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As DRC Targets Panzi Hospital, Silence From UN As On Minova Rapes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 1, more here -- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Army committed mass rape in Minova and UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous helped cover it up, now a celebrated rape treatment center is being targeted by the Joseph Kabila government.

  And days into the attack, the UN which runs the large MONUSCO mission under Ladsous is quiet.

  According to the Panzi Foundation, "On December 30, 2014, the Panzi Hospital staff in DRC received word from the Congolese government, through the Directorate General of Taxes, that the Hospital allegedly owed upwards of €500,000 in penalties. Authorities seized €38,000... To address this crisis, the Panzi Foundation USA is raising funds and facilitating direct transfers to fund emergency operations at Panzi Hospital.  A major social media campaign grew from a protest in Bukavu at the offices of the DGI. Supporters are encouraged to take a photo of themselves with the hashtag #IStandWithPanzi or #StandWithPanzi, and post it on social media."

  So where is the UN? From cover ups of the rapes in Minova, Ladsous has continued on to do the same in Sudan. In Darfur, now the gambit it to try to blame this on an underling, to try to save Ladsous.

  But even beyond the December 12 shooting at unarmed demonstrators by Ladsous' "peacekeepers" in Haiti, on which he spoke in the past for the ouster of Aristide, there are cover ups in the DRC Congo on his watch, and by him.

  On the mass rapes in Minova, Ladsous refused for months to answer Press questions, video here.

  Now a report by none other than Human Rights Watch, loath to criticize Ladsous, says in connection with attacks in Beni in the DRC, "UN officials said that the army has resisted its attempts at coordination to protect civilians and has blocked UN troops from carrying out patrols in certain areas."

 Inner City Press on December 16 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric who these "UN officials" are - and why Ladsous, as he stands accused in Darfur, did not go public with the blockages in real time.

  Dujarric said, among other things, that the Sudan and DRC cases are quite different. Perhaps. But the common denominator is Ladsous. Continuing under-performance in DRC cannot be blamed, as is tried in Darfur, on a lower level staff.

  In Darfur, ten days after after the UN issued a statement on its internal investigation into charges it covered-up attacks, its UNAMID mission there under Herve Ladsous on November 9 issued a statement that "village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area" and that no evidence of rape was found.

  While that UNAMID statement remains online and of record, UN Peacekeeping sent Meg Cary to Darfur. On December 9, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric why:

Inner City Press: there is a new AU [African Union]-UN Mission on the ground led by Margaret Carey of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] — that it is in Nyala.  And they described its mission as looking into alleged covering up of reports of crimes against civilians in Darfur.  I thought that report had already been done and partially released to the Security Council.  What is the mandate of this Mission?

Spokesman Dujarric:  My understanding is that this is part of the strategic review that will be delivered to the Security Council.

Inner City Press:  Will she be going to Thabit?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I do not know.  But obviously, we have not received any clearance to go to Thabit, as far as I'm aware, as of this morning

  Multiple sources told Inner City Press that the goal was to blame, for the problems in UNAMID, staffer Karen Tchalian, not even the head of UNAMID, much less of UN Peacekeeping.

 Whatever the sins of Tchalian, the problems of UN Peacekeeping are more extensive and are ultimately the fault of its chief, Herve Ladous: the failure to protect civilians in the DR Congo, the outright shooting at demonstrators on December 12 in Haiti. What are those who spun / used their pass-through wire going to do about Ladsous' peacekeepers shooting protesters for democracy in Haiti?

 On December 4, Inner City Press asked Ladsous, Why did UNAMID not say on November 9 that it was surrounded by soldiers? Video here, and embedded below.

  As is his habit, Ladsous did not answer on December 4, even with his UN Peacekeeping under fire for cover ups. It is a pattern with Ladsous. He refused Press questions for months about rapes in Eastern Congo in Minova by DRC Army units his UN Peacekeeping supports: video compilation here; Vine here.

  On the morning of December 4 Ladsous claimed to the Security Council that UNAMID's findings were "inconclusive" due to army presence. But his UNAMID's press release whitewashed the situation in Tabit and did not mention the army presence. The covering-up continues, with no credibility, as Ladsous did on the Minova raped by DR Congo Army units his UN Peacekeeping supports.

