldn't at least stop banning journalists from the UNHAS flights into Sana'a. Video here, UK transcript here:

Inner City Press: Since you met about Yemen as well, I wanted to ask you – while you were meeting, or maybe slightly before – there was an airstrike in a place called Khoka. Some people say 22 civilians dead. In any case, there are some very graphic photographs. I wanted to know, what’s the Council, in terms of a political process, or trying to get these airstrikes to stop, what’s it doing? And also, is there any interest in getting journalists there? There are these humanitarian flights that go to Sana’a but I think that even when Mr. O’Brien visited there were no journalists on his trip. Do you think that the Saudi-led coalition should, at minimum, allow witnesses into the country to report on what’s taking place there? Thanks.
Amb Rycroft: The first issue the Security Council, from what I heard in our open session today, is united in the view that it’s only through a political solution that the conflict in Yemen will end. And that is why we all support the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in his attempts to bring the parties into a meaningful political process which will end the war. That’s the UK view as well and we stand ready to do whatever we can to help Ismail in that process. It terms of journalists, I think that’s really a question for the UN or for the Saudi-led coalition, which the UK supports, but it’s a question that should be answered by them.

Back on March 6, Inner City Press asked UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman: does Feltman concede that Ban Ki-moon's envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has failed, as it's said the UN's resigning Western Sahara envoy has, and why was the issue of putting the Saudi-led Coalition back on the UN Children and Armed Conflict not raised during Feltman's trip with new Secretary General Antonio Guterres through the Gulf Region? Feltman said that human rights were "raised on their own merits" during the trip; he did not answer on the envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, even while provided further detail about the letter of the Western Sahara envoy to Guterres. Video here; we'll have more on this.

  Back on February 22, days after Saudi Arabia received yet more praise from the UN for its role in Yemen comes reports to Inner City Press of a double-tap airstrike by Saudi jets in Sana'a: "two airstrikes targeting a gathering funeral for women in Arhab district / Sanaa, then targeted first responders with another airstrike... People there are still trying to take out dead bodies from the location."

  The airstrikes have been on ports as well. On February 22, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft of the role of these airstrikes in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen on which still relatively new Secretary General Antonio Guterres was set to speak at 2 pm. Video here.  From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: Do you think in Yemen the air strike campaign contributes to the humanitarian crisis? The bombing of ports, etc...?
Amb Rycroft: In all four of these cases, there is a mixture of factors. Clearly in Yemen, there can be no military solution. There must be a political settlement, and we strongly support the UN in seeking to achieve that, and we support the UN in ensuring humanitarian access to the people who need it in Yemen.

   The sudden focus on hunger in Yemen, without mentioning that the UN under Ban Ki-moon took the Saudi-led coalition off its own Children and Armed Conflict annex, is problematic. We will have more on this.

 On February 13, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about it. Video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Yemen.  There are reports in Yemen of what's… what's being described as a double-tap airstrike by Saudi jets in the Arhab district of Sana'a, in which one airstrike was dropped and then another one on top of first responders.  One, I wanted to know, what is the ability of the UN system in the country to verify or not this attack?  And also, an you say a little bit more about what the Secretary-General said when he was in Saudi Arabia?  I read what was e-mailed out, and it seemed to be mostly praising Saudi Arabia's role in the region.  Did he express some concern about these continued airstrikes?

Deputy Spokesman:  He has conveyed his concerns about the violence in Yemen, and he has been discussing this broadly throughout his trip to the region with a variety of interlocutors.

Question:  Right, but if this just happened after his trip to Oman and after he said he's fully supporting the envoy despite this letter from the people that are in control of Sana’a, do you have any response? Were any commitments made to him to not do double-tap airstrikes on the capital of Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't characterize any commitments made during the talks that we've had.  We certainly have made our concerns known, and along those lines, what we are trying to do is focus, with the parties in the region and outside of it, to make sure that there can be a return to a cessation of hostilities and a return to talks among the Yemeni parties.  This is what Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is continuing to work on with the support of the Secretary-General, and we hope that the talks that he's had in recent days can help further that cause.

  Back on February 10 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman about the letter, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: there's a letter from those in control in Sana'a and in the north to António Guterres saying that Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed should not be extended and should be relieved of his duties.  And I wanted to know, this issue and the issues that are being raised of a sense of bias and of kind of Saudi control over the mediation, is it something he's going to bring up on his trip to Saudi Arabia, and is he going to meet with those actually in control on the ground in Yemen or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, we… as I mentioned, he will meet with the King, the Crown Prince, and Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on Sunday.  Regarding the criticisms, we're, of course, aware of… the different envoys at different peace processes from time to time get criticized.  And one of the most common bits of criticism is the one side or another accusing them of being biased towards the other side.  We stress the impartiality of the work of all of our envoys, and the Secretary-General does support the work of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Inner City Press: Has he gotten this letter?  I mean, are you aware of this letter?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're aware of the letter.

