Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On Yemen, UN's Ban Ki-moon Confirms Postponing May 28 Talks, Saudis Want Riyadh Declaration As Basis, Children's Parliament


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- The UN's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below. Some of the UN's bungling is entirely public. Two days after Inner City Press and others reported that the May 28 talks were postponed or canceled, only on the afternoon of May 26 did Ban confirm the postponement. Here is his announcement:
"The Secretary-General has asked his Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to postpone the consultations in Geneva planned for 28 May following a request from the Government of Yemen and other key stakeholders for more time to prepare. The Secretary-General is actively working to convene the talks at the earliest possible time.

The Secretary-General is disappointed that it has not been possible to commence such an important initiative at the soonest possible date and reiterates his call for all parties to engage in United Nations-facilitated consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions. He also reiterates that the only durable resolution to the crisis in Yemen is an inclusive, negotiated political settlement.  

The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Envoy to redouble his efforts to consult with the Yemeni Government, Yemen’s political groupings and countries in the region with the aim of producing a comprehensive ceasefire and the resumption of peaceful dialogue and an orderly political transition.

Noting that the conflict has escalated once again following a much-needed five-day humanitarian pause, the Secretary-General urges all parties to be mindful of the suffering of Yemeni civilians, and to support the efforts of the Special Envoy. He is acutely aware that a postponement or delay in a return to the political process will exacerbate a steadily deepening humanitarian crisis.

The Geneva initiative, aimed at bringing together a broad range of Yemeni governmental and other actors, follows extensive consultations by the Special Envoy as well as strong expressions of support by various Security Council resolutions, including 2216 (2015), for a peaceful and Yemeni-led political transition process based on the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism and the outcomes of the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference. "
 On May 24 Inner City Press was informed that the UN already informed the Houthis and other participants that May 28 was off.
  But what were and are the Saudis' demands? Inner City Press is exclusively informed by well placed sources that the Saudis demand that the basis -- and constraints -- of the Geneva meeting be the "Riyadh Declaration," reached without any involvement by the Houthis.
  The UN already let the Saudis name individuals who would attend under the heading "women, youth and civil society." The GCC and the G14 were to attend -- the deck was already stacked for the Saudis. But they wanted the Riyadh Declaration as the basis (just as they excluded the September 2014 Peace and Partnership Agreement).
 Or, as one well place source put it, the Saudis don't WANT a UN process, "they want to keep bombing, either to eliminate the Houthis" - a la Sri Lanka and the LTTE -- or to "make them capitulate and agree to a final meeting in Riyadh."
   The Houthis agreeing to that, ever, seems unlikely. It is the UN of Ban Ki-moon that has capitulated. Watch this site.
  First the UN allowed US Secretary of State John Kerry to tell it not to dare hold Yemen talks in Geneva on May 11 as the UN had planned, as Inner City Press exclusively reported on May 6.
  Now the May 28 talks in Geneva, conveniently after the Houthi-less talks in Riyadh, will be stacked in ways both pro-Saudi and laughable, sources tell Inner City Press.
 New Saudi-picked "UN" envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who appeared on the podium in Riyadh, has dropped from the list of documents on which the May 28 talks are based the Peace and Partnership Agreement that all Yemeni political parties agreed to on September 21, 2014.
  The reason? Saudi Arabia doesn't like what was agreed to at that time: it created obligations not only for the Houthis but also for Hadi. So it is gone.
Update: and now, at least for now, so is Hadi. Despite the May 28 talks being Saudi dominated, Hadi says he won't go unless Security Council resolution 2216 is "fully implemented." And about about the Peace and Partnership Agreement that he signed but didn't implement? We'll have more on this.
   Slated for attendance on May 28 are the Saudi-led Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council currently headed by Bahrain and GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani - but notably not Iran. The number of seats for the Houthis will be limited.
  Who else is slated to go? Causing laughter in diplomatic circle and in Yemen where it is sorely needed, Cheikh Ahmed is angling to fly in the so-called Children's Parliament organized by an NGO in Yemen, as well as their parents and guardians. "Who is paying for this?" one source demanded of Inner City Press.
  Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the UN noon briefing on May 26.
  This last step is blamed by the sources on Cheikh Ahmed having little political background. Inner City Press has already reported on his failure while previously in Yemen to protect UN staff -- failure to pick up the armored vehicles from the airport or have the recommended security detail with staff going to the airport, leading to the long kidnapping of a UNICEF staffer.
 But even at UNICEF, Cheikh Ahmed was in human resources, not substantive policy. And the Press questions about his fishing business and its funders remain UNanswered. We'll have more on this.
  For now, this: Inner City Press is informed that after Cheikh Ahmed's quick visit to Iran, he was summoned back to Riyadh and, highly irregular for the UN, went without his policy "team," not even a note-taker. What might have been discussed?
  The UN, we note, routinely refuses to answer Press questions.
  Back on April 29, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson to confirm that the UN was considering Geneva as a venue to continue Yemen talks, after its previous envoy Jamal Benomar resigned in protest of Saudi airstrikes and was replaced by a more amenable envoy, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

 
  

UNdisclosed That Ban's Nephew Works At Colliers, Which Rents To & For UN?