 On November 25, a wide range of groups in Darfur petitioned the UN Security Council about UNAMID's malfeasance. Inner City Press that morning obtained the letter (h/t) and put it online in full here, and below.

 While UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked at noon, said he had not seen the letter, by 6 pm when Inner City Press asked November's Security Council president about the letter, he confirmed receipt.

  Quinlan said he had circulated the letter to the other 14 Council members -- as of 3 pm, one of them had not yet received it -- and that he expects the issues to be considered when the Security Council takes up UNAMID "next week, under Chad's presidency."

 (On November 26, the UK Mission to the UN"s Arran Skinner told Inner City Press, "I can confirm that we received the letter indirectly. In terms of contents, on alleged rape cases, the Security Council issued a press statement calling for a full investigation. The UK initiated the call for a press statement and so agree that this issue needs to be looked at." Another Security Council mission has yet to confirm receipt or comment, but it's expected.)

  On Ban Ki-moon's report into UNAMID under-reporting attacks on civilians and even peacekeepers, Inner City Press asked and Quinlan repeated it should be taken up soon, the question is finding the right, credible (or disinterested) briefer. Watch this site for that.

 Inner City Press on November 21 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain UNAMID's November 9 press release in the context of the internal memorandum, put online here, that UNAMID knew Sudanese security was filming the interviews, had even put together a "committee" of Thabit residents to speak to UNAMID. Video here.

  Dujarric said he wouldn't start now to comment on leaks. There are other leaks implicating UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous. Is not commenting, like Ladsous has refused to answer Press questions, the right approach for the UN?

 Inner City Press on November 19 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what the UN would do in the wake of its (cover up) November 9 press release, and about bombing in North Darfur three days earlier.

 On November 20, UN Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci was in charge of the UN noon briefing, and read out a statement that UNAMID is trying to verify the reports of bombing on November 16.  One has to wonder, are they mishandling this like the rape reports in Thabit?

  So Inner City Press asked, what is actually being done to get into Thabit, after the cover-up press release? Inner City Press asked about UNAMID's acting head Abiodun Bashua's reference to "rumors" of rape in Thabit - is that the UN's position? And why hasn't UNAMID accessed the site(s) of the November 16 bombings, four full days later?

 On November 21, Dujarric returned with an answer, that UNAMID had in this case done out and had found "craters." But apparently UNAMID drew no conclusions from that.

  Inner City Press at the November 17 UN noon briefing asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Sudanese forces having filmed UNAMID's interviews and to confirm the new blockage.

 Haq did not comment on UNAMID letting its interviews about rape be filmed by Sudanese authorities; he confirmed the blockage and said to expect a comment from Ban.

  And two hours later it came:

"The Secretary-General is deeply troubled about persistent allegations of mass rape in Thabit, North Darfur. The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) visited Thabit on 9 November. However, the heavy presence of military and police in Thabit made a conclusive investigation difficult.  UNAMID has since then attempted to gain further access to shed light on what happened.

"The Secretary-General is concerned that after intense consultations with the Government in Khartoum and with local authorities in Darfur, UNAMID was yesterday denied access to Thabit. Only a full investigation by UNAMID will help shed light over these serious allegations. The Secretary-General therefore urges the Government of Sudan to grant UNAMID unfettered access, without further delay, to Thabit and its population so that these reports can be verified."

   Ban does not mention that his and Herve Ladsous' mission had this to say, on November 9: "Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area. None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Thabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question.”

  Who is going to take action, on whom, about that? Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access are asking.

  On November 13, Inner City Press again asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq what had been done in the last 48 hours. Video here.

 Haq was unable to describe any investigation done without Sudanese military presence; instead, he said that the Force Commander of UNAMID, already charged with cover-ups, spoke with Herve Ladsous, who refused to answer Press questions about 130 rapes by the DR Army in Minova. Video here.

  How to have confidence in this investigation?

 On November 11, Inner City Press again asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about it:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask again about the allegations of rape in North Darfur.  Radio Dabanga there has not only questioned, you know, the UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] press statement but has interviewed both victims and has quoted a local community leader in Tabit, basically threatening people that if they spoke on the rapes to UNAMID, they would face the consequences.  So I wanted to know, now at this remove… yesterday the President of the Council spoke about it, at this remove, what is UNAMID going to do to get to the bottom of it?  And also, the reporting to Ms. Aicha Elbasry’s allegations, who would brief the Security Council on that?  He said yesterday, the President of the Council, that they are looking to take it up and are looking for the right briefers.  Does the Secretariat have in mind either the author of the report or who would be the appropriate briefer?  Thanks.