 The letter among other things says envoy IOCA "ignored the illegality of the decision of the outgoing central bank to transfer from Sanaa to Aden and change the board. What is the reason for the interruption salaries of about 1,000,300 thousand employees for more than six months and no salary, interruption continues even now."

  (On February 9, Inner City Press asked the International Monetary Fund about the issue and got this response.)

  Has Guterres read the letter? Will he, before his visit to Saudi Arabia? Watch this site.

  After another Saudi-led Coalition bombing of a school in Yemen, Inner City Press on January 12 asked Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, the penholder on Yemen in the UN Security Council, what the Council intends to do. Video here; transcript below.

  On February 8 Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre about the removal of the Saudi-led coalition from the UN's Yemen Children and Armed Conflict annex, for money. Video here.

Delattre said to ask Leila Zerrougui - but she is leaving the CAAC mandate by March 31, as Inner City Press first reported. So where does the issue stand.

  At least Delattre answered. On February 7, Inner City Press asked the UK about the case against it for its Saudi Arms sales, video here. We will keep following that case, and the UN's wayward envoy.

 With UN holding an event about CAAC on February 8 in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, Inner City Press was banned from staking it out by the ongoing censorship order of the UN's Cristina Gallach, unable to simply walk down the hallway like others. Gallach's "UN News Center" published a long story about CAAC without once mentioning Saudi. This is today's UN: corruption and censorship.

  After the Security Council met about Yemen for the first time in three months on January 26, Inner City Press asked Council President Skoog if in the closed door consultation human rights violations in the Saudi-led Coalition's bombing had been discussed. Not really, it seems. How is that possible? Tweeted video here.

  Here's the top of the bland "Elements to the Press" which Skoog read out for the Security Council before Inner City Press asked about the bombing:

"Members of the Council were updated on the critical humanitarian situation in Yemen, including widespread and acute malnutrition on the verge of famine.

The members called on all parties to allow safe, rapid, and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies, and to facilitate access for essential imports of food, fuel, and medical supplies into the country and throughout. Members also called for allowing access for journalists to report on the situation.

Members expressed serious concern at the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict on the Yemeni people and the risk that it will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a peace agreement."

  Or in the face of continued airstrikes? In the Council's open meeting, the Hadi government's representative Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany said again and again that Hadi must be returned to power in Sana'a. At what cost? And for what purpose?

  At the January 26 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric what Ban had done, after he took the Saudi-led Coalition off the UN's Children and Armed Conflict annex for Yemen. UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Yemen, a freedom of information request has found that the UK Ministry of Defense is tracking over 250 allegations of humanitarian law violations by the Saudi-led coalition.  Since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when he took them off the list, said that this process would continue in communications with the Saudis, number one, has this process involved getting information from other Member States that are themselves, because they sell arms to Saudi Arabia, tracking them?  And, two, what… what did the Secretary-General do between when he said that he was going to continue to look at this and the day that he left?  Was…

Spokesman:  I think when… I said as soon as I have more to add on this process, I will do so.

Inner City Press:  But does the process involve specifically asking the UK for this…?

Spokesman:  I can't answer to the details of that.

 From the January 12 UK transcript:

Inner City Press: On Yemen, the president just said that they are looking for a date, and you know this school was bombed, what’s the plan of the Council this month as pen holder to actually have a meeting or have the envoy come. What’s happening?

Amb Rycroft: Well, we are very keen to hear back from Ismail Ould Ahmed. He has our full support. As you know, there is a draft Security Council Resolution, which we have drafted which is sort of out there hovering over the process and we are very much in Ismail’s hands in terms of whether and when it would be useful to progress that further here.

Because essentially what that does is to get the whole of the Security Council behind his roadmap and to push the parties into a meaningful, political process.

We haven’t got that at the moment. There’s a lot of diplomacy going on behind the scenes, but what we don’t have is a really positive political process leading towards a political settlement. And I think all of us around the Security Council table, whatever our views on the ins and outs of the conflict, we are at least united on that issue that there must be a political settlement.

   Meanwhile it seems the UN envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, trying to stay in the job, may brief the Security Council on January 25.

New UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has taken over from Ban Ki-moon, who left amid indictment of his brother and nephew for UN-related corruption, and failures in Yemen including selling out to the Saudis.

 Inner City Press asked Guterres about Yemen at his first stakeout; he said he'd be an honest broker. Will he be, more than in the UN press corps today?

 Ali Saleh has written to Guterres, see here, citing previous meeting and asking to stop the war and the killing. We'll have more on this.

On December 20 Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about Saudi Arabia's use of UK cluster bombs. Tweeted video here and hindered production note.

  Inner City Press first published the UK draft resolution, as credited by Associated Press, via Salon, Daily Mail (UK), Fox News


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