Sunday, June 5, 2016

On Yemen, Ban Speaks on Taiz, Was Silent After Saudi Bombed Rally in Sana'a

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 4 -- The UN Secretariat's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.

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

"The Secretary-General condemns the attacks with heavy weapons, including rockets, mortars and artillery in Taiz. Rocket fire reportedly hit a busy market in the city. Attacks directed against civilians and populated areas, including markets, are strictly prohibited. He underscores to all parties that targeting civilian areas is a violation of international humanitarian law and urges them to fully respect their obligations in this regard. The Secretary General calls for an independent investigation to ensure that perpetrators are hold accountable.

The Secretary-General continues to urge all parties to the conflict to cease all military activities in accordance with the nationwide cessation of hostilities. He further calls on them to refrain from any actions that could result in further civilian casualties. It is particularly regrettable that Taiz continues to pay a heavy toll in civilian losses despite the cessation of hostilities.

The Secretary-General calls on those participating in the peace talks in Kuwait to negotiate in good faith and urgently work with his Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to bring a peaceful end to this devastating conflict. In this same spirit, he also urges the importance of the immediate release of prisoners and detainees.

The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured."

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

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

Spokesman:  That’s not for us to say.

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

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

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, regarding the situation on the ground, as the Special Envoy, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has made clear the cessation of hostilities has… is not fully holding, but it has largely been holding in most areas.  And we are working with the parties and with the committees that have been set up to make sure that the cessation of hostilities will continue to hold and, indeed, will be more pervasively observed even than it is right now.  Regarding negotiations, I can't give details of the negotiations as they continue.  What I can say is, regardless of what each side wants, what the Special Envoy and the UN are trying to do is find a workable plan that will bring the parties together.  We are trying to be as inclusive as possible, and as I just mentioned, he did meet over the past day with both the Government delegation and the delegation representing Ansar Allah and the General People's Congress, and he will continue with his talks with all the various participants.
Earlier, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's repeated trips to Dubai, without answer. Now we've heard: IOCA has been importing luxury cars from there into his native Mauritania. 
 Kicking the tires, indeed. He has STILL not released the public financial disclosure that Ban claims he urges from his senior officials. Then again, Ban and his officials like USG Cristina Gallach are embroiled in the UN bribery scandal, and respond by evicting the files of the critical Press, video and petition, and trying to hinder reporting. We'll have more on this.
 On April 27, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about complaints to his envoy about violations of the cessation of hostilities by Saudi Arabia, and if a "plenary" had been canceled. Video here, UN transcript here.
 A month before the one year anniversary of the Saudi-led Coalition's campaign of airstrikes on Yemen, Inner City Press exclusively published, not for the first time, an email leaked to it between UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeff Feltman.
  As Inner City Press subsequently reported, Feltman conducted questioning -- some called it a witch hunt -- of DPA staff to try to find out who had leaked it to Inner City Press. And then the UN moved to evict Inner City Press from the UN, video here and here. 
But still, the UN is supposed to send out its Yemen news or statement beyond its own "UN News Center." On April 20, Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here.
   Over the April 23-24 weekend, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the / his UN News Center did it again, here:
"Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, said in a press release that 'significant differences in the delegations' points of view remain but nonetheless there is consensus on the need to make peace and to work intensively towards an agreement.'"
The UN's media practices have moved from evicting independent critical media to controlling like state media their own UN "scoops."
On April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video hereUN transcript here.
 On April 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Vine hereUN transcript here.
  On April 15, the eve of eviction, Inner City Press asked Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to respond to Ali Abdullah Saleh, to a large rally on March 26, saying he would not work with the UN on anything. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed replied he does not comment on public statements, just the presence of Saleh party members in the negotiations. 
 On March 28, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had refused to let Inner City Press ask Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed a single question at his length press conference at the UN, Ban's top lawyer issued a threat of imminent eviction threat to Inner City Press.
  Not surprisingly, particularly given Feltman's witch hunt, some viewed the UN's escalation against Inner City Press as a response to its publication of UN leaks. 
 On March 29, Feltman wrote to Inner City Press and we publish it in full:
"Dear Matthew,

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

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

Jeffrey Feltman
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
United Nations, New York"
 Feltman cc-ed his spokesman, who ironically used to work at Amnesty International. Feltman's statement that the retaliation against Inner City Press is only attributable to Cristina Gallach's DPI does not wash. While not absolving Gallach, it goes to the top. We'll have more on this.