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At UN, Mixed Messages on Haiti Cholera, No Comment on Crackdown in Jeju

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- While the UN continues to say it is "studying" the claim filed with its last month for compensation for having introduced cholera into Haiti, the messaging from Nigel Fisher of the MINUSTAH mission in Port au Prince and from New York seems different.

On December 16 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq about

Inner City Press: a quote from Nigel Fisher, that “I don’t think the UN has ever denied the possibility”, and then it goes into brackets, “that they could have been at fault”. And some have said that the UN did deny exactly that. And I wanted to know, again, one, the update on how they are responding to this claim for compensation for the cholera, but two is, again Mr. Fisher has been there a long time, but is that accurate? Is the UN not denying that they may have been responsible?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, on the claim: yes, the claim has been received and is currently being studied. And at this stage, I wouldn’t have any further comment on that. Regarding the second thing about responsibility for cholera, as you know, we take that matter very seriously. In January 2011 appointed a panel of independent scientific experts to study all available evidence in order to determine the cause of the cholera outbreak and epidemic. The panel determined that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti. So, in other words what Mr. Fisher says does not necessarily contradict that. It is just that there was no conclusive way of determining how the cholera was introduced, according to the panel.

  This exchange after the UN, a day after Inner City Press asked, provided an interim answer on another report of abuse, in Fort Dimanche in Port au Prince:

Haq: I was asked yesterday about allegations against peacekeepers in Fort Dimanche, Haiti. The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, informs us that it was made aware of these allegations through the press, following a press conference by the Réseau National de Défense des droits humains. The Mission is doing everything it can to establish the facts as soon as possible. It reiterates its zero-tolerance policy regarding misconduct by its personnel and it will examine all allegations with the utmost seriousness.

We'll see.

(c) UN Photo
Ban in flack jacket, response on cholera & Jeju not shown

 By contrast, the UN and Ban Ki-moon have repeatedly refused to comment in any way on authorities in Ban's native South Korea arresting and detaining peaceful protesters against a planned military base on Jeju Island there. Also on the December 16, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: there is an ongoing struggle or stand-off in Jeju Island in South Korea, where various people have been arrested, including an elected mayor, and they seem to feel that there is some UN hook, and the arrests were made at a joint Republic of Korea-UN joint conference on disarmament. There are three UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] sites, and so I just wanted to know, I heard the Secretary-General had an extended answer about Korea during his press conference, including saying as a Korean citizen he is concerned. Can he be asked again if he has any view of whether this island that I know he has spoken about should be turned into a military base and the treatment of those protesting the militarization of the island?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: At this stage we have no comment about the situation in Jeju Island. If that changes, I’ll let you know. But for now we have nothing on that. With that, have a good weekend, everyone.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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