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has left his native South Korea after five days and headed to Vietnam while Press questions remain unanswered by the UN about his links to the Vietnam related scandal surrounding the suicide of South Korean businessman Sung Wan-jong, and his own nephew Joo-hyun "Dennis" Bahn. Inner City Press asked the UN on May 15, video here.
 After Ban's deputy spokesperson on May 20 told Inner City Press he would get a simple list of UN contracts of Colliers International where Ban's nephew works, video here, he did not return with it on May 21. But on May 22 he had a read out, and Inner City Press had and has more questions. Video here.
  On May 22 when Inner City Press asked if Ban had disclosed that this nephew works for Colliers which rents to and for the UN, Haq said " I believe the disclosure is reviewed, like I said, by an outside company.  I… all I can attest to is what's on the website, and you can see that for yourself."
  On May 26 Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this, who repeated that Ban has complied with everything asked of him and spoke eloquently in Seoul. We'll have more on that. But on Ban's UN website, under "Current disclosure" the year is 2011, discloses only this:
Apartment, Seoul, Republic of Korea 
Land Residential (Lot), Seoul, Republic of Korea
CD Account, Chase Bank, USA, joint  with spouse
Checking Account, Chase Bank, USA, joint  with spouse 
Deposit Account, Kookmin Bank, Republic of Korea 
Equity Account, Kookmin Bank, Republic of Korea 
Savings Account, Chase Bank, USA, joint with spouse
Two (2) Savings Deposit Accounts, Kookmin Bank, Republic of Korea  
  While is his more than subsequently disclosed, it does not list Ban's nephew working with Colliers which rents to and for the UN. Does any subsequent disclosure? Inner City Press asked Dujarric on May 26, its dozenth question in a row on this.
 Meanwhile an aggregation piece on Ban's five day trip and ambitions mentions his nephew, and the name Colliers - but NOT that Colliers rents to and for the UN. Some call it, softball behind a paywall. Perhaps more is coming.
  Back on May 22, Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said the following, about the company where Ban's nephew works:
"I was asked a few days ago about whether the United Nations has rented office space through the Colliers company.  That’s actually a difficult question, in turns out, because Colliers International NY LLC is a company whose name has changed several times over the years.  Although it became known by that name in 2010, it also used to be called GVA Williams many years ago.

"The UN had a contract with GVA Williams from the 15th of June 2007 to 15th of February 2013.  By then company had changed its name to Colliers International NY LLC and it was for "real estate consultancy and brokerage services".

"Colliers, in the name of Colliers Tri-State Management LLC, is now the owner and landlord for the FF Building, although the lease to the UN is enacted via a number of leases for sub-“lots” between the UN and a subsidiary company called “304 E.45th LLC”.  UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) also rents some “lots” in the FF building.

"When the UN first rented space in the FF building, it was with GVA Williams.  Apart from the leases for the FF building, the UN has no other contracts with Colliers International NY LLC."
  When allowed, Inner City Press began with these few questions (there will be more)

Inner City Press: thanks a lot for this detailed answer on Colliers and its predecessor.  So this is something that I wanted to ask.  It has to do with, since it is public record that the nephew of the Secretary-General works for the company, and I understand it's your position that there's no connection between these contracts and that.  I did want to know whether the disclosures, public or confidential within the UN of high officials, contain any disclosures of the employment or business interests of close relatives so that at least they can be known and checked.  This is my question.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  The procurement process goes through a process that is independent of other officials at the UN.  There's a very clear process that… by which procurement works.  And… and we have actually talked about this at length many times in the past, but it is unrelated.

Inner City Press:  Right.

Deputy Spokesman:  Both to senior officials, but to any of their family members…

Inner City Press:  But what I'm asking about is the disclosure process in the UN.  I understand there's two forms of disclosure.  There's mandatory internal disclosure that's not made public, and there's a voluntary public financial disclosure.  What I'm asking is whether the internal confidential but to the UN, to the ethics office, disclosure of high officials involves business interests of close relatives that do business with the UN.  That's just a factual question.

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't really… I think that there's an implicit assumption in your question which I don't share.

Inner City Press:  I'm not assuming anything.  It's just a question.

Deputy Spokesman:  The safeguards in the procurement process are built in to keep it separate from other officials.

Inner City Press:  But I'm asking about the disclosure process, not the procurement process, just a question about what the UN disclosure process is.  It's not about what my assumption of my question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Disclosure to whom?

Inner City Press:  There are two disclosures… high officials file with the UN detailed supposedly… I haven't… well, I have seen them, but I'm not… the detailed disclosures, and then there's the public website which gives less information…

Deputy Spokesman:  There's…

Inner City Press:  Does the detailed one contain close relatives that do business with the UN… that’s the question.

Deputy Spokesman:  There is a series of financial disclosures where you detail your financial dealings as well as the dealings of your immediate family.  And that is disclosed… and that is disclosed to an outside party that reviews these… these financial statements.

Inner City Press:  And can I ask whether this one was disclosed?

