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In Darfur Another Peacekeeper Killed, Sudan FM in NY, Ladsous Met Bashir

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- During the UN General Assembly frenzy week in New York, in Darfur another UN Peacekeepers was killed and four wounded. Meanwhile Sudan says, or brags, its Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour will meet with the State Department on UNGA's margins. Here' the UN statement:

"The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on 27 September against peacekeepers of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operations in Darfur (UNAMID) in which one South African peacekeeper died and four others were wounded after an exchange of fire. The attack took place near Mellit, North Darfur, while the peacekeepers were escorting a UNAMID logistics convoy.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the South African Government and people, and to the family of the deceased peacekeeper. He wishes the wounded a speedy recovery.

The Secretary-General appeals to the Sudanese authorities to investigate the incident and to bring the perpetrators to justice, as soon as possible. He calls on the parties to the conflict in Darfur to respect the integrity of the peacekeeping force. He reminds them that they may be held accountable for any attacks on or threats against UNAMID. "

  The UN's Herve Ladsous met with Omar al Bashir; more recently on September 11, 2015, Ladsous linked Peackeepers' rapes with "R&R." Will this come up later this week?

That human rights abuses continue in Darfur with cover-ups by the Peacekeeping mission UNAMID should be shouted from the rooftops. Instead, Human Rights Watch on September 9 the issue behind closed doors with the UN's Censorship Alliance.

   That was at 11 am. But at the UN noon briefing, no one from UNCA asked any questions about Darfur, or Sudan, to the UN. Inner City Press asked this:

Inner City Press: the press inside Sudan is carrying a lot of the coverage of President [Omar al] Bashir saying that he's going to end, you know, by force if necessary or by force certainly all rebellions within Sudan in 2016.  This is viewed as a kind of a… an end of the discussion process and the beginning of a purely military process.  Is… is the… the joint Special Representative aware of it?  Is there any response by the UN to this statement by the President?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we would take seriously any threats to continue or to exacerbate the conflicts on the ground in Sudan.  You… you've seen the efforts we've made on the ground diplomatically and through our peacekeeping and humanitarian offices to deal with the situation, and we do not want to see any further deterioration of a conflict which, as you know, has been running for many, many years already.  [Video here.]

  What was the point of doing this briefing about Darfur, where the UNAMID mission is covering up, not in the UN briefing room - where on September 10 another NGO holds a briefing, sponsored by Canada -- but in the Censors' Club?

  Neither organization has offered any criticism of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, as he sought to cover up rapes in the Central African Republic (and Darfur and DRC before), and openly refuses to answer Press questions about it.

 As to Darfur, Ladsous met with Sudan's ICC-indicted Omar al Bashir, something HRW was notably silent about as on the cover up of the French troops' rapes in Central African Republic by Ladsous - as reflected in UN Dispute Tribunal rulings.

  Wouldn't one want to ask the UN about its (in)action on Darfur? Otherwise, why do the press "in" the UN?

  To hold a press conference in the UN's actual Press Briefing Room requires only the sponsorship of a single member state; then the event is on UN Webcast and journalists who decline to support the UN's Censorship Alliance participation. But this is HRW's choice, just as they refused to provide even a summary of the issues they raised when granted a meeting with Ban Ki-moon -- contrary to the approach of other human rights groups.

  In terms of holding accessible press conferences in the UN, not going behind closed doors and off UN Webcast with the UN Censorship Alliance, consider in the same week, on September 10 at 10:30, a press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room on the plight of children in the Central African Republic; we'll cover it.

  The past and present head of UNCA, back after a long vacation, has yet to ask any questions of the UN. Previously, he sought to censor coverage of his renting one of his apartment to Sri Lanka's then Ambassador Palitha Kohona. (Running a letter he could write about when he rented the apartment, and its relations or not to UNCA's screening of the Sri Lankan government's war crimes denial film Lies Agreed To, was not enough: he demanded all coverage be removed from the Internet: censorship.) These are HRW's partners? We'll have more on this. This event, in any case, conflicts with a Security Council meeting about Syria. So it goes.

Background:  In February 2015 with UN Peacekeeping underLadsous still providing few to no updates on its UNAMID mission's November 9 covering up of rapes in Darfur, just as Ladsous stonewalled about mass rapes in Minova in the DR Congo, here, some soft on the UN try to raise the issue without blaming those responsible for the cover-up.

