Thursday, June 1, 2017

At UN, Mauritius Wants Vote on UK's “Dismemberment” of Chagos, ICJ Opinion

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 – In the UN most decolonization fights are in the Fourth Committee or C-24. But Mauritius is moving for a UN General Assembly vote on June 22 to seek an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the dismemberment of the Chagos Archipelago by the United Kingdom in 1965.  

  Mauritius' “Aide Memoire” obtained by Inner City Press has a more than two page section entitled “Actions taken by the UK in violation of international law.” It recounts how the agenda item was put on the agenda of the 71st session of the General Assembly “on the understanding that it would not be considered before June 2017 and that thereafter it may be considered upon notification by a Member State.” It concludes that Mauritius will be submitting a draft resolution, and “would be grateful for the support of all Member States in its endeavor.” 
  On June 1 as Inner City Press staked-out of the General Assembly meeting, even with the still-required UN Department of Public Information minder, one well-placed state's Permanent Representative told it “there probably will be a vote.” Another, while sympathetic to Mauritius (or anti-UK), said it might set a tricky precedent for other states. We'll have more on this. 

   The day before on May 31 when the UN General Assembly's incoming President Miroslav Lajcak came to take questions in from the GA Hall, Inner City Press asked him as the last question about the bribery case involving former PGA John Ashe, and whether he would commit to disclose who pays for his travel and his staff, and try to codify this in a GA resolution during his year. Video here. Lajcak to his credit stayed and took the question, ending with “There will be no secrets.” If so, that will be rare in today's UN, where basic questions about who is paying who, which staff are seconded, go unanswered. Other questions to Lajcak were about US President Donald Trump. When the UN Security Council's 15 members traveled to Washington on April 24 for lunch with US President Donald Trump, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell in one of many curtain-raisers reported that only the Permanent Members ever chair the Council (false) and that the Elected Ten cannot vote (also false). Trump in five minutes of remarks now online herechided the Council for inaction on Syria, called for action on North Korea and hoped for cost savings and, more importantly, better performance. In one step for UN reform and transparency, a resolution was adopted on April 19 to henceforth webcast to the public the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which Inner City Press has covered and critiqued for some time. Inner City Press notes that a similar, even more basic reform is needed: due process rules for journalists at the UN, where currently there are none. As to the NGO webcasting, US Ambassador Nikki Haley on April 19 said, “Today's vote will bring increased transparency and accountability to the United Nations. Now all of these meetings and votes will be open for the world to see. This major win at that will greatly assist organizations that stand up to oppressive governments around the world.” We agree: see below. But when will the needed reforms - any reforms - for content neutral accreditation of media at the UN, and due process of some sort before UN censors can throw the Press, happen? After the UN Department of Public Information gave Inner City Press two hours to leave, for having covered an event in the UN Press Briefing Room related to the Ng Lap Seng UN corruption case, there has been no appeals process. Pro-UN media only recently arrived have been given office space; Inner City Press' long time shared office is being given to an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef rarely comes in and never asks questions. For fifteen months and for now ongoing, Inner City Press is required to have UN minders to cover events on the Conference Building's second floor, unlike other media. It is lawless censorship and must be addressed.