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, I believe the disclosure is reviewed, like I said, by an outside company.  I… all I can attest to is what's on the website, and you can see that for yourself. 
   But there, Ban lists "Residential lot, Republic of Korea, Apartment, Republic of Korea, and CD account, Chase Bank, joint ownership, USA" -- nothing about his nephew working with a firm that rents to and for the UN.
  On May 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Haq:

Inner City Press:  I've seen the Secretary-General's nephew has given what's described as an exclusive interview with the South Korean newspaper the Mainil Business newspaper, and among other things he says that Sung Ju-Soo, the second son of Sung Wan-jong, the suicidal business leader, quote, “came to New York last March and asked me to seek help from the Secretary-General over the property sale”.  Then he says:  But I have never asked for his help regarding the sale.  But the newspaper then says the interview confirmed that the son Sung Wan-jong tried to lobby Ban Ki-moon for the deal.  This is what I want to know.  This now seems a little closer than just that the nephew said it; like, an individual from the company came to New York asked the nephew, can you raise it?  And in a written piece of paper, the nephew said it's been raised.  Now he said he's never spoken to the Secretary-General.  What is your response?  Is there some way we can get some response in English rather than simply to — to the South Korean newspaper?

Deputy Spokesman:  The response that you are looking for in English was given by the Secretary-General himself in a press conference in Seoul yesterday where he was asked about various situations and you'll have seen — and you even asked me a question about that press conference.  So I'm sure you've seen that transcript…

Question:  He asked to refrain from reporting on it.  [overlapping talking]

Deputy Spokesman:  No, that's not all he said.  He said quite a bit.  Look at his entire response and that is his response and that is the response we have.

  On May 19, Ban urged the media not to ask about, or report on, issues surrounding his nephew. Inner City Press has asked, and will continue to ask, what rules and safeguards apply for example to a company the Secretary General's nephew works with, Colliers International, doing business with the UN, as Colliers Vice Chairman brags. Here is theUN's transcription of Ban's May 19 answer in Seoul, and below.
  Inner City Press went to the May 19 UN noon briefing and asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq what Ban had meant, video here, and for how much business Colliers, where Ban's nephew works has done with the UN. Haq refused to provide the latter information, saying "Ask Colliers."
  Inner City Press has in the day since collected information, below. But first we note that Ban's spokesperson's office and Haq himself HAVE previously answered Inner City Press questions about particular UN contractors. For example, in April 2009 Haq answered Inner City Press about the Petrocelli Electric Company. So do they only not answer when a Ban relative is involved? What's the difference?
  For now, here's some of the business with the UN of Colliers International, where Ban Ki-moon's nephew Joo-hyun "Dennis" Bahn works:
220 East 42nd Street: "The United Nations Development Programme signed a 10-year, 42,931-square-foot lease covering the entire 20th, 21st, and 23rdfloors of 220 East 42nd Street, aka The News Building. Andy Roos of Colliers International acted on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme."
220 East 42nd Street:  "United Nations Women is setting up shop at 220 E. 42nd St. where it will lease 71,204 square feet on the 17th, 18th and 19th floors. Additionally a transition team will settle into 13,746 square feet on the 4th floor -- for a total of 84,950 square feet... The deal has been percolating since last year and was made possible because another UN agency moved out. The UN's broker, Andrew Roos of Colliers International, represented the United Nations Population Fund in a move out of the building to 605 Third Ave. last year." 
605 Third Avenue: "In a 15-year, four-party deal, the United Nations Population Fund leased just under 131,000 square feet at 605 Third Ave. The turnkey space encompasses the fourth through sixth floors. The UN was represented by Andy Roos at Colliers International, who said the complicated transaction took 18 months to complete."
  In fact, the UN's "FF" building on 45th Street has a Colliers International sign on the front of it, facing the sidewalk. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's nephew works at this firm. The UN should answer about its Colliers contracts, but won't.

  By contrast on April 6, 2009, Ban's then spokesperson Michele Montas DID answer Inner City Press about a particular contractor, and on April 13, 2009, deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inenr City Press that it had been given details about that contract - NOT being done here, about Ban's nephew.
Inner City Press:  I have a procurement question.  It’s become clear that, number one, the electrical contractor for the UN, Petrocelli Electric, the founder has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for bribery.  At the same time, the operator of UN Television, National Mobile Television Venue Services Group, is basically going bankrupt.  Everything is being sold and they’re trying to move their people into the basement area as a final refuge.  How can it be that these contracts were entered into with companies in one case being indicted, and in the other case going bankrupt?

Spokesperson Montas:  Well, in specific cases, when the contracts were entered, of course, there was no indictment and there were no suspicion that there were any wrongdoings.  In terms of the second contract, of course, we can look into this.  There are several companies going under and we cannot predict in advance which company will go under.  I can try to get more information for you from the Procurement Office, but, at this point, as I said, we cannot predict what will happen when we sign contracts....

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I just got your answer.  It was just brought to me.

The contract with the Petrocelli Electric Company covers overall electrical installations, operations, maintenance, alterations and major projects, and remains in place even though the UN has suspended the vendor from participating in any further procurement activity.  That’s what I have for you.  And we’re also aware of the financial difficulties faced by VSG’s parent company, NMT.  The Organization is dealing with the situation in consultation with the VSG management.  So I got your answer pretty fast for you.

