Friday, June 23, 2006

UN World Urban Forum not so united

On June 22, 2006 three youth delegates were dragged out of the World Urban Forum by security officers. An independent film crew was threatened with having their cameras confiscated if they didn't stop filming the fracas.

A weeping Nathalie Lozano, 19, told CBC News the incident began when she and two other women lined up at a security checkpoint in the building, on their way to the washroom. Lozano says officials searched their bags and confiscated T-shirts bearing the slogan 'Don't be a war toy.' We had them in our bags, we didn't have them on. When they saw us in the backpacks with them, they took it from us and they say we couldn't get them."

UN spokesman Shankardass says the T-shirts are considered "objectionable material" by the UN because they directly attack a UN member state. However, he didn't clarify which one."

At the above link there was another one to a sound file when I posted this where Nathalie Lozano tells her own story and Rick Cluff interviews Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association who says free speech is compromised when a T-shirt is considered a security threat. (Added on July 23rd: Unfortunately the CBC has adopted a policy of not having a unique resource locator anymore, or url. Even the links that show up in a search on the CBC site lead to a dead end. Are they worried that people might actually keep track of what they are saying on the airwaves? It's annoying and almost unique on the web among news outlets. Incomprehensible is all I can say and there is not much point in linking to anything on the CBC any more since the links go dead shortly after the material is posted.)

Apparently Shankardass has never read the UN Charter, which states that the organisation's highest purpose is "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." This was reaffirmed at the Un World Summit in 2005 and a year earlier at the Un's High Level Panel of December 2004

Assuming that the T-Shirts' slogan refer to the war on Iraq this ass is apperently also unaware what the Secretary General, Kofi Annan said on September 16th 2004:

"Yes, I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."

I think this incident is outrageous.

I also think this totally "objectionable" behaviour by Shankardass should be severely disciplined by the UN, which is responsible for security at the World Urban Forum. (Not that I think this will happen)