Deputy Spokesman:  As the Council President informed you, they'll be looking at briefers, so we'll work that out with them.  Regarding your initial question, yes, we've been in touch with the UN-African Union Mission, UNAMID, who have informed us that security personnel were in fact present during UNAMID's mission to Tabit.  The African Union-UN Mission in Darfur will continue to look into the rape allegations in the area of Tabit, North Darfur.  As reported to the Security Council yesterday, the findings of the UNAMID team, which was granted access to Tabit on 9 November, are inconclusive and need further investigation.  UNAMID remains committed to this and it will revert with any additional findings that might shed light on these allegations.

Inner City Press:  [Inaudible] I just wanted to ask you again if there's been any reflection again on that line where it says residents… and I'm going to paraphrase it, residents said that they get along fine with the military.  Just seemed the line was such a clunker, basically, it was totally inconsistent with other reports…

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not going to second-guess how my colleagues write press releases.  Different press releases are written by different people at different times.

Inner City Press:  Who wrote this one?

Deputy Spokesman:  Someone from the Mission.  The point is: you're writing, trying to get all the information out as best you can in the circumstances you have.  What I have been able to say right now is that we are aware that security personnel was present during UNAMID's mission there.

  We'll have more on this. Later on November 11 Inner City Press asked International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda if she had seen the whole UN report on allegations of cover-ups by UNAMID, or only a summary. She said only the summary, and only the day before. We'll have more on this too.

  On November 10,  Inner City Press asked UN Security Council president for November Gary Quinlan of Australia about the UNAMID press release, and if and when the Security Council will act on the "cover-up" report, including requesting the full report from the Secretariat, which to date has provided only a summary. Video here. From the Australian transcript:

Inner City Press: Sure, thanks a lot. I wanted to ask on Darfur. Thanks for what you said about what Ms Bangura said. There’s a press release put out by UNAMID that has this line in it: “Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they co-exist peacefully with local military authorities in the area.” The press release doesn’t mention at all the military presence. So I wanted to ask you, one, if you could comment, what do you make of this press release by UNAMID? And two, does the report by the Secretary-General on allegations of covers up by UNAMID of attacks on civilians and on peacekeepers, where does it stand? He said that the, the Spokesperson said that an executive summary of the report went to the Council. Is the Council going to have a meeting on it? Are you going to have a full report?  And are you satisfied with UNAMID’s press release on these allegations of rape?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Matthew, on the second part of the question. Members of the Council are very concerned on this whole question of UNAMID and UNAMID reporting, but also what UNAMID is doing. And one of the big issues there is the denial of access and restrictions that are imposed largely by the Government of Sudan, with whom UNAMID has a formal arrangement on access. But also, of course, by armed opposition groups and that is inherently more difficult sometimes to get the access that’s needed.

That report has not yet been discussed by the Council. I expect that it will be over the next couple of weeks. A number of members of the Council are extremely interested in it. We want to be sure that we’ve lined up the briefers from the Secretariat to have a proper discussion of that report.

Secondly, in relation to the UNAMID press release, I think the key is that they’ve indicated that they had access but it was the first time since November 4, when they’d been seeking access. And they had proactively been seeking access to be able to undertake investigations. That’s a long period to have access denied, by the way, in a circumstance like rape. You really do need, as Ms Bangura reminded us, to have access straight away, for obvious reasons. So that’s one point I’d make. The second point is UNAMID has made it extremely clear in its press release that it will conduct further follow-up actions, including possible further investigations and patrols and that they will do that in cooperation with the Government of Sudan and other parties. We have confidence that that will happen. SRSG Bangura is making this a top priority for her and so is the Secretariat itself and we were reassured about that this morning by ASG Mulet. So I think that’s basically it.

  We'll continue to follow this -- but how can a peacekeeping mission already accused of covering up for the Sudanese government say, today, that "village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area"? To some, this is shocking - and indicative of problems in today's UN Peacekeeping.

