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Colombia Offers Troops to UN, Which Makes Rights Claims, 22 Police in Haiti

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met on January 26 with Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Inner City Press had heard it concerned Colombian UN peacekeepers.

  So Inner City Press went up to the UN's 38th floor for the photo opportunity, here, which followed similar sessions between Ban and Israeli President Rivlin and Swedish Foreign Minister Wallstrom.

   For the latter two, the UN issued read-outs that same day. But not for the Colombia meeting. So at the January 28 UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked for one. Later in the afternoon, this was sent out:

“The Secretary-General met on Monday, 26 January, with H.E. Mr. Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Minister of Defense of Colombia. They discussed Colombia's support to United Nations peacekeeping operations, including to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Secretary-General commended Colombia for its commitment and welcomed future collaboration in this area.

“The Secretary-General also commended the progress made in the Colombian peace talks and reiterated the Organization's support to this process, which is critical to bring peace and stability to the people of Colombia.”

  The phrase “including to MINUSTAH,” seemed strange -- that is the only peacekeeping mission in which Colombia has personnel, not peacekeeping troops but rather 22 police.

   Inner City Press look further into it and finds that while a Memorandum of Understanding was signed -- the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Edmond Mulet and not Herve Ladsous was present at the photo op on January 26, but apparently Ladsous signed, typically off camera -- actual contribution and deployment of peacekeeping troops from Colombia will require action by that country's legislature, at earliest in March. 

  The deployment of the 22 police to MINUSTAH in Haiti apparently did not require legislative approval, although UN police in Haiti generally have weapons and have used them -- see story here for an investigation not yet public.

   Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric in more detail about this at the January 29 noon briefing. Dujarric said he had an answer but couldn't find it and would send it out later.  Three hours later, this was sent out:

"In response to questions at today’s Noon Briefing about Colombia’s potential participation in UN peacekeeping operations, the Spokesman has the following response:
"This past Monday, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations signed a pre-agreement with the government of Colombia, paving the way to the country's participation, as a potential troop contributor, in UN peacekeeping operations. This pre-agreement is the first step in a well-established process.
"The Department of Peacekeeping Operations welcomes the signing of this pre-agreement, congratulates Colombia for its willingness to join the peacekeeping partnership, and looks forward to reaching a full and formal agreement that will includes all relevant UN policies and practices; including in relation to human rights screening of Colombian soldiers and officers to be deployed in peacekeeping missions."

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