Thursday, February 16, 2017

Covering UNSC From Park After Eviction by UN, Press Asked the UN to Investigate Itself

By Matthew Russell Lee, Part of SeriesVideo

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 –  How long could I keep it up, covering the UN from out on First Avenue? I'd told myself, forever. Walking back over to the 46th Street library when my laptop went dead, I heard a voice calling me as I passed Uganda House. “I see you're still reporting,” an African diplomat told me. I nodded.

  “Then I have a few stories for you,” he said. The first was that even the UN's Rwanda Tribunal was being given to a white European prosecutor, Serge Brammertz. I'd covered him on the Lebanon Tribunal, then Yugoslavia. But Rwanda? I took some notes. A second story concerned the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Herve Ladsous, throwing South Africa out of Darfur. He was the fourth Frenchman in a row to run DPKO [to be followed, a year after this eviction, by a fifth.]

  Over in the library, staring out  again at Artetsky's Patroon, I wrote and uploaded my two new scoops, one after the other. When I was done I found an email from one of my side employers, saying they'd heard what happened and it might be difficult to keep me on retainer. I hit reply and said, don't worry, I'll be getting back in. But would I?

   When the library closed, once again in the rain, I returned a call to a UN number. The guy had presided over three of the GA's six committees, and had thrown me out of two of them. But it was all in good fun - this time he was calling with advice.

  “You should come back in,” he told me. “If you stay out people will conclude that you must have done something seriously wrong. Just getting back in would be a victory.”

   “If I go back in with a reduced pass, I'm giving up my claim to my office,” I told him. “It's like I'm giving in." It was time to call a lawyer.

   But who to call? I'd worked on a case with Center for Constitution Rights, but now their website said they didn't take new cases. There was a guy who'd tweeted me online, and I settled on him.

   “I've been reading all your tweets,” he said, “it's like the stations of the cross.” The reference was ironic given his location. “I'd be happy to write you a 'without prejudice' letter, that no precedent is set by you accepting the Green P pass.”

  “We can't sue them anywhere?”

  “I'm still looking into it,” he said. He was being diplomatic. If the UN could kill 10,000 people in Haiti and not even go to court, this one was a slam dunk.

  “How about the Ethics Office?” I asked him. “Anything to slow them down.”

  “Now you're talking,” he said. “I can draft something up overnight.”
   But it would soon become apparent just how deep corruption runs at the UN.