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Sex Abuse by Peacekeepers UN-Solved Amid CSW Shindigs at UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- With the UN teeming with participants in the Conference on the Status of Women, Inner City Press on Monday asked the personal representatives of the president of the Congo and of the prime minister of Morocco about UN peacekeepers charged with sexual abuse or exploitation.

  "In the DRC," the Moroccan representative said, "there were accusations proven to be false." Video here, from Minute 23:30. The Congolese representative stared at her.

  But even as to the Congo, when a UN peacekeeper is accused, the most that is done is to repatriate the soldier back to his home country. After that, it is never clear if there is prosecution or punishment. Inner City Press asked the Moroccan representative about the case of more than 100 Moroccan soldiers repatriated from the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, UNOCI -- where they ever prosecuted?

  I am not sure, was the answer, then a reference to one person being prosecuted. The representative said that in Morocco the army and gendarmes take this seriously, the police less so. But where is the showing of what was done with the repatriated peacekeepers? The UN provide obscurantist statistics, saying the Troop Contributing Countries don't want to be exposed.

  The Congolese representative said that the repatriation is the most that can be done. Inner City Press asked about charges that Joseph Kabila, whom she represented, has done too little about rapes committed by his army, particularly by the units that came in from the CNDP. Video here, from Minute 19:45. This question was not answered. On this, and other UN system sleaze in Kinshasa, we will continue to inquire this week. Watch this site.

CSW meeting in UN on March 1, accountability for UN sex abuse not shown

Footnote: the CSW as not only filled the UN cafeteria, so recently the site of an anthrax scare, but at a more elite level has given rise to a string of receptions. On Monday, the UK's Mark Lyall Grant has invited heads of CSW delegations to the UK mission, while Egypt's Maged Abdelaziz makes a similar invite to his country's Art Deco mission on 44th Street..

  On Tuesday, Chile's Heraldo Munoz invites delegates and Permanent Representatives to his residence on East 57th Street. This competes with the EU reception on 72nd Street and Madison Avenue. On Wednesday March 3, Ambassador Susan Rice invites the same crowd to the U.S. Mission. Many parties, little accountability. Again, on this, and other UN system sleaze in Kinshasa, we will continue to inquire this week. Watch this site.

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UN Official, "Elated" by Rapes, Says Corruption Watching is Up to Haiti's Preval

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24, updated -- "Three rapes? That almost elates me," the UN's second in command in Haiti Tony Banbury told the Press on Wednesday. "There are rapes in New York, in any refugee camp in the world." Video here, from Minute 34:17.

Some were surprised at this UN official's statement. While he may say that the quote -- caught on film -- is out of context, Inner City Press would counter that the quote was created by, and reflects, the context.

  Banbury's presentation, billed as a description of the situation in Haiti, was in fact a defense of the UN's performance. Banbury said the earthquake in Haiti was harder to deal with than the tsunami or Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, in which he was involved.

  Inner City Press asked Banbury how the UN, which has made appeals for over $1 billion, will ensure that rubble removal contractors are transparently selected based on merit, and that the landowning elite in Haiti doesn't gain super-profits from the move to acquire land for new housing.

  Banbury said that both of these are up to the sovereign Haitian government. He derided procurement rules as causing delay. But US-based companies like Ashbritt, under fire for post-Hurricane Katrina profiteering, have already held private meetings with President Rene Preval.

UN's Banbury on Feb. 24, 2010: elated?

  To be fair, Inner City Press reiterated the question: was Banbury saying the UN would do nothing to try to ensure that money donated to help poor Haitians wasn't grabbed by profiteers? Yes, Banbury said, we have an interest in that, and the UN will pursue it "on a political level... with the World Bank." But by leading with the UN's deference to sovereign Haitian decisions, a message is sent.

  In fact, Banbury's involvement in the UN's and World Food Program's response to Cyclone Nargis involved knowing, but keeping quiet, about currency exchange losses of up to 25% to the Than Shwe military government of Myanmar.

  What correspondents were and are looking for is facts, not UN spin. And if one is the UN's spinmeister, it might be better not to say, "Three rapes? That almost elates me." What happens next? Watch this site.

Update: two days after Banbury's comments and the article above, and one day after the UN was asked about the comments, and promised an update, the following came in:

On Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM, UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <> wrote:

At the noon press briefing on February 24, Assistant Secretary-General Banbury was asked about a report by Human Rights Watch on security and protection conditions in IDP camps in Haiti, including a report that there had been three cases of women being raped.

ASG Banbury adds the following comment: “My remarks make clear my strong commitment to human rights protection issues, and my conviction that three rapes is "far too many". I said that reports of only three rapes "almost elates me" because of deep concern--by myself and human rights protection experts--that the large numbers of people who are living in cramped and onerous conditions in displaced persons camps could lead to serious protection issues, especially with regard to sexual violence against women and children. If the total number of rape cases is indeed three, while "far too many", it would show that efforts by the UN and our partners to enhance protection measures for women and children in the camps were working to a large extent, and our worst fears were not materializing. This would be a source of encouragement. I have dedicated many years to protecting the human rights of vulnerable populations, and my career to public service. Far from belittling the crime of rape, my clear intention was to convey a sense of UN commitment and concern about human rights protection.”

  Media outlets which heard but never wrote about Banbury's comment about being "almost elated" at three rapes were quickly to publish his subsequent statement.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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