Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Developments on our Ba'athist Haven

The diplomat has now been identified as Zohair Muhammed Al-Omar (making my earlier guess wrong). He was serving as Ambassador to South Africa at the time of the US-led invasion, which makes me suspect that the earlier description of him as the Ambassador to Cuba was chaff thrown out by the government. According to the Dominion Post, his son claims that he was a career diplomat and that his service started in 1964 during the non-Ba'athist Arif regime.

The minister, Al-Khashali, is being described as a murderous thug by the President of the Auckland Refugee Council, Dr Munjid Umara. He was allegedly a leader of the Ba'athist militia during the 1963 coup and was involved in purging enemies of the regime. After the Ba'athists returned to power in 1968 (they were overthrown in 1963), Al-Khashali was made minister in the 70s as a reward for services rendered. With a record like this, he would have been ideal as a delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission.

There is also some murky business about the UN passports. Although Al-Khashali's arrived on an Iraqi passport, he had used a UN passport to support his visa application and that his wife entered on a current UN passport. So what are UN passports? They seem to be issued to UN employees and some types of stateless peoples. In light of Al-Khashali's service to the FAO and UNESCO, he would seem to qualify for one which would mean that he served with the UN within the last ten years.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that another one of Winston's allegations seems to be true. In an article in the Press (but not online at stuff), McLeod and associates refused to confirm or deny that Al-Khashali had sought legal advice from them. Richard McLeod, a principal at the firm, did state that it was "ludicrous" to suggest that a migrant or refugee would be attracted here on the basis of how Zaoui was treated. Although McLeod will have sound reasons for thinking this, it is far less clear whether a migrant would actually see things his way. Al-Khashali arrived in New Zealand a month after Zaoui was released on bail by the Supreme Court. His impression, if he had heard of the Zaoui case, is likely to be based on that event alone rather than an accurate picture of Zaoui's legal travails since arriving in this country.