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On DRC, ICP Asks UN of Gov't Role in Experts' Killings, UN Says Can't Do Own Probe

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 – In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the UN has little to say when civilians protesting holdover President Joseph Kabila are killed, and speaks only after questions about their own peacekeepers killing each other, it seems. RIP. On December 20, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the killing of the two experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, there's a report by RFI and others that… that one of the people that invited them to the town that they were visiting was, in fact, a Government official.  So it calls into question whether the Government itself can or will honestly investigate a crime in which they may be involved.  What's the status of the UN's participation in the Government's investigation? Spokesman:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General sent a Canadian senior judge, Mr. [Robert] Petit, who I believe may still be there, and along with other technical experts to support the work of the criminal investigation that is being done by the DRC authorities.  And we do hope that the investigation is done fully and thoroughly and that justice is found for our two colleagues who were murdered. Inner City Press:  But what… if… if this report is true that a top AN… an ANR official was involved in bringing them to where they disappeared, does it call into question whether the UN can… can… whether this is the best the UN can do in terms of investigating the death of its experts? Spokesman:  Well, obviously, the UN has no mandate to conduct its own criminal investigation.  That is clear.  On… following discussions with the Security Council, the Secretary-General has dispatched these staff to support the criminal investigation.  We hope that it will be full and thorough and as transparent as possible.  I think… and there's… we hope that they will… the investigation will lead wherever it needs to lead to, in order to find justice." We'll see. On December 7 the worst attack yet happened, killing 14 UN peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers. Inner City Press asked for information, without response, from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric and DPKO chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Later Lacroix spoke at the noon briefing and Inner City Press asked him about the ADF, see below). After the Security Council met and Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative read out a press statement, Inner City Press asked him if Lacroix in the closed door briefing said it was the ADF. We still have to investigate, he said. Periscope here. A week later on December 14 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here, Inner City Press: with Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix in Tanzania, there's been a request by the Government there for an investigation of the death of their 15 peacekeepers. In terms of the slowness of the response from Beni and elsewhere and the communications breakdown. I guess I'm wondering, beyond just investigating, are you closer to saying it definitely was the ADF [Allied Democratic Forces]?  And has there been anything found out, why it took as long as it did for the reinforcements to arrive? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, this is a matter that we're looking into.  Regarding the question of the Allied Democratic Forces, you heard what Mr. Lacroix had to say about that.  But we'll continue to look into the matter, and if we have anything further to announce, we'll make that at that point." Right.  Back on December 8 Haq's and Stephane Dujarric's office squawked that Guterres would speak about the peacekeepers at 10 am in UN Conference Room 1. Inner City Press ran there but found Guterres glad-handing with ambassadors from Uganda (named in the recent UN bribery indictment) and others. Periscope video here. A film was shown, about CERF. Guterres read remarks, then said CERF funds would go, among others, to Cameroon, where his approach and team are failing. Guterres left for a private spinning session; he has said he won't held any end of the year press conference, as even Ban Ki-moon did. This is today's UN. DPKO's Lacroix came to the noon briefing with a map; Inner City Press asked him if those killed were part of the Force Intervention Brigade. Yes, he said, saying that Nepal has been added to the FIB. Minutes later Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  you said earlier on another attack on UN personnel that the UN is trying to, I guess, co-operate in investigating the killing of the experts [Michael] Sharp and [Zaida] Catalan.  It was said that an UN team is going there to work with them? Spokesman: Yes. Inner City Press: Have they gone yet? Spokesman: Yes.  We confirmed it, I think.  There is Judge [Robert] Petit, a Canadian judge who was dispatched, I’m not sure if he is still there but he went there about a week ago, and we’ve also dispatched a number of technical experts to support the investigation being done, the criminal investigation being done by the DRC authorities. Inner City Press: And relatedly, there was… in September there was an attack by the Congolese military forces themselves on Burundian refugees, 36 Burundian refugees were killed in I think it’s Kamandola and I’m wondering, it was said at the time that the UN was going to follow-up? Spokesman: "Yeah, I think we announced an inquiry.  I’ll have to check what the status is of that investigation."  On November 16, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what if any thing SG Antonio Guterres is doing to follow up on the murders of UN experts Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on the issue of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, the… the Swedish public prosecutor, Sara Nilsson, has said that the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] authority are not cooperating with her office, that they have not shared the video of the murder.  And she says that there may be… those involved in the killing may be closely related to the regime in the DRC.  And so I wanted to know, what's the status of the Secretary-General's moves to… to collaborate or work with this DRC? Spokesman:  As the…  I think as the SG said in his letter to the Security Council, there will be a UN team, I think, traveling in the first half of December.  