Monday, October 10, 2016

In Yemen, Ban Ki-moon's Envoy Blamed for Funeral Deaths, UNSC Silent on Saudi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS,  October 9 -- The Saudi led coalition bombed the funeral of the father of Yemen interior minister Jalal al-Roweishan in Sana'a on October 8, the same day the UN Security Council met about airstrikes in Syria. 
Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi to confirm it was an Saudi strike and explain it. He said, "I am not aware of it." Vine video here.
Even as the Saudi led Coalition belatedly announced its own "investigation," nothing was heard back from the Saudi Ambassador or Mission. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who removed the Saudi coalition from the UN Children and Armed Conflict annex on Yemen, offered what he called his "sincere" condolences.
  France, whose foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault declined to answer Inner City Press' question on October 8 about the Saudi bombing, now says it is "shocked" - without mentioning Saudi Arabia. The Security Council, in which the UK "holds the pen" on Yemen, has yet to say anything.
Now Interior Minister Jalal Rwichan has issued a statement, forwarded to Inner City Press, stating that Ban Ki-moon's envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was told of a cessation in hostilities for the funeral, that on that basis people went - and were killed. He says not to trust the UN or its envoy anymore. This has been a trend under Ban Ki-moon, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. We'll have more on this.
After the French resolution failed in the Security Council, its foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault came to the stakeout. Inner City Press asked him, loudly, if he thinks the Saudi bombardment of Yemen should also be taken up by the Security Council, after an airstrike on a funeral most recently. He did not answer, despite the question being repeated. Vine here. He left.

   While Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, which holds the Council's “pen” on Yemen, also did not answer,Vine here, New Zealand's ambassador when Inner City Press asked if his country also thinks the Saudi-led coalition should stop bombing Yemen said, “I do.” Vine here.
But by the end of the meting, following a walk-out by the UK, US and others, the UK as "penholder" on Yemen in the Security Council had not, according to the president, circulated any draft Press Statement. Watch this site.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has let the Saudi led coalition off the Children and Armed Conflict annex on Yemen, while Saudi Arabia runs for a Human Rights Council seat. How much lower can the UN get?
After a UAE warship was hit - and sunk - off the Yemeni coast near Mocha, Inner City Press on October 3 asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq for a comment, and if the UN knows if it was a warship or as claimed an aid ship.  See October 6 US travel warning, below.
On October 4 Haq returned with, "it doesn't sound as if it was on a humanitarian mission." Vine video here.

But eight hours later, the UN Security Council issued a condemnation of the attack on this UAE "vessel."
So on October 5, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Haq again, if what he said about the UAE ship not being on a humanitarian mission still stands.  He said, "Yes," and "that was the information I had." Vine video here. But the UN Secretariat has not given any update, much less correction. So what precedent does this Security Council Press Statement create?
And what about the precedent Ban Ki-moon set by dropping the Saudi-led coalition from the Children and Armed Conflict annex for killing children in Yemen? Saudi Arabia is now running for a seat on the Human Rights Council. On October 6 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq,Beyond the Vine video here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: Given that the Secretary-General, whether you called it removed or temporarily removed or suspended Saudi Arabia from that Children in Armed Conflicts List what… what message does it send?  Obviously, one of the things that people… that Member States might weigh is whether a candidate for the Human Rights Council is on one of the annexes of Children in Armed Conflict or sexual violence or any of the other, sort of, lists of shame.  So how should they read this removal?  Are they going to be put back on during this campaign season?  Are they remaining off during it?  And doesn't he then acknowledge that he's had some impact on the way in which they will be evaluated for this position?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think if you look at the website, it makes clear that Saudi Arabia is currently temporarily suspended while a review is ongoing.

ICP Question:  Which is a different status than people that are on the list.

Deputy Spokesman:  It's also a different status from people who are not on the list entirely.

From the UN's October 3 transcript:

Inner City Press:  on Yemen, I wanted to know if the UN system has any comment or knowledge of this reported sinking of a UAE (United Arab Emirates) warship.  Some are saying it was an aid convoy.  The Houthis' side is saying it was a warship enforcing a blockade on them.  Since it's a pretty high-profile incident that has the potential to result in reprisals, what's the UN's understanding of what the ship was?  Was it an aid ship, or was it part of the military operations of the Saudi-led coalition?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're aware of the latest reports, but we'll need to get some further information about the nature of this vessel before we make any particular comment.

