By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 7, 2015 -- The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, which has yet to hold any referendum, gets reviewed this month in the UN Security Council, with the UN's ambiguous, some say shamefully ambiguous, position on (not) including human rights monitoring in the mission's mandate once again coming to the fore.
On April 7, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about a letter sent to Ban by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, which cites “ the need to provide MINURSO with a human rights mandate” and concludes
“I would be most grateful if you could share this letter and the accompanying communiqué and report with the President of the Security Council, to be circulated as official documents of the Council, as well as with the General Assembly. Your assistance in ensuring that AU Special Envoy Joachim Chissano is given the opportunity to address the Security Council during its April 2015 meeting on Western Sahara will also be highly appreciated.”
Inner City Press asked Dujarric if the letter has been circulated, and for Ban Ki-moon's position including on Chissano addressing the Security Council.
Dujarric replied, “I haven't personally seen the letter” adding that if it contains the request, “I'm sure it will be circulated in due time.” But how much time is due? And hasn't Ban's chief of staff Malcorra seen the letter? What's the response? When does it go to the Security Council - and General Assembly?
“As for people addressing the Council, that's up to the Council,” Dujarric said, though Ban has on other topics been critical of the Security Council.
Dujarric said that the report is in progress; when Inner City Press pointed out that Ban often touts the importance of regional organization, Dujarric said “in all files we deal with regional organization have a role to play, but in Western Sahara there is a Security Council mandate.” That's true on most of Ban Ki-moon's files. Why so hands-off on this one? Consider that UN Peacekeeping, in charge of MINURSO, is run by the fourth Frenchman in a row, Herve Ladsous, who refuses all Press questions, on human rights issues from rapes in the Congo and Darfur to killings BY peacekeepers in Mali. Video here, Vine here. We'll have more on this.
The UN's ambiguous position on Western Sahara was exemplified last month by UN adviser Philippe Douste-Blazy attending the Crans-Montana Forum in Dakhla, Western Sahara.
After the UN said Douste-Blazy was there in his "personal capacity," Inner City Press on March 16 asked if Douste-Blazy and UN advisers like him are under a responsibility to make clear when they are not representing the UN.
It "behooves" them, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press, reiterated that while Douste-Blazy is UN adviser on "innovative financing," he has not there for the UN. Haq would not answer if Douste-Blazy had told the UN in advance, saying only that he is not required to.
But a press release about the event says:
"The annual session of Crans Montana Forum held from 12 to 14 March 2015 in the southern city of Dakhla under the Patronage of His Majesty Mohammed VI wrapped up, Saturday night, with an award ceremony that paid tribute to international figures from different backgrounds. The 2015 Foundation Award was awarded to former President of the Republic of Estonia (2001-2006), Arnold Ruutel, former Spanish Prime Minister (2004-2011), José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Philippe Douste Blazy, former French Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development (2007-2010), Jean Luis Borloo."
So apparently Douste-Blazy accepted an award there AS a UN official. Now what?
"We have noted press reports to the effect that the United Nations is participating in the Crans-Montana Forum currently being held in Dakhla, a city in that part of Western Sahara under Moroccan control.
"The Secretary-General was invited to this Forum, but informed its President that he could not attend. He did not delegate Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy or anyone else to represent him or the United Nations. Mr. Douste-Blazy, who serves as a special adviser to the Secretary-General on innovative financing, is attending exclusively in his private capacity.
"While Dakhla is described in Forum materials as a city in Morocco, the definitive status of Western Sahara is the object of a negotiating process being conducted under the auspices of the Secretary-General in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions."
Earlier this year after Ban spoke by phone with the King of Morocco, on February 11 Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said:
"on the status of Christopher Ross, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara. I can report that he arrived in Rabat today. Mr. Ross will hold discussions with Morocco and the Frente Polisario and with the neighboring States during this mission."
But will Ross, the Envoy FOR Western Sahara, actually visit Laayoune? Inner City Press asked:
Inner City Press: On Mr. Ross' visit, I wanted to know whether he in fact will go to Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara. Maybe I missed when you read it out.
Spokesman Dujarric: I will get you… as I said, as we get details, we'll get them to you.
Inner City Press: If he's not, can we find out why he's not?
Spokesman Dujarric: Sure.
So far, seven hours later, nothing. This is the UN and Western Sahara. Back on November 21 asked the New York spokesman for High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid for
"an update on action on the leaked cables, related to Western Sahara, involving current OHCHR official Anders Kompass and one, previously head of OHCHR's office in NY, who's just left. What steps has OHCHR taken on the cables / issues?"
Now two months and three weeks later there has been no answer on this from the OHCHR spokesperson in New York. But we published this response from OHCHR Geneva spokesperson Rupert Colville to similar questions:
From: Rupert Colville [at] ohchr.org
Date: Friday 12 December 2014
Subj: Investigation leaked cables Western Sahara and OHCHR
The investigation is being carried out, at our request, by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in New York, which is an operationally independent office that assists the Secretary-General in fulfilling his internal oversight responsibilities. While the investigation is under way, there is nothing else I can say on the matter.
On January 29, Carman Lapointe the head of OIOS wrote:
"Our operating policies do not allow OIOS to provide information on whether we are investigating any matter, and so you will need to continue to consult OHCHR on this topic.
