Tuesday, August 01, 2006

help needed in investigation

I am writing a piece for this week’s Economist about an outfit called the ICDISS (International Council for Democratic Institutions and State Sovereignty). It has published, together with an organisation called the Euro-Atlantic Joint Forum Contact Group, an “academic” treatise about Transdniestria’s claim to independence.


This document cites a bunch of well-known international lawyers as sources. Those I have contacted say they have had nothing to do with it. The document has been gleefully quoted by various Russian and Transdniestrian officials as “proof” that top western lawyers are backing their claim.

The ICDISS has no published or traceable phone number or address. The website is registered in Mexico city, but the address turns out to be a hotel. The phone number doesn’t work. It shares a server in Latvia with several pro-Transdniestrian sites (and many hundreds of quite innocent ones). It claims to have had a conference in April at the Beacon hotel in Washington—which can find no trace of such a booking.

The ICDISS declines to say who funds it, where it is based, who works for it, when it was founded, or what else it does. There are three people associated with it. Megan R Stephenson (program director). William (Bill) Wood, supposedly a lawyer and former UN staffer, and Joseph Connolly, plus Mary Rose Edwards. Someone claiming to be Ms Stephenson replies, politely but very evasively, to my emails. Lexis-Nexus and Google searches turn up no trace of the ICDISS in any other context, except, rather mysteriously, on one page of a dormant anti-Chavez website, and in a blog entry by someone called Gladys Haines.

There may be a completely innocent explanation for all this, and the last thing I want to do is attack an innocent but publicity-shy outfit for being a Kremlin front, when in fact it is nothing of the kind.

So I would be grateful for any help that readers of this blog can offer. Has anyone heard of the ICDISS in any other context? Or of Ms Stephenson (this link here is her only published comment, and shows her picture)

or Mr Wood (who is supposedly in Guatemala and uncontactable) ?

My deadline is tomorrow evening so I need to know as soon as possible.

Please do not cross-post this or write about it until in other media until Thursday evening when the story comes out.

Many thanks, and good hunting!

1 comment:

Patti McCracken said...

It might be too late this time 'round, but the Independent Journalism Centre in Chisinau is a good resource. www.ijc.md. The director is Corina Cepoi.