Question:  Given the UN's role in the humanitarian operation in Yemen, do countries like the UAE coordinate with UN if they're, as they say, moving medical supplies from one place to another, or is it just, everyone goes it alone?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, we do have a verification and inspection mechanism that's designed to help expedite the process by which aid gets into Yemen, and so we do expect that countries will use that mechanism.   On Yemen, Inner City Press on October 4 asked UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft how his country reviews its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other members of the Saudi-led Coalition that has been bombing Sanaa, Saada and elsewhere. Beyond the Vine video here, UK transcript here: 
Inner City Press: Q: On Yemen, what’s the process for the UK to review its sale of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition? That seems to be an issue. What would it take to stop that flow?
Amb Rycroft: The UK has a very clear set of arms control policies in place, and they are of a very high standard indeed, and we use those to make sure that we are satisfied with any arm sales to anywhere around the world, including in relation to Yemen.
Inner City Press: But the airstrikes on MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres), did that trigger some sort of second review?
Amb Rycroft: Well, we continue to look at all of our policies in relation to Yemen. We provide political support to the Saudi-led coalition, we are not members of the coalition, and whenever there is any one of these incidents, or allegations of incidents, then we are the first to call on the Saudis themselves to be following up and investigating.
  Rycroft began with this, about the Human Rights Council session and resolution:
Amb Rycroft: on Yemen I just wanted to reassure you that the UK did not block a text from the Human Rights Council in Geneva last week calling for an investigation. In fact, the UK worked very hard to get as strong a text as possible, and we got consensus. And we’re very glad that it was agreed by consensus. 
  But it was weak.
The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.  And see this Vine, & this.
 On October 3 Inner City Press asked Vitaly Churkin of Russia, president of the Security Council for October, about the sinking of the UAE ship. He said there is a draft Press Statement pending but there's a need to check more. He added that the UN is a cynical place, "in some places they want to whip it up, in other places they want to hush it up." 
Churkin noted Russia abstained on the last resolution - and said that the UK blocked an investigation because they sold $6 billion in weapons, the US is involved too.
  (Churkin also said it is Eastern Europe's turn to be Secretary General, and that Russia does want more posts -- Inner City Press said DPA -- and that there will be a meeting on Western Sahara on October 18, and on Burundi at some still undefined date.)
 On October 4 Inner City Press asked Churkin again about Yemen and he said the draft statement was in the works. And now?
  While awaiting more, we note that Bernardino Leon while working ostensibly for the UN on Libya negotiated a job with a UAE diplomatic institute. That was just another piece of UN for sale under Ban Ki-moon. But now it may be time for Bernardino Leon to work for that money. Watch this site.
On September 23, Inner City Press went up to document Ban Ki-moon's meeting with Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The latter walked slowly in to the room for the ceremonial handshake and book signing. Ban Ki-moon appeared to position Hadi (more than one reader called Hadi puppet). Hadi in turn in term spread out his hands. Photos here andhere.  Beyond the Vine video here.  
Amid airstrikes on Yemen, Saudi Arabia this week at the UN has sponsored a garish multimedia display, workshops and culminating event with Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General who let the Saudi-led Coalition off the Children and Armed Conflict annex.
   In the UN's 1B basement by the Vienna Cafe, a long TV screen has shown footage of palm trees and journalists, holograms testifying to a hallway draped in a large carpet. Inner City Press arrived at 4 pm for what was to be Ban Ki-moon's get-down, or most recent get-down, with the Saudis. 
Ban Ki-moon arrived at 4:30 pm and was led by the arm around the exhibit, Inner City Press Vine video here. He was taken to a table and put on virtual reality goggles, presumably without cluster bombs or Yemeni children shown. Periscope video here.
Interviews were conducted; Inner City Press rushed up to the UN's fourth floor, but the full-floor event was being taken down. Ban's next appearance would be that evening, for South Korea where he hopes to be President. Watch this site. 
Now it seems Ban Ki-moon's UN is equally out of it, perhaps more intentionally so. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on September 30 of the much weakened UN Human Rights Council resolution which rather than setting up a panel merely attaches some UN to Yemen's whitewash. I haven't seen the details, Dujarric said. Vine here.
He added that Ban's envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed is headed to... Saudi Arabia. We'll have more on this.
  On September 23 it was quickly over but to way to the elevator down, Inner City Press ran into and greeted UN envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed on his way to the meeting and two representatives of Human Rights Watch, on the UN's 27th floor. What were they doing there? Both were formerly journalists covering or channeling Ban Ki-moon, now with insider access. Does it make Ban Ki-moon feel better, to have them around while he sells out Yemen's children?
 Earlier on September 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN Transcript here: 
Inner City Press: Given that the Secretary-General himself decided to remove the Saudi-led Coalition from the Children and Armed Conflict regarding Yemen, given that this airstrike has killed children and women, what's the status of putting them back on?
Spokesman:  Well, they were… as I said, they were not removed.  It was a temporary suspension, as you can look on the document.  I think we are constantly looking at and reviewing the situation in Yemen, and when we have something to share with you, we will.
  We're waiting. It seems clear Ban gave Hadi a copy of hisvanity press book. Birds of a feather.
On September 22, Inner City Press asked the European Union's Federica Mogherini if the EU has any role in Yemen. She said she had just met Hadi. And?
The EU's envoy to Yemen Bettina Muscheidt, viewed as a possible replacement for Ban's Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has moved on to Libya. At the UN on September 23, Hadi will deposit... Yemen's / his Paris Accord document. Hot air. Now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid, through Cecile Pouilly, has issued a statement which makes sure to equate Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes with Taizz and does not mention Hadi's move to starve Yemen's by moving the Central Bank:
"We note with deep concern the sharp increase in civilian casualties since the suspension of peace talks, with 180 people killed and 268 injured in August. This represents a 40 per cent increase compared to the civilian casualties the previous month, with 60 killed and 123 injured.
There has been an increased number of attacks against protected civilian objects, with at least 41 incidents affecting educational and health facilities, markets, places of worship, airports and civilian homes in August.

