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Bachelet on Congo Probes as CSW Teeters on Tradition, Censors Rewarded?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- When Michele Bachelet gave a UN press conference on Monday, Inner City Press thanked her, on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, and asked a long-pending question. What of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous' seeming grace period for rapists within the Congolese Army he partners with?

  While Ladsous on February 6 said the UN knows the identity of the majority of the perpetrators of 126 rapes at Minova from November 20-22, so far the UN has not stopped working with anyone. They say they are waiting, still waiting, for the Congolese investigation to be finished.

  Bachelet said that sometimes the UN offers technical assistants for investigations, for example from the American Bar Association. But have they heard? And why would the Congolese authorities report on the guilt of battalions now fighting the M23 (and ACPLS and Mai Mai) rebels?

  It was the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women that brought Bachelet for the press conference. She was asked about the possibility that this year's CSW, like last year's, might end with no outcome document given the insistence of some countries on exemptions for “tradition and culture.”

  She said sometimes mutually agreeable language can be found, that action is most important. She said that of those women not covered by laws against violence, 70% “live in OIC countries” (referring to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation).

  Bachelet was asked by CNN Chile about her political ambitions back home. She declined to answer, saying her focus is on CSW. She has, or had, the cache and credibility to force reform at the UN. Here's hoping.

  Footnote: Before and after Bachelet's press conference, Inner City Press attended CSW events in the UN's North Lawn building. A 1:15 pm event was moderated -- and therefore promoted on Twitter -- by Voice of America's Margaret Besheer, who in 2012 led efforts to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Still moderating, still joshed at by the UN official in charge of Accreditation: this is the UN's position on censorship and accountability. At a 3 pm “High Level Panel,” the first speaker was Canada, bragging how seriously Canadian men and boys take the issue of violence against women. Next came Egypt; see here, above and what this site.

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