By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- Saudi Arabia kicked off 2016 by announcing the execution of 47 people including Shi'a cleric Nimr al-Nimr and a formal end to the supposed Yemen ceasefire the UN and its envoy spoke about. Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the UN Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi about both issues, below, Periscope video here.
Here is a fast transcription on Yemen by InnerCityPro.com:
ICP: On Yemen, Saudi Arabia ended what it called the cessation of hostilities, and supposedly there are going to be talks on Jan 15. Do you believe the talks still remain viable, and can you explain why you suspended the cessation of hostilities, and why Sheikh Nimr al Nimr was assassinated?
A: "Let’s take one at a time. On Yemen, we hope that the talks will be productive. That pretty much depends on where we stand on the behavior of the Houthis.And there is one critical element there. It’s a very simple element. Do they or do they not accept to implement resolution 2216? And if they accept to implement it, then we can have something to talk about, and we can proceed along these lines.
As to the breakdown in the cessation of hostilities, it’s very simple. We are now sending to the Security Council a statement that accounts for violations by Houthis of the ceasefire, including attacks on Saudi cities and missile attacks that have been launched against Saudi targets inside Saudi Arabia and which have been interrupted by anti-missile defense systems of Saudi Arabia. So we did not end the cessation of hostilities. From day one the Houthis have been persistent in violating them continuously."
Saudi PR Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi told Inner City Press al Nimr is a terrorist, charged with "sedition." He said he'd heard no US criticism.
When Inner City Press quoted from the US State Department's January 2 statement that "We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions," he replied he didn't see why there would be a sectarian response, here. Really?
Earlier on January 4, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Saudi Arabia's move(s) -- and if Ban Ki-moon will be calling the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, which cut ties with Iran. Video here; transcript here:
Inner City Press: Speaking of Yemen, I wanted to know, you've provided this update on Mr. de Mistura's travels. What's happening with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and what's his or the Secretary-General's comment on Saudi Arabia announcing an end to the cessation of hostilities and the Houthi side saying they're not going to attend the talks in January? What has he been up to? And also, just on diplomatic relations, does the Secretary-General intend to call Bahrain, UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Sudan, which also have broken relations with Iran?
Spokesman: Well, I think the calls that he… the Secretary-General will obviously be in touch with various other players as he sees fit. The call… I think the importance of the calls for the two countries at the heart of the tensions we're seeing, which is both Saudi Arabia and Iran. As for Mr. Cheikh Ahmed, he is going back to the region on 6 January, which, if my calendar is correct, is the day after tomorrow, in order to secure commitments for a new cessation of hostilities and in order to advance the upcoming talks. Obviously, I think, the Secretary-General, the Special Envoy very much regret the announcement by the Saudi-led coalition on ending the ceasefire that we heard over the weekend, and he regrets the violations that we have seen of the ceasefire committed by both sides. But despite the ceasefire violations that we've seen, the UN has provided a small measure of relief to the civilian population and allowed for the delivery by the UN of some humanitarian assistance.
Saudi Arabia's Mission to the UN tweeted a photo of this statement, we've retyped with "sic" --
“The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the UN expresses its deep regret for the 'Statement Attributable to the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on executions in Saudi Arabia' stating that the 'trials of 47 people raise serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process.' In response, the Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia clarifies and assures the independence and impartiality of the judiciary authorities in the Kingdom.
“Those who were convicted of committing capital crimes and subsequently executed were subject to all judicial guaranties and have unconditionally enjoyed all judicial warrants such as the right to having fair and public trials, being represented by a lawyer or a lawyer appointed by the state for whoever could not retain a lawyer, and a fair trial through all litigation stages up to courts of appeal and cassation.
“Some of those cases took up to ten years before courts and all suspects were able to appeal all judgments according to the laws of the land. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reiterates that all convicted persons were granted fair and just trials without any consideration to their intellectual, racial, or sectarian affiliation and that the final rulings against them was [sic] reached based on their own criminal and illegal actions.”
Earlier on January 4 Iran's Mission to the UN has written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, full text here:
In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful
No: 3319 04 January 2016
Upon instructions from my Government and referring to your Note No. LA/COD/4 dated 21 January 2015, which refers to UN General Assembly Res 69A/121 of 10 December 2014, entitled: "Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives", I wish to state the following with regard to the recent incidents involving the premises of the Consulate General and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Mashad and Tehran, I.R. Iran, respectively:
1. On Saturday, 2 January 2016 a large group of people gathered in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate-General in Mashad in protest against the unjustified and provocative execution of the high-ranking spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sheikh Bagher Nimr Al-Nimr, arrested in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, following his efforts to advance democracy and freedom of speech, and beheaded by sword on 2 January 2016. Necessary measures, including the increase in the number of security forces, were taken to prevent any assault against the premises of the Consulate. Unfortunately, however, the objects hurled by a number of the protesters hit the glass windows of the premises.
2. At the same date, numerous protesters (around 8000) staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran following the announcement of the execution of Sheikh Nimr. Some of the protesters got unfortunately out of control at around 11: 00 p.m., and despite the extensive efforts made by the law enforcement authorities, some of them managed to enter the Embassy and inflict some damages on the building.
3. Upon arrival of police reinforcements, the protesters left the Embassy. More than 40 protesters were identified, arrested and handed over to the judicial authorities. An investigation is underway seeking to find other possible perpetrators.
