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October 22, 2005

Redhanded: Computer Snafu Reveals UN Whitewashing Harari Assassination Report

The Times of London has a huge story today:

The United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes. …

The final, edited version quoted a witness as saying that the plot to kill Mr Hariri was hatched by unnamed “senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. But the undoctored version named those officials as “Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed”.

The deleted names represent the inner core of the Syrian regime. ...

Mr Annan had pledged repeatedly through his chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, that he would not change a word of the report by Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor. But computer tracking showed that the final edit began at about 11.38am on Thursday — a minute after Herr Mehlis began a meeting with Mr Annan to present his report. The names of Maher al-Assad, General Shawkat and the others were apparently removed at 11.55am, after the meeting ended.

At a press conference yesterday Herr Mehlis insisted that Mr Annan had not pressurised him into making changes. “No one outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the Secretary-General,” he said.

There's a lot about this story that isn't known. How independent was this reporting team? If no one inside the UN not on the team influenced the changes, why were they made only after the report was handed in? And why so quickly afterward?

Even if the reporting team wanted to make those changes all along, leaving out the names of the assassins as perhaps too politically explosive, what does that say about the UN's ability to serve as an independent "chips fall where they may" investigator (stop laughing). Why would anyone trust them again? Why did anyone trust them in the first place?

Wouldn't everyone be screaming their heads off if any other investigative agency on a homicide refused, for polical reasons, to name the actual killer? Doesn't it make you quesition the institution itself?

Okay, maybe they had good reasons. Maybe the proof just wasn't there. But the last moment editing really makes this whole thing stink.

Update: Kofi Responsible for Changes?

The Jerusalem Post has more:

The last-minute alterations made to the Detlev Mehlis report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri may have been made under pressure by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Israel Radio reported Friday afternoon.

A diplomatic source reported that Annan had an interest in removing the name of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother and brother-in-law, along with other important Syrian officials, from the list of suspects in the Hariri killing. ...

Annan, according to speculations, was concerned that the harsh report could cause political instability in Syria, perhaps even leading to an overthrow of the Assad regime, and thus preferred a watered-down version of the report.

Speculation will now begin as to whether other countries (read: the US) signed off on the whitewash, as a concession to get other countries to go along with added pressure on Syria. Not such a bad move if so.

Still, the thing now looks to have blown up in whoever's behind its' face. And all because someone lacked the mad tech-skillz.

The world, ever more obviously, belongs to the guys from tech support.

Another Update For Ya:

Apparantly when this thing blew up, the prosecutor tried to sell the thing thusly:

German Detlev Mehlis insisted at a hastily-arranged news conference that the names had been removed only to maintain their "presumption of innocence", once he learned that his confidential report was to be made public.

So, what, the investigator/preparer of the report suddenly learns at the very last moment the report ain't gonna be kept secret?

And what about all the other names mentioned? Why is it that only the high up Syrian regime types get the presumption?

The Word Unheard scoffs:

This is bogus. If that were the case, the public report would have no names at all. Instead, there are the names of tens of key figures garnered through interviews, testimony and investigation.

What then of Mr. Saddik, Abdel-Kareem Abbas, General Ghazali, General Al-Hajj, Colonel Ghassan Tufayli, Jamil Al-Sayyed, General Mustapha Hamdan, General Raymond Azar, Nasser Kandil, Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Al, Walid Abdel-Al, Mahmoud Abdel-Al, Raed Fakhreddin, Yehya Al-Arab, Khaled Midhat Taha, Ziad Ramadan, Jamea Jamea, Abel Rahim Yussef Murad, Tarek Isamt Fakhreddin, Brigadier General Faysal Rasheed, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa, General Naji Mulaeb, or General Aouar?

Presumption of guilt?

There is a foul odor yet again emanating from Turtle Bay.

Stinkiness at the UN, indeed.

digg this
posted by Dr. Reo Symes at 11:52 AM

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