Friday, June 29, 2012

Inner City Press: Investigative Reporting from the United Nations

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- Two days after Inner City Press noted, reported and asked the UN about the removal from the Internet of the "Report of the Secretary General on Eritrea," S/2012/412, Security Council sources told Inner City Press why it was taken down.
  Wednesday Inner City Press exclusively published the June 8 report which "the Secretariat" confirmed would not be put online again.
  On Thursday multiple Security Council sources quotedEthiopian UN official Taye-Brook Zerihoun as saying the report came down after consultations with Council members.
   This immediately gave rise to questions by Council members who had not been consulted. 
  They agreed in the abstract that the UN Secretariat has the ability to take down its own reports, even if it injures the UN's credibility. 
  But, they said, the Secretariat cannot do so after consulting with some but not all Council members.
   Given the role of the US and Ambassador Susan Rice in the passage of the Eritrea sanctions on December 2011 and the difficulty for that country's president Isaias Afwerki to address the Council before the sanctions resolution was finalized "in blue," Inner City Press waited to ask Ambassador Rice.
  When she left the Council's session on Sudan and South Sudan, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice about any US role in the taking down of the Eritrea report.
   Rice said without breaking stride, "What are you talking about Matt?"
   Then Inner City Press went to the day's noon briefing and asked about what Council members quoted Zerihoun as saying. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky repeated the answer he'd given the day previous, adding "I'm not privy" to what's said in Council consultations.
  Previously, the Spokesperson's office was allowed in, and present at, Council consultations. Under Ban they were thrown out, after what some Council members called a weak response from Ban's then chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. "Would Malcorra do better?" one mused.

 Again, we are publishing the June 8 report which "the Secretariat" has confirmed will not be put online again.

As circulated, Ban Ki-moon's report for example quoted Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki telling Ban in September 2011 that "the border issue with Ethiopia was a 'closed chapter' and that there was 'nothing to negotiate.'" See, Paragraph 17.

It recited Ban's July 24, 2011 meeting with "Eritrean Foreign Minister and Political Adviser to the Eritrean President" on Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur. (See Inner City Press video of Yemane Ghebreab at that time, here on Inner City Press' YouTube channel with 28,000 views and counting.)

The June 8, 2012 report recited Eritrea's objections to Security Council manuevers in late November and early December 2011, exclusively reported by Inner City Press, which even after protest would only have allowed Isaias Afwerki, President of a country facing unprecedented sanctions, to speak to the Council AFTER the resolution was put in blue and finalized for a vote.

  But now all of that has been taken off line, as if it never existed. A diplomat from one of Eritrea's neighbors explained to Inner City Press that the June 8 report just "wasn't right," that it was not like other sanctions reports and not what his country has in mind.

  This was the approach taken when Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous changed and watered down the most recent Western Sahara report. As many noted, but only Inner City Press explicitly emphasized, Ladsous is the fourth French chief of DPKO in a row, whose previous job was to serve discredited French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie including arranging her flights on planes of cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. 

  But who -- not which countries, which is obvious, but which UN official beyond Ban Ki-moon -- is responsible for taking off line the Eritrea report, and what will happen and be issued next?

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