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At UN, FIDH Funded by France Declines to Answer on W. Sahara, Haidar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- When the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) held a press conference at the UN on Monday, they said it was sponsored by the French Mission to the UN.

  Inner City Press asked the five person FIDH panel, then, about France's opposition to including any human rights mandate in the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, and about the mistreatment of prominent human rights defender Aminatou Haidar. Video here, from Minute 42:54.

  The five person panel had nothing to say on this. Only panelist Gerald Staberock even reacted to the question, and then only to say, "on the question of Western Sahara, on the question on Security Council membership, we would like member states to take a look at our report."

  But notably Ms. Haidar, and for example Sidi Ahmed Lamjeid who is imprisoned in Sale and not allowed to be visited, do not appear to be mentioned in the report.

  Mr. Staberock went on to tell Inner City Press that while you mention "Morocco as an example, I think in the last election cycle" there is also Kyrgyzstan. Video here, from Minute 46:11. But Kyrgystan lost, to Pakistan, while Morocco won and will now be on the Security Council.

  Most notably, there was no response at all on the question about France using its Permanent veto wielding seat on the Council to block any human rights mandate for MINURSO, the peacekeeping mission.

  Now Herve Ladsous is the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the top post in UN Peacekeeping. He was given the post despite most recently serving as chief of staff to French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie when she flew on the private plane of cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. The panelists spoke about Tunisia, but not the French connection.

  From the audience, the second question went to Agence France Presse, which gets 41% of its income from subscriptions from the French foreign ministry, as is being investigated by the EU. The question was in context an open-ended softball for any other "blatant examples" the panels, who had already spoken for 40 minutes, wanted to give. The answer to that was, again not surprisingly, about Algeria.

Panel at UN on Oct 24, response on W. Sahara & Haidar not shown (c) MRLee

  There were mentions of human rights defenders in Belarus and Democratic Republic of Congo; there is certainly work being done. But the failure to even attempt to answer the question about France and its opposition to a human rights monitoring mandate in Western Sahara was a "blatant example," particularly given the FIDH lists France as a supporter, with a link that leads to the French foreign ministry's website where no financing disclosure is made. We hope to have more on this.

Footnotes: On the critique of human rights defender Tawakkul Karman of the Security Council's passage October 21 of a resolution "on the basis of" the Gulf Cooperation Council's immunity deal with Yemen strongman Ali Saleh, the same Agence France Presse correspondent's report did not even mention France.

  Meanwhile FIDH issued invitations for a reception Monday night at the "Bubble Lounge" in New York City's TriBeCa - Inner City Press RSVP-ed but did not attend: you have to answer questions first. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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