  Then from the April 13, 2009, UN transcript:

Inner City Press: last week I’d asked about this contract with Petrocelli Electric that the UN has, in light of the indictment of the founder of the company.  Over the weekend The New York Times reported that the FBI says that the founder is connected or has associations with the Genovese crime family.  So what I’m wondering is now given... if you accept that report is true in The New York Times, what is the UN going to do about these contracts?

Associate Spokesperson Haq:  Well, Michèle told you what we’re doing in terms of that, and what she said last week hasn’t changed.

Question:  So the current contract is going to continue?  How long does the current contract run?

Associate Spokesperson:  Right now, they’re suspended from the list of vendors, but we do have, of course, our current facility needs.  So we have an existing contract.  But I believe she mentioned to you the suspension last week and...

Question:  For future business.  I just want to know how much the current business is and whether this new report makes any changes.

Associate Spokesperson:  I think she mentioned to you what the details of that contract were.  But I can just re-submit that over to you if you don’t have those details.

Question:  I don’t think she said either length or dollar value or any of the details.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I think she mentioned what the services are.  So, I’ll get that over to you.
Inner City Press: I want to ask two press freedom questions.  One is on Burundi — there are these reports that the media or particularly foreign correspondents are not being allowed into this neighbourhood and cameras taken by the police.  I want to know whether Mr. Djinnit is aware of what, what the UN thinks of that.  And I wanted to ask, maybe if you can clarify or amplify.  I saw the Q&A the Secretary-General did in South Korea, and he said, "I have seen reports having to do with my nephew.  While I'm fulfilling… whether true or not, while I'm fulfilling my duties now as Secretary-General, while such unnecessary incorrect allegations or rumours cause inconvenience to my work as Secretary-General, so I'd like to ask you to refrain from doing that."  So, because of the… like, what is he saying?  Is he saying refrain from asking questions, refrain from…?
Deputy Spokesman:  No.  First of all, that's an abbreviation of the transcript.  I'll refer you to the full transcript.
Inner City Press:  I looked… okay.
Deputy Spokesman:  He makes a denial of any involvement in this issue.  But, his basic point is that he will go about his own work.  These questions really don't apply to him or his activities.
Inner City Press:  But, who… my question is this.  Who is he asking to refrain from doing what?  That's a direct quote from what he said.
Deputy Spokesman:  He's not making an order to anyone in the press.  It's very clear, and it's particularly clear in the context if you look at the transcript that he's talking about an issue that for him, in his head, is resolved.
Inner City Press:  But this is… okay because this is the one part of it.  I guess I understand that if… if… that things are being played out in a court in Seoul and whether the nephew… what he said that the Secretary-General did or not is, I guess, not going to be answered until it's answered there.  But, there's a simpler question, which is, the nephew works for Colliers International, which is a New York real estate firm, and the Vice-Chairman said online that they do business with the UN.  So my question is… and I asked you this before, but I'm going back to this because it seems like a very fair question — what are the rules when a relative of the Secretary-General or any high official does business with the UN?
Deputy Spokesman:  Procurement at the UN is done through our procurement office.  It is not done through any sort of issue having to do with family or family connections.  It's a procurement process that all firms have to abide by, and that's how firms get contracts.
Inner City Press:  So how did Colliers… how much business has Colliers done with the UN?
Deputy Spokesman:  You would have to ask Colliers.  As for UN procurement, it makes contracts by its normal activities.  This is not connected to anyone related to the Secretary-General.  Yes.  Oh, and… oh, wait.  You had another question on Burundi.  And on your Burundi question, see, you ask so many questions that it gets lost.  On your Burundi question, of course, we'd be concerned at any efforts to crack down on press.  We do have a small human rights team… team of human rights workers who are in Burundi and they're examining human rights issues and they'll follow up on any sort of allegations of any problems in the country.
   Here is what Ban said, by the UN's own transcription:
"I’ve seen reports having to do with my nephew. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, I feel quite ashamed that a scandal like this has surfaced and caused controversy. About my nephew’s business activities, I have never known and never took part in any of this. I’d like to tell you clearly that this has nothing to do with me. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am doing a lot of things for the international community and the international community expects a lot from me. While I am fulfilling my duties as Secretary-General, such unnecessary and incorrect allegations or rumours cause inconvenience to my work as Secretary-General. So I’d like to ask you to refrain from doing that."
  Who is Ban request to "refrain," from what? The questions about his nephew are entirely legitimate, and continue because they have not been answered. They don't just go away.  
  Tellingly, the current head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous has been allowed to openly refuse to answer Press questions, as if the issues of cover up of rapes in DR Congo, Darfur and now Central African Republic will go away.