4. While emphasizing its obligations in accordance with international law and relevant international instruments, especially The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, the Islamic Republic of Iran expresses its regret over the referred-to incidents and will spare no efforts in arresting and prosecuting all those who brought them about. The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in his message stressed the need to pursue the issue and bring the elements behind the incidents to justice and provided necessary directions to the relevant government agencies, including the Ministry of Interior. The Chief of the Judiciary also reiterated the need to pursue this case in all its aspects.
5. The Islamic Republic of Iran will take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.
I should be grateful if you would have this letter circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda item 119.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Ambassador Permanent Representative
Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to United Nations - New York
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon
On January 2, Inner City Press asked the top four UN spokespeople:
"Does Ban Ki-moon (or DPA) have any comment on Saudi Arabia's execution of 47, including Nimr al-Nimr?
Separately, does Ban Ki-moon (or his Special Envoy on Yemen) have any comment on the Saudi announcement of the end of the 'ceasefire'? This supplement the still pending Press questions on Yemen from December 28."
Hours later, the UN issued a statement from Ban of dismay - and deploring the violence against the Saudi embassy in Iran, still NOTHING on the end of the supposed ceasefire.
Here is Ban's statement:
"The Secretary-General is deeply dismayed over the recent execution by Saudi Arabia of 47 people, including the cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, as announced on 2 January by the country’s Interior Ministry. Sheik al-Nimr and a number of the other prisoners executed had been convicted following trials that raised serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process.
The Secretary-General had raised the case of Sheikh al-Nimr with the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions.
The Secretary-General reiterates his strong stance against the death penalty. He points to the growing movement in the international community for the abolition of capital punishment and urges Saudi Arabia to commute all death sentences imposed in the Kingdom.
The Secretary-General also calls for calm and restraint in reaction to the execution of Sheikh Nimr and urges all regional leaders to work to avoid the exacerbation of sectarian tensions. He deplores the violence by demonstrators against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran."
On December 28, Inner City Press asked the UN, "On Yemen, what is Ban Ki-moon's or Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's response to Saleh saying GPC will only negotiate directly with Saudi Arabia, and seeming rejection of the UN-faciliated talks?" UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarricreplied, "if we have an update to share with you, we will" -- and since then, nothing.
The US State Department issued a statement, below; this was before the development of protests at the Saudi embassy in Tehran -- which Inner City Press predicts will trigger a UN Security Council Press Statement, on the duty to protect diplomatic premises. But what about the Yemen "ceasefire"?
Here's what the US put out, here:
"We have seen the Saudi government's announcement that it executed 47 people.
We have previously expressed our concerns about the legal process in Saudi Arabia and have frequently raised these concerns at high levels of the Saudi Government. We reaffirm our calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases.
The United States also urges the Government of Saudi Arabia to permit peaceful expression of dissent and to work together with all community leaders to defuse tensions in the wake of these executions.?
We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.
In this context, we reiterate the need for leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions."
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has yet to speak on the executions nor the end of the Yemen ceasefire, issued canned statements including on another dubious mediation, in Burundi, while promoting himself for a Nobel Prize (which would be dubious) for COP 21. In his year-end press conference he refused Press questions on the various UN scandals of 2015: indictment of ex-PGA John Ashe, envoy Bernardina Leon taking the money and running to the UAE, covered up peacekeeper rapes in the Central African Republic.
And Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed? Nothing since his self-praise on December 26. One wag wonder, was he in The Address hotel in Dubai which burned on New Years Eve? Where IS the UN's envoy during all this?
Inner City Press on December 28 asked the UN's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "On Yemen, what is Ban Ki-moon's or Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's response to Saleh saying GPC will only negotiate directly with Saudi Arabia, and seeming rejection of the UN-faciliated talks?"
Dujarric replied at 2 pm on December 28 to another question, partial (on Burundi) then added: "On the other issues, if we have an update to share with you, we will."
So on Yemen, as usual, there is no UN response.
In the talks in Switzerland, despite the happy-talk Note to Correspondents issued on December 20, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was repeatedly accused of merely operating “for the Saudis,” while the Saudi-led coalition took more military action.
Inner City Press intended to put the question directly to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, after UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq at the December 22 noon briefing said he would be speaking at the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Security Council.
But after the Council meeting, in which High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al Hussein said that of harm to schools and hospitals, "a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces" -- Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed did not as promised appear at the stakeout.
Last time he was at UN Headquarters, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed took only three questions at the stakeout, then went upstairs to the clubhouse of UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association after selling seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6000 and did an interview with the same pro-Saudi / GCC media.
So where did Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed go this time? Watch this site.
Inner City Press on December 20 reported that the UN-facilitated talks have been such a failure that there is already a clamor to replace Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that among the names being mulled is Germany's Bettina Muscheidt, the European Union's Ambassador to Yemen.
UN insiders point to Germany having lost a UN post when Kim Won-soo replaced Angela Kane as Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs. Achim Steiner was passed over for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees post, in favor of Italy's Grandi. Germany already "got" Libya with Martin Kobler - why not Yemen too? And what, they ask, has Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed accomplished, with all his business trips to Dubai? Why will or would January 14 be any different?
On December 21, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, transcript here.