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ABN-AMRO and ING Are Facilitators of Congo Sanctions Violations, ICC Disclosure Not Solved

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 12 -- "We're not supposed to talk about UN reform or accountability in peacekeeping operations," the head of the UN's Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jason Stearns told the Press on Friday. Inner City Press asked if Stearns' Group had at least investigated the reports of top UN peacekeeper and Indian colonel praising rebel Laurent Nkunda, now accused of killed more than 100 civilians in Kiwanja. No, Stearns said, his Group's priority had been to focus on the main supporters of Nkunda's group, the CNDP. Video here, from Minute 28:18.

    But if the UN does detailed investigation, shouldn't it include review of whether it or its peacekeepers are part of the problem? Apparently not.

  Stearns nevertheless provided one of the more informative UN briefings in recent memory. His Group's report names the wife of Laurent Nkunda, and three banks which transferred money to her: ING, ABN-AMRO and KBC. Inner City Press asked if Stearns thought the financial transfers of these banks were appropriate. "Nkunda's wife is not on the sanctions list," Stearns said.

Face of victims in Goma, 1994, plus ca change in 2008

  The same legal hair-splitting obtained when Inner City Press asked whether the interviews Stearns' Group has done will be provided to the Office of the International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. Most of it is public record, Stearns answered. But what about the interviews granted on condition of anonymity?

    If shared with Ocampo, it seems they will have to be shared with any defense attorneys, as reflected by the ICC judges' freezing of the Congo case against Thomas Lubanga. That's up to to the ICC, Stearns said. Which makes it appear at the UN system is still in disarray in terms of how confidentiality can be promised to witnesses for information that may be shared with the ICC, requiring disclosure to defendants. Doctor, heal thyself...

Footnotes: The appearance by Stearns, previously of the International Crisis Group, was a break from the usual invisibility and lack of accountability of UN Experts Groups. The Somalia Group, for example, issued a report alleging the Somalis were being trained in Lebanon, but never came to explain it. Likewise, those who came before Stearns on the DRC implied that Congolese uranium was leaking out, which others linked to Iran. Stearns disclaimed that, and criticized the BCC for implying this Group was wiretapping. Hey, Bush did it...

Footnote 2: ABN-AMRO is a member of the UN's Global Compact on human rights, a topic we will explore next week.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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