  While the Free UN Coalition for Access openly opposes such non-answering by Ladsous (and Ban's spokespeople), Ban praises and partners with the old UN Correspondents Association, whose leaders praise Ban back, do not ask about conflicts of interest, and have even tried to get the investigative Press thrown out for such reporting. This is the context.
 On May 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq an event more specific question: did Ban raise any of its relatives' real estate projects, for example Landmark 72 in Vietnam, to the Emir of Qatar in a meeting on September 24, 2013? May 18 video here and embedded below.
  Haq repeated that Ban is not involved, that he and Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric have "nothing to add." On May 15, Haq told Inner City Press that the UN does not have to respond about any relative of Ban who is not a UN staff member, even if they do business with, or with the name of, the UN and Ban. Inner City Press has raised that higher within the UN.
  The JoongAng Daily reports that its affiliate JBTC has obtained an email in which Ban's nephew Bahn Joo-hyun wrote:
“QIA said the emir of Qatar had an official meeting with the UN Secretary General at the United Nations [Headquarters] at 11:30 a.m., and [Secretary General Ban] mentioned the Landmark 72 upon request of [Ban Ki-sang]" - Ban's brother.
  Using the time 11:30 a.m., Inner City Press searched past versions of Ban Ki-moon's schedule and found such a meeting: 
"September 24, 2013, 11:30 am    NLB SG Conf Rm 3rd flr The Secretary-General with H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar"
 But the UN's read-out for that meeting did not mention real estate:
"The Secretary-General met today with His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar.  The Secretary-General reiterated his call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and expressed gratitude to Qatar for its support to the Central Emergency Response Fund and other generous humanitarian assistance.  They discussed the Palestine-Israel issue and also the importance of United Nations political efforts in Yemen.  The Secretary-General thanked the Amir for Qatari support on the Alliance of Civilizations, sustainable development and climate change.  

New York, 24 September 2013."
  The Alliance of Civilizations is headed by Qatar's former Permanent Representative to the UN. 


(On May 18, 2015, Inner City Press also asked Haq for Ban Ki-moon's response to Qatar detaining BBC journalist Mark Lobel while he was reporting on the treatment of migrant workers in the run up to the World Cup there; Haq's and the UN's response seems muted.)
   It is reported that Ban's nephew Ban got business trying to sell off a Sung-linked skyscraper in Vietnam by saying that Ban had discussed the project with Emir of Qatar (on whose private jet Ban has flown), and by reportedly forging a letter of commitment from Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.
  On May 14, Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric replied to Inner City Press that Ban has "no connection" with this nephew - strange, just as a matter of genetics.
 On May 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq a closer question: to confirm that Ban's nephew Bahn has worked for the real estate firm Colliers, and the Colliers has done business with UN.
  (Bahn's LinkedIn page lists him at Colliers, whose Vice Chairman Andrew Roos says "Some of his major clients include various divisions of the United Nations, including its Joint Pension Fund... For the United Nations, he has been responsible for more than 500,000 square feet of leasing transactions.") 
 Despite this set-up, Haq insisted that the UN does not have to, or does not, respond about family members if they are not UN staff.
 But what if the Secretary General's family member does BUSINESS with the UN?  Haq insisted the UN will not comment, that added that he faced similar questions "ten years ago," apparently an allusion to Kojo Annan and the Mercedes in what's called the Oil for Food scandal. To this has the UN sunk. Video here and embedded below.
 Inner City Press will be asking again, if it is legitimate for the UN to say it will not answer any questions about high official's family members using the UN connections to get business and going business with the UN.  Here is what UN deputy spokesperson Haq said, and thenthe transcript

Inner City Press: Yesterday, I asked Stéphane about these developing stories about the nephew of the Secretary-General and the claims made about the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund.  And the reason I… he said yesterday, that the Secretary-General has nothing to do with his nephew.  But I wanted to ask because there's been more reporting since even yesterday and basically what's emerged in these articles is that the nephew, Mr.… I don't want to get the name wrong.  We'll call him Mr. Ban… Ban Joo-Hyun… had made two claims.  He had made a claim to the construction company that was run by the now deceased business man, that the Secretary-General had raised this very project to the Emir of Qatar in a meeting.  And he also made a claim that the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund was behind the deal.  So this is… the question that I have for you is, is even if the Secretary-General is saying that these statements didn't occur, that's what I was trying to get a yes or no on, or if they did occur, he has nothing to do with them, has he informed the members of his family, including his nephew, including his brother who is part of this story, and including, for example, his son-in-law, not to invoke his name when they seek to do business deals that obviously involve Sovereign Wealth Fund of countries that have business with the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General keeps his work life and his personal life separate.  He is not involved in this matter and this is not a matter that involves any UN personnel.  Therefore, I would have no comment on it.

Inner City Press::  But there are obviously people reporting quite to the contrary, so I'm asking you is there…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, they're not.  Actually, Matthew, they're not reporting to the contrary, they're reporting about other people.  Nothing of what you said suggests any connection to the United Nations.

Inner City Press:  Have you read today's Viet Nam news that says…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, I have.

Inner City Press:  The nephew said that Ban Ki-moon raised this with the Emir of Qatar, so my question is can you deny that?  Do you deny that the Secretary General has raised that?  Okay.

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is not involved in this in anyway.

Inner City Press:  Okay, and also my fourth and further question.  The nephew is reported to work at a New York real estate firm known as Colliers, which partners of whom say they have done business for the United Nations system.  So I wanted to know… this seems… this is a just a factual question, is it true that the nephew of the Secretary-General works for a firm called Colliers?  And is it true, will you confirm or deny that this firm has done business with the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  I do not have to comment on questions of family members of the Secretary-General who are not employed by the United Nations.