"In general terms, however, I can say that when/if we receive allegations of leaked confidential documents, we would advise that investigations into leaks of confidential documents are very challenging for OIOS to substantiate. As you may be aware, OIOS has authority to conduct only administrative investigations, and we have very limited (and no coercive) powers. Unless staff members involved in leaks admit or confess, or the leaks are undertaken blatantly using United Nations assets that we can examine forensically (such as by an attachment to an email from a UN computer or other device) we would have no jurisdiction to pursue further. "
Combined with this new scandal uncovered by Inner City Press, about the sale of posts in UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, the above gives little confidence.
Meanwhile on January 23 the UN issued this read out:
"The Secretary-General spoke with His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Thursday, January 22. He expressed appreciation for Morocco’s valuable support of the activities of the United Nations, particularly in peacekeeping and in a number of critical issues in Africa and the Middle East.
"On Western Sahara, the Secretary-General acknowledged Morocco’s concerns about the UN-sponsored negotiations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Polisario. He confirmed that reports to the Council on this issue will remain objective and reflect facts. He also reiterated that the UN Mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, will continue to exercise its existing mandate as set forth by the Security Council.
"In response, His Majesty indicated that Morocco looks forward to moving ahead in collaboration with the United Nations and that Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations will be working with the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, to arrange his next visit to Morocco as soon as possible, as well as with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of MINURSO, Kim Bolduc, to facilitate her rapid deployment to the region."
So how long will that take?
The UN system often uses the pendency of an investigation as a way to wait for the “problem” to go away. As the publication Tel Quel, here, has noted, many in the media are not covering the leaks.
Relatedly, the leaks are now being covered up or censored. Two recent uploads, about Morocco and the African Group at the UN, were put on “ filefactory.com” -- then taken down after, the site says, a complaint under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
This is a new trend -- attempt to use copyright law to take down leaked documents. Reuters, for example, filed a “for the record” complaint with the UN trying to get Inner City Press thrown out - then, when the “for the record” complaint was leaked and published, conned Google into blocking it from Search, calling it copyrighted. Click here for that.
So that media uses or abuses copyright to censor its own “for the record” complaint filed with the UN, and does not cover these new leaks about Western Sahara, Morocco, and the UN. This is a new trend. Watch this site.
In the above, the referenced former head of OHCHR's New York office is Senegal's Bacre Waly Ndiaye, noted Tijania Sufi. The cables reveal a deep scandal in the UN system. Now OHCHR in Geneva is saying it will not comment until an investigation, Inner City Press understands by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, is complete. But there is no indication that will be publish. This is one of the ways the UN covers up.
There other ways, beyond Western Sahara. On rapes in DR Congo by Army units the UN support, Ladsous refused to answer Press questions for months. Video here of then and now spokesman pulling microphone away from Inner City Press. These practices are being opposed by the new Free UN Coalition for Access.
Now on UN Peacekeeping's November 9 press release covering up mass rape in Thabit in Darfur, Ladsous has not answered any questions; UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on November 21 told Inner City Press the UN won't comment on leaks. The Western Sahara leaks are so extensive that despite a seeming media blackout by Western wire services, they will not go away.
While Ladsous is not the only UN official exposed by the cables, his extraordinary campaign of refusing Press questions, to the point of physically blocking Press filming (Vine here), as well as a DPKO to OHCHR connection, make him key to the case. As to MINURSO, Ladsous is blamed for the non-deployment of Bolduc.
Back on November 14 Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about Bolduc and an investigation of leaks in Geneva of which sources tell it. Video here.
On November 5, Inner City Press reported on leaked cables showing among other things the UN's Ladsous undermining MINURSO on the issue of human rights, and improper service of Morocco by Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights staffers Anders Kompass and Bacre Waly Ndiaye.
Since then, along with anonymous death threats, Inner City Press has received additional information including of a UN Office of Internal Oversight Services investigation of Anders Kompers and Bacre Waly Ndiaye.
On November 14, Inner City Press asked the UN's Haq, per UN transcript:
Deputy Spokesman Haq: You had a question on Western Sahara?
Inner City Press: It's a two-pronged question. What Stéphane [Dujarric] said earlier in the week about Kim Bolduc, the new SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General]. I wanted to just kind of confirm it. In reading it, does that mean that she has never has been allowed in? And, if so, where has she been since August? What is the plan to resolve that? And I also wanted to ask you about regarding the cables that I base the initial question on. Can you confirm that OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services] is conducting an investigation at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on at least two staff members who apparently leaked this information to the Moroccan Government?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: On that, I cannot confirm that. As you know, the OIOS conducts its work independently. At some point, once they have completed their work, they apprise us [inaudible]. But I wouldn't be aware of any work that is ongoing. Beyond that, regarding Kim Bolduc, as you know, both Christopher Ross and Kim Bolduc briefed the Security Council on 27 October. And at that point, the Security Council reiterated its desire, first of all, to see Ambassador Ross's facilitation resume and reiterated its desire to see Kim Bolduc be able to take up her duties at the helm of MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] as soon as possible. And we look forward to the resumption of Mr. Ross's visit to the region and also to the deployment of Kim Bolduc.
Inner City Press: But is she currently, I mean, she is the SRSG?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: She is the SRSG, but she has not been able to function with her MINURSO duties in-country.
In-country, eh? We'll have more on this. And on this: Inner City Press is informed that while Ladsous claims to have performed as required in connection with the appointment of Bolduc, even on this he is accused of failing to do his duty, as on many other parts of his job. Video compilation here; recent Vine here.
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 has waited to report on them; the spokesperson for the High Commissioner has today 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.