The most recent incident took place two days ago, on Wednesday, 21 September, when an airstrike hit a residential area in the town of Hudaydah, killing 26 civilians, including seven children, and injuring 24 others, among them two children. The death toll could be much higher, as our team continues to collect information.

We are particularly concerned at the situation in the city of Taizz, where a blockade imposed by the Houthis-affiliated Popular Committees has caused serious food, water and fuel shortages, and a near collapse of the health system.

In the light of the high civilian casualty numbers and the terrible suffering of the civilian population, we urge all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. We reiterate our call for the setting up of an international and independent investigative body.

In total, 3,980 civilians have been killed and 6,909 injured between 26 March 2015 and 22 September 2016."
 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric at noon on Septmeber 22 about Yemen. He called the question "granular" and his office later said, too little too late, "The Secretary-General condemns the multiple airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on 21 September in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, Yemen, which killed and injured dozens of people, including children and women. The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.

The Secretary-General once again reminds all parties to the conflict that they must fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precaution. He reiterates his call for urgent measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The Secretary-General also urges all parties to recommit to the terms and conditions of the 10 April cessation of hostilities. Stressing that a negotiated political settlement that addresses the legitimate concerns of all parties remains the only viable solution to the conflict, he calls for a new round of peace negotiations facilitated by his Special Envoy for Yemen."

On the Central Bank, the IMF later on September 22 issued this: 
“IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde met on September 22 with Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Yemen is going through a difficult period, and the Managing Director expressed her concern for the adverse humanitarian and economic fallout from the conflict which keeps mounting.

“The Managing Director and President Hadi exchanged views on the current situation and prospects, including preserving the operational capacity of the central bank system so as to improve the financial stability and economic and social outcomes for the Yemeni people.”
On September 19, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Staphane Dujarric two questions on Yemen: "what is the Secretary General's or his Envoy's comment on Hadi firing the head of the central bank and moving the central bank's headquarters from Sanaa to Aden?" and on "reports that Saudi Arabia / the Saudi-led Coalition threatened to shoot down a UN aircraft... Please confirm or deny that."

Two days later, while leaving other questions unanswered, Ban's office sent this answer to Inner City Press:
Date: Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:52 AM
Subject: Your question on Yemen
To: matthew.lee [at]
Cc: Stephane Dujarric [at]

The Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, is extremely concerned by the recent inability of the Central Bank to pay salaries due to lack of revenue and shortage of liquidity. Millions of Yemenis families depend on civil service salaries and the stoppage in salary payments is expected to have a severely negative impact.

The Special Envoy is advocating that any changes in the Central Bank ensure a rapid resumption of salary payments and that these are provided to all civilian civil service in all parts of the country without discrimination."
  What about the firing, and proposed moving? What about the reported threat to UN plane? And see below.
On August 18, Inner City Press exclusively published the proposal that Ban's envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed made in Kuwait. This was the proposal described as blatantly one-sided that led to a collapse of the talks, the Saudi-led Coalition increased airstrikes and the death of more civilians. 
According to local media the Saudis threatened to shoot down UN aircraft - click here. Direct sources have told Inner City Press the UN envoy wanted the Sanaa delegation to sign a waiver, and to stop over in Saudi Arabia and be searched. Would the UN go public if this were true? No, under Ban Ki-moon. His spokesman Stephane Dujarric has refused to confirm or deny or comment for two days now.
Meanwhile early on September 21 there was a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Yemen held in UN basement Conference Room 12, sponsored by the UK
  In order to stake it out, Inner City Press was required by Ban Ki-moon's eviction order to seek a minder, which are first was withheld. By the time Inner City Press was escorted, all participants were inside the closed meeting.
   Inner City Press observed Grandi of UNHCR leave the meeting at 8:30, and WFP Cousins walk right by minutes later. What is the UN doing in Yemen, after Ban Ki-moon sold it out? We'll have more on this.