Inner City Press:  Doing business with the UN, you don't have to comment?

Deputy Spokesman:  He is not UN staff.  He has not been UN staff and his business does not concern the United Nations.

Inner City Press:  If somebody does business with the UN… I mean that's what I'm asking…

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, a decade ago, people asked me different questions about other different relatives, but the point is what we concern ourselves with is the work of the UN and its personnel.  Yes.
   Inner City Press a month ago on April 17, then again yesterday on May 14, asked Ban's UN spokespeople about scandal, the first time drawing laughter and yesterday on a closer link to Ban, a flat but vague denial. The closer link involves Ban's nephew Bahn Joo-hyun and an allegedly forged letter from Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.
   Implausibly, Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on May 14 told Inner City Press that Ban has “no connection” with his nephew. 
   In the same briefing he refused to explain why the UN, in responding to Press questions about another UN scandal involving the cover up of child rape in the Central African Republic by French soldiers and Ban's (French) UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, provided answers only to correspondents who hadn't even asked or in some cases reported about the rapes. 
   Dujarric told Inner City Press, "Matthew, I can't be responsible for what parties you're invited to or not invited to." Ban later that day feted the so-called UN Correspondents Association, whose leadership not only never asked about  Sung Wan-jong but actively tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. It's the UN's (or Ban's) Censorship Alliance. The new Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, takes a different approach.
Inner City Press: about the individual, Mr. Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide, but apparently before he did, said that he had very close ties with Ban Ki-moon.  That's why he was being prosecuted and said that they developed the Chungcheong Forum together.  So I just wanted to, what was his relationship to the individual who committed suicide?  Why does he think his name has come up in connection with this scandal?  And does he have some kind of statement of --
Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, all we have to say about this is we've seen the reports, and as we've said from this podium and the Secretary-General has himself said many times, his focus is on his job currently and not on Korean domestic politics.
Inner City Press: Sure.  It’s less a question about running for office there, then so much as if somebody, right before they commit suicide, says, it's kind of like “Rosebud”, he said Ban Ki-moon, does he…
Associate Spokesperson:  We have no comment.  [laughter]  We have no comment.
  In the month that followed, even as the scandal developed, no questions  were asked or allowed at the UN about it. Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, when Inner City Press pursued follow up questions, said “you must have been such an obnoxious child.”  UNCA said nothing; the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, challenged this and Ladsous' approach including in a flier it posted in the UN's fourth floor press area.
  Also on press freedom in Ban's UN and his links with South Korea, a week ago on May 8 Inner City Press asked Dujarric:
Inner City Press / FUNCA: There are a number of reporters complaining publicly in a their publications that they sought to attend a “Journalists at Risk” event yesterday inside the UN in which the ambassadors of France and Belgium spoke and that they were not able to attend it and was told the press was being “banned” from the event.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Banning the press is not something I like to do.  No press was banned.  I think there was miscommunication on the part of the organizers, who probably didn't coordinate the way they should have with our colleagues here.  A guest list was provided to our security services, which included journalists.  And those people on the guest list were able to attend.  I think there may have been misunderstanding where journalists wanted to come in with cameras who didn't have accreditation.  We tried to facilitate things as much as possible.  As always here, we're happy to host any event, obviously, the Member States are holding.  It just needs a minimum of coordination with the various services.  But, to say that press was banned, I think is a mischaracterization of what happened.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  Some are contrasting it to the speed with which journalists were processed to attend the Hillary Clinton stakeout.  They were saying that this was actually… there was more time to do them, but they were told it's impossible, it can't be done.

Spokesman Dujarric:  I would dispute that account, as well.  You had country-specific questions?

Inner City Press: The country is South Korea.  I just want to know, since it's out there and it has been reported in The Korea Times, can you confirm that the Secretary-General is going to South Korea for four days in and around 22 May?

Spokesman Duarric:  I cannot confirm at this point, but I encourage you to attend the briefings next week.
   A week later on May 14, as the scandal grew closer to Ban at least through family ties, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it: (video here)
Inner City Press: about this case in South Korea that's been bouncing around for some time, the businessman Mr. Sung, who committed suicide, but mentioned the Secretary-General's name soon before he did it.  And there's a new article in the Korea JoongAng Daily, which says that Mr. Ban's nephew Ban Joo-hyun, the manager of a New York-based real estate firm, is somehow involved in this case.  And it cites him providing a forged letter for the Qatar Investment Authority, saying a building in Viet Nam was going to be built when it wasn't.  I would assume that your office is aware of this.  What is the… is any of this true?  For example, is his nephew involved in this real estate deal?  Does his nephew deny providing a fraudulent Qatari investment fund letter?
Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the… This does not… this does not involve the Secretary-General.  He has nothing to do with this issue, and he has nothing to do with his nephew.  And I think you… I really have nothing else to add.
Inner City Press: I'm only asking because it only has connection to possible politics, countries, the commonwealth fund — do you deny it?
Spokesman Dujarric:  I understand… I think… Clearly, the Secretary-General is not involved in any of this.  I would like to… oh.  Yes.  I would like to say have a good weekend.  But, go ahead.  (Video from Minute 3:53)

  Inner City Press has previously and repeatedly asked the UN about Ban family connections and the still UNdisclosed acceptance of gifted travel, from Qatar, here.
  Watch this site.

