Friday, March 13, 2009

In North Korea, UN Declines To Evacuate Its Staff, "Human Shields," Some Say

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

WASHINGTON, March 13 -- As tensions and dangers rise in North Korea, some international UN system staff have asked for the UN threat level to be raised and to leave the country. Their request, sources tell Inner City Press, has been delayed and denied by the UN in New York, for reasons they think are political. Just as the UN did not raise its threat level inAlgiers as tensions led toward the deadly December 2007 bombing of UN premises there, now the UN in an effort to placate Kim Jong-il and retain access to the country is refusing to "embarrass" his military government by evacuating international staff. These staff are, the sources say, being used as human shields.

  For weeks Inner City Press has asked the spokespeople for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his views on North Korea's threat to test a missile or satellite and to shoot down South Korean airplanes. Twice, the spokespeople said Ban has no comment, and that the "UN Command" with which the North Koreans met is not, in fact, under any UN control.

  Finally on March 12, Ban Ki-moon said that the planned launch, which North Korea has told the UN-affiliated International Civil Aviation Agency and International Maritime Organization is slated for between April 4 and 8, "will threaten the peace and stability in the region."

  If it is such a threat, why has the UN not raised its threat level? Given the weeks of no-comments and no assistance from Ban's Spokesperson's office, Inner City Press is putting the question to the UN's Security Officer for North Korea, and to the country desk officer within the UN Department of Safety and Security and UN Development Program. Watch this site.

UN's Ban in South Korea, with astronaut, N. Korea threat level not shown

   UNDP left North Korea after being exposed as providing funding without any oversight to the Kim Jong-il military government. Now UNDP is back in the country, keeping its mouth shut and downplaying the risks. Ban Ki-moon is in the midst, along with his Senior Advisor, of choosing a new (or old) Administrator for UNDP, and ultimately in having responsibility for the credibility of the UN Security Phase in North Korea.  

   Two reports commissioned after the deaths of UN staff in Algiers in December 2007 concluded that the UN erred in not having raised the security phase and precautions. Accountability was promised, but none has been in evidence. The one official who announced his resignation after the bombing, DSS chief David Veness, is still in his post months later. Others named in the Accountability Report -- the UN tried to withhold their identities but due to whistleblowers they were leaked -- remain in their jobs, even in line for promotions.  And now another politicization of UN Security is taking place in North Korea, sources say. Watch this site.

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