  The report put out by Human Rights Watch had 48 pages, but does not mention UN Peacekeeping boss Ladsous once, nor his similar cover up of rapes in Minova in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, video here. What kind of report is this?

 Tellingly, in trying to "launch" this soft-on-Ladsous report inside the UN, Human Rights Watch instead of holding a regular press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room as other NGOs do has chosen to partner with the UN Censorship Alliance, a group whose board has tried to get investigative Press thrown out of the UN, including for its reporting on Ladsous.

 On February 11, added to the UN's "Media Alert" is a meeting between Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and this Sudanese government official: "Ibrahim Ghandour, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chairman of the National Congress, Republic of Sudan."

  So will Ban be demanded access -- second access, after Ladsous' initial cover up -- to Tabit?

  While some claim that Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping is trying to get back to Tabit, on Feburary 10 a Sudanese diplomat told Inner City Press he had met with Ladsous on February 9 and "it was nice." How's that, for Ladsous' supposed commitment to get to the bottom of rapes and rights abuses?

 Instead, in order to NOT move against the FDLR militia, Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping is now claiming to care too much for human rights to support the Congolese Army's supposed offensive against the FDLR -- which, the UN belatedly acknowledged to Inner City Press, has not even begun.

  But on the Tabit rapes, that the Sudanese diplomat without irony described his February 9 meeting with Ladsous has "nice" is telling.

  It is easy and appropriate, of course, to blame Sudan, as it was and is to blame the Congolese Army and government for the rapes in Minova. But there is a pattern, and until UN Peacekeeping's senior leadership's cover up of these incidents - and even silence on dead peacekeepers for more than a week -- nothing will improve.

  So why is Human Rights Watch, which alongside its detailed work goes out of its way not to criticize the UN and especially Ladsous, for example on Central African Republic, as Inner City Press reported here, partnering to hold a privatized event on Tabit, not in the UN Press Briefing Room but among friends, as they say?

 Why have HRW and its hosts said nothing about posts in UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous being sold for money, exclusively exposed by Inner City Press on February 7, asked about February 9, and partially answered by the UN on February 10, here?

  Any country can sponsor such a briefing in the UN Press Briefing Room. But HRW hides behind and in the clubhouse of the UN Censorship Alliance, Board members of which in the past have ordered changes to articles about Ladsous - and about Sri Lanka, more here. Human rights? Hardly.  Look how Human Rights Watch's selectively distributed invitation whitewashes UN Peacekeeping's and Ladsous' role:

"Between October 30 and November 1, 2014, Sudanese government forces entered Tabit, North Darfur, and carried out massive abuses against the town’s residents, including a mass rape of women and girls. Sudan responded by denying the abuses and has refused to allow international peacekeepers and other independent monitors to investigate the crimes."

  This is misleading - Ladsous' UNAMID was in Tabit on November 9, and put out a press release whitewashing the rapes and saying the people there like the government's security forces. This was shameful.

 More publicly, Inner City Press on January 26 asked Security Council ambassadors Mark Lyall Grant of the UK and Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania, "what happened with UNAMID going back for real investigation of rapes in Tabit?"

  Lyall Grant replied, "We continue to press DPKO to encourage UNAMID to revert on the Tabit allegations."

   Murmokaite added, "have been raising the issue at consultations, will continue."

 And so Inner City Press at the January 26 UN noon briefing asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: two of the Security Council ambassadors this morning said they continued to ask DPKO to ensure that the Tabit site of alleged mass rapes is revisited. I want to know has any action been taken on that? Has there been any move by UNAMID?

Spokesman Dujarric: The request to visit Tabit stands. There's nothing to report.

 Nothing to report? Back on January 8 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, video here:

Inner City Press: what has the UN system done in order to get access again to Thabit in Darfur, where there were allegedly 200 rapes, and then the Government didn’t allow any inspectors. What have you done since we last spoke on it?

SG Ban: As for the first part of the question, as you know, we tried to have a thorough investigation. This report might not have been sufficient because of the lack of full cooperation of the authorities on the ground. That has really hampered our authorities to go into the field and get a thorough investigation. It is important that we have to have a thorough investigation and as a matter of principle, there should be a clear accountability process and justice. I am firm about this matter. And we will, in the course of time, have better information on this matter.

  While appreciated, it is widely recognized that the more time goes by, the more difficult a credible rape investigation becomes. So why did UNAMID issue a cover-up November 9 press release?

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