 
  

On Kosovo, Still No Action on Human Organs Cases, Kumanovo in FYROM Cited


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- The Kosovo representative of the UN Farid Zarif, when  he briefed the UN Security Council on May 26, had a long paragraph about delay in trying "cases arising from the finding of the EU Special Investigative Task Force" -- without mentioning the underlying organ trafficking. 
 Meanwhile the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, embroiled in a scandal of covering up alleged child rapes by French soldiers in the Central African Republic, including allow the (French) chief of UN Peacekeeping to try to get the OHCHR whistleblower fired, has closed its office in Kosovo.
 In a speech after Zarif's briefing, Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin criticized the delay in the Special Court, and the failure to report the build-up to Kumanovo.
  Here's what the UN's Farid Zarif said on this, followed by Churkin:
  “A matter of pressing importance is the completion of the necessary steps toward establishment of the Specialist Court, in order to try cases arising from the findings of the EU Special Investigative Task Force in accordance with the highest standards of international justice. In my meetings across the Kosovo political establishment, I have underlined the clear expectations from the international community, as well as from those who may have been the victims of past crimes, that there be no undue delays in the steps required from Kosovo toward the establishment of the Court. I had hoped to be able to report today that the relevant constitutional and legislative steps had been completed, but the issue now has been tentatively scheduled for action this Friday.”
   Farif made a glancing reference to major regional events: "the deadly armed clashes in Kumanovo, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on May 9 and 10. The violent clashes involved several individuals from Kosovo." 
  Churkin, on Kumanovo, said
"The Kosovan problem is still pertinent and still has a destabilizing impact on the whole region. This is verified by the recent events in Macedonia, in particular the attack by bandits in uniform of the KLA on the Macedonian border guards on the 21st of April and the incident in Kumanovo on the 9 of May. This was caused by the arrival in that town of a large group of radical fighters from Kosovo who planned to carry out a series of terrorist attacks in the territory of Macedonia.
"We are astonished that the information in Skopje about the  plans of the terrorists were conveyed to international partners who played a key role in ensuring security in Kosovo at the beginning of this year. This warning was ignored. The Macedonian incidents show that in this region of the Balkans there are still inter-ethnic conflicts, and it proves the high conflict potential of the region. The situation is also impacted by a lack of the rule of law in Kosovo. This is a result of a lack of settlement of the Kosovo problem on the whole.
 On the organ trade, Churkin said:
"There have been delays in establishing the Special Court to investigating the crime carried out by the KLA including the trade in human organs. It's odd that the establishment of such a body has been dependent on legislative decisions in Pristina when clearly Kosovo has not been ready to objectively evaluate such a delicate matter. There is a negative legacy of this from the recent past. There have been reports about western diplomats in Pristina trying to persuade  Kosovars to adopt a text written for them that would apparently give them better results than if this matter was brought to the Security Council. We don’t understand how such friendly recommendations can be married with the mantra of the rule of law. We  insist on the need to achieve real progress in this area as soon as possible. We note what was said today by Mr. Thaci. We confirm our position that the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice irrespective of their status.”
  We'll see.

 
  

On Burundi, UN Rights Commissioner Zeid Speak to Human Rights Council, UNSC Still Silent on Journalist Bireha


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- Thirteen days after the UN Security Council, the United States and the UN Peacebuilding Configuration on Burundi on May 15 issued statements urging calm in the country given the return of Pierre Nkurunziza to presumably run for a third term, on May 26 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid said this in Geneva:

"During my mission to Burundi last month I was alarmed by the violence of the Imbonerakure militia, which is a strong supporter of President Nkurunziza’s government, and by politically motivated harassment, threats, and hate speech. The attempted coup of 13 May, and the assassination of opposition leader Zedi Feruzi on Saturday, have further intensified tension. Opposition politicians, journalists, prominent human rights defenders, and indeed many ordinary people still fear for their lives. When I left Burundi, on 15 April, 6,000 Burundians had fled the country due to fear of political violence and intimidation.  Five weeks later, that number has swelled by a further 110,000 frightened people.

"This is a country with deep and terrible knowledge of the potential consequences of outbreaks of violence. Following a decade of growing recovery, and prosperity, these recent events are a significant setback. But we can still avoid the path that could lead back to past tragedies. I am encouraged by the mobilisation of the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes region, the East African Community, the European Union and the United Nations, and by the priority they have given to human rights concerns. The Special Envoy for the Great Lakes is making a tremendous effort to draw all actors to the negotiating table, and OHCHR's country office continues to work with the Government, civil society, the National Independent Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman to protect human rights and the rule of law. I hope the Council can send a strong message to national actors and the international community to stop the wave of violence."


The UN Security Council hasn't met on the topic in nearly two weeks; despite an upcoming "Protection of Journalists" event, the UNSC's most recent statement did not mention the journalist who was with them who was gravely injured, Jean Baptiste Bireha of Bonesha FM. Here's the UN Security Council's full text:
"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the killing of Mr. Zedi Feruzi, leader of the opposition Union pour la paix et le développement (UPD) Zigamibanga party in Burundi, and his bodyguard, on 23 May 2015 in Bujumbura. The members of the Security Council also condemned the grenade attack in Bujumbura’s central market on 22 May 2015 that left two dead and many others injured.