Inner City Press on November 7 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the challenges to the UN's statement it couldn't and didn't access the site of mass rapes in Tabit in Darfur. Video here; transcript:

Inner City Press: there are witnesses in Darfur who actually say that the UNAMID investigators, rather than being stopped outside Tabit went inside and interviewed four people and after that they were spoken to by Sudanese military intelligence.  And so these are credible people that have been reporting on Darfur for some time and see the reports being issued by UNAMID although as a reaction to the quote “cover up report” as not being accurate.  And I wanted to know, can you check with them to be sure that the UNAMID investigators didn't in fact enter Tabit Tuesday at 5 am and whether they were spoken to by Sudanese intelligence and decided to say that they hadn't been able to enter the town?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm not going to judge the credibility or lack of credibility of people who have been reporting on Darfur.  I mean, they report.  What I can tell you is the Mission clearly stands by its reporting.  They've sent us a bit more detail, said the verification patrol comprising of military police and civilian personnel on Tuesday, 4 November, that it was sent on Tuesday, 4 November, from Shangil Tobaya to Tabit to 14:50 hours,  I assume local time.  The patrol was denied access at the outskirts of the town at a Sudanese military checkpoint.  Attempts to negotiate access to Tabit were unfruitful and the team returned to the base in Shangil Tobaya.  We've repeated… the Mission's leadership has repeated its call to the Government to grant the UN, to grant UNAMID unfettered access to the whole of Darfur and obviously especially in areas where we're trying to investigate horrendous reports of mass rape.  So that's a longer, a long way of saying that the Mission stands by its reporting.

   But if UNAMID and UN Peacekeeping was just outed for under-reporting attacks, how it is now automatically credible? On November 6, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about similar cover-ups in Central African Republic, exposed by an Amnesty International report about that country.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: I'm sure the Secretary-General has seen the Amnesty International's report today about the peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic.  They basically, I mean, they say a number of things.  Maybe you have some kind of response to it.  But, I wanted to especially ask you about the reporting aspect of it they describe a number of killings and attacks that have taken place in Dekoa, Bambari and elsewhere in [the Central African Republic] about, which, at least being here every day, I've heard nothing from this podium.  So, I wanted to know both substantively what's the response of UN peacekeeping to not protecting civilians and in terms of communications and transparency the response to what appears to be an underreporting similar to that analogous to that in Darfur?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Sure.  Obviously, a big part of the Missions' mandate is the protection of civilians.  The Mission, its peacekeeping forces, its formed police units, are doing that to the best of their ability.  Obviously, it's a very challenging situation.  It's a challenging terrain in which they work.  And there is, obviously… one could always use more troops and more police.  I'm not sure they're up to their mandated force as of yet.  As far as reporting goes, you know we report from here whatever we receive from the Mission.

Inner City Press: Because of the Darfur thing, I wanted to ask:  Their report is very detailed.  The report, it says names of places, number of people killed.  Maybe, first of all, does the Mission send it to [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations] in New York and they're supposed to give it to your office?  At what point has this information in the Amnesty report, has it reached New York before or is it a surprise to UN?

Spokesman:  I can only speak to what I receive from the Mission

Back on October 29, Inner City Press asked if the full Darfur report will be released, at least to the Security Council, and about under-reporting of attacks in the Central African Republic. Video here.

  Dujarric said that even before the summary was given to the Security Council members -- so that is apparently all that has been given to them -- UN missions were told to be sure to report attacks. He said he reads out what the missions sent him.

  So has the UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, simply not send in reports about killings in Bambari and elsewhere? We'll see.

Despite a request from Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access the UN will not release the report. Back on October 29, Inner City Press asked, given that even the sanitized statement says information on attacks was withheld from the media and UN Headquarters - at its request? - who is responsible? Video here.

  Back on September 12, eight days after Inner City Press exclusively reported that the head of the Darfur peacekeeping mission Mohamed ibn Chambas was being given the UN Office in West Africa post in Dakar, and asked about it, the UN confirmed the move.

  Inner City Press has asked on September 5, and did again on September 12, if this move didn't undercut or pre-judge the UN's investigation into charges that the Darfur mission under Chambas under-reported attacks on civilians.

Now Chambas heads to Gambia for the UN. Watch this site.


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