"The Security Council expressed their deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wished a speedy recovery to the injured. They urged the Burundian authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

"The members of the Security Council reiterated their call on all Burundian stakeholders to demonstrate their sense of responsibility and exercise calm and restraint in the interest of peace and reconciliation in Burundi. They called on the Burundian authorities to take concrete steps to prevent further violence, whilst respecting fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

"The members of the Security Council called on all Burundian stakeholders to pursue the consultative political dialogue facilitated by the Special Envoy for the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, Mr Said Djinnit, and representatives of the African Union, the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to create an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi, in the spirit of the Arusha Agreements.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their intent to respond to violent acts which threaten peace and security in Burundi."
  Wait - "intent to respond" -- meaning this assassination is notnot enough? Or that a mere Press Statement is the extent of the Security Council's response? We'll have more on this.
  And here is Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement, also sans journalist, and artfully dodging Arusha and the third term:
"The Secretary-General condemns the killing of Mr. Zedi Feruzi, leader of the opposition Union pour la paix et le développement (UPD) Zigamibanga party in Burundi, and his bodyguard today in Bujumbura.

This crime, as well as the despicable grenade attack in Bujumbura’s central market on 22 May that left two dead and many others injured, threaten to entrench mistrust and trigger further violence.  The Secretary-General urges the Burundian authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. He extends his deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and wishes a quick recovery to the injured.

These acts of violence constitute a stark reminder of the need for all Burundian political leaders to address the current political crisis with the highest sense of responsibility and to place peace and national reconciliation above partisan interests.

The Secretary-General reiterates his calls for calm and restraint. He calls on the Burundian authorities to uphold the human rights of all Burundians, including the freedoms of assembly, association and expression, and to take concrete steps to prevent political killings and violence.

The Secretary-General encourages Burundian stakeholders to pursue the consultative political dialogue facilitated by his Special Envoy Said Djinnit and representatives of the African Union, the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. He calls on the parties to the consultative political dialogue not to be deterred by those who, through violence, seek to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi."
On May 22 Ban said he was encouraged by the dialogue since and concerned about refugees. 
  Ban said nothing about demonstrators shot, or the crack down on media.
Here is the full text:
"The Secretary-General is encouraged by the ongoing political dialogue in Bujumbura.  This involves representatives of civil society, political parties, religious organizations and the Government with the facilitation of Special Envoy Said Djinnit and representatives of the African Union, the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

"The Secretary-General applauds the participants for the progress achieved so far in the discussions, especially on measures to reduce tensions and create propitious conditions for free, fair, inclusive and peaceful elections. He is concerned, however, about the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving refugees. He expresses appreciation to the neighbouring countries for their hospitality to the refugees and urges the Government of Burundi to create conditions for their return.

"The Secretary-General encourages the stakeholders to pursue the ongoing dialogue with a view to reaching a comprehensive agreement on all the issues they have identified. He reiterates the availability of the United Nations to accompany the people of Burundi and the region during this process."
  What about the demonstrators shot? Ban's silence on the crackdown on media is a pattern, as Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access reported yesterday, here.
  On May 19 the International Committee of the Red Crossissued a carefully worded press release that did not directly say people were dragged out of hospitals:
"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely concerned about the tense pre-election atmosphere in Burundi and its humanitarian impact on the people of that country. The organization is appealing for calm among all parties involved and asks that health-care staff be allowed to do their work safely and that medical facilities not be interfered with.

"We are very troubled by the repercussions of the violence that has taken place in Burundi," said Georgios Georgantas, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. "People must remember that human life and dignity have to be respected at all times, and that health-care staff and medical centres must be spared from, and protected against, acts of violence and vandalism," said Mr Georgantas. The ICRC is also requesting that the orders issued to police comply with prevailing standards and regulations so that the use of force will be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The crisis has given rise to humanitarian needs in the capital Bujumbura and in neighbouring countries, forcing the ICRC to step up its efforts. In Burundi, ICRC delegates visit those who have been arrested to ensure their living conditions and the treatment they are receiving are in line with international standards. The organization also provides medicines and medical equipment to the prison authorities as needed."
   What of people dragged out of hospitals? Now there's medical equipment to jails.
 On May 19 the UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said UN envoy Said Djinnit would briefing the Security Council and, he hoped, the media on May 20. But it did not happened; the Council's penholder, when asked, did not say when it might happen.
  Meanwhile Inner City Press was multiply informed of an offer that had been made to Nkurunziza, to ween him from the third term dream: a high but honorary post in FIFA, the football federation, as a sort of goodwill ambassador.
  Nkurunziza turned it down, Inner City Press is informed by Permanent Representatives at the UN and other diplomatic sources. Now he has sacked ministers and said it is him or Al Shabaab. What could have been, FIFA. (Inner City Press also asked on May 18 about Qatar detaining a BBC journalist while he reported on the situation of migrant workers preparing there for the FIFA World Cup.)
  On Burundi, from the UN's May 18 noon briefing transcript