When I have more… Inner City Press: Would they expect to see this video that the Swedish prosecutors have said…? Spokesman:  They have their mandate as laid out in their letter to the Council.  Thank you." On November 7, on the country's multiply delayed elections, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN Transcript here: Inner City Press: on the DRC, I wanted to ask you this.  The US has put out… the State Department put out a press release saying: "The US notes the importance of President Kabila [Kabange] abiding by the DRC's Constitution, reaffirmed in the St. Sylvestre accord, that he will not seek a third term and will step down following elections."  So, is that… is that the UN's… is that your understanding as well, that that is what is required? Spokesman:  I think my understanding is the fact that I used every word that I could think of in answering..." We'll have more on this, and on the UN's MONUSCO mission often called MON-USELESS. On October 30, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  One is, there's a report of a UN peacekeeper being killed allegedly by another UN peacekeeper.  And I wanted to know… I didn't… if you can confirm that.  And, also, there've been at least one civilian killed in Goma in protests against the continued holdover presidency of Joseph Kabila [Kabange].  Is that something that MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is operating on? Spokesman:  Yes, I mean, I think they're monitoring the situation.  I don't have any details as to exactly on the demonstration that took place in Goma.  We are aware of the tragic incident that took place in the living quarters of a MONUSCO base in Sake in North Kivu, I think, on 27 October, in which one UN peacekeeper was found dead and another injured.  The wounded peacekeeper has been transferred to Kampala for further medical care.  The Mission is conducting an investigation currently. Inner City Press: I hate to say it, but if it does turn out to be manslaughter or murder of one peacekeeper by another, does immunity still apply?  Is it a matter of military justice in South Africa?  How does it work? Spokesman:  I think it's a matter of the contingent taking the right… taking the decision, investigating it and, obviously, if there's foul play, for the person to face justice." On justice, Inner City Press on October 30 asked Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom what's being done to hold accountable those responsible for the murders of UN experts Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp. She said the Secretary General, whom she was meet later in the day, photos here, has put UN personnel within the Congolese investigation, and that Swedish will not rest. Back on October 11, Inner City Press asked the UK, UN and UN Security Council president Francois Delattre. From the French Mission transcript: Inner City Press: The killing of the two experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan was it discussed in consultations? And also the killing of the Burundian refugees, the SRSG said there is some kind of an inquiry about, at least as I understood, the U.N’s role, protecting or not protecting. What can you say about these two sets killings in the DRC?
On this, and I speak on my national capacity here, the topic was indeed mentioned during the discussion we just had. With respect to France’s position, we have repeatedly called for an in-depth investigation to identify the perpetrators of the crimes and to bring them to justice. The Secretary General has committed to shedding the light on these barbaric murders and to holding accountable those responsible. So we renew our call to establish a special investigative mechanism to enable the competent legal authorities to effectively prosecute these crimes and to achieve the justice we need." The UK answer by Matthew Rycroft is here on video - it seems the UK Mission no longer transcribes and sends out what Rycroft says or answers. The UN transcript is not yet out, as of 4 pm. When US Ambassador Nikki Haley took questions on August 25, Inner City Press asked her about the UN's whitewash report on the murder of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, and the UN referring the case to... the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Haley replied that that would not be an appropriate investigation and that she is working with the UN in this regard. Video here. Two weeks later on September 8 Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric and found that nothing, it seems, is taking place. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: some serving the UN's cause that have fallen include, for example, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán.  So I wanted to know… and there's criticism, whether he calls it from critics or not, saying that maybe the UN itself could have done better, should learn from that in terms of how to protect its experts in the field.  So I wanted to know, factually, with the upcoming week coming up, when does the Secretary-General expect to actually make a decision about a follow-on mechanism that's been much discussed?  Is he going to use, I guess, that week to… to get more support for it? Spokesman:  No one more than the Secretary-General wants to see justice for our two fallen colleagues.  I think he has expressed it directly.  He's met with the families.  The responsibility, the primary responsibility to find those responsible, lies with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  There's a discussion going on, on how to best create a follow-on mechanism, and that will be addressed as soon as possible.  I think the Secretary-General, through the Board of Inquiry, we made very clear what could have been done differently, what could have been done better.  And, of course, there are lessons to be learned from that horrendous… the horrendous murder.
Inner City Press:  Two things.  Was it ever determined… I read that report, was it ever determined whether these security management system regulations did apply at the time to experts or apply now?  That was one thing… Spokesman:  Well, I think that was one of the issues that is very much a lesson learned on how to better integrate the experts into that situation. Inner City Press:  And can you see why, if it's possible that the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] Government or its affiliates or affiliated militia may have played some role in the crime, why there are people…Spokesman:  "No one is debating that." Really? Back on August 25 Inner City Press ran to the UN noon briefing and asked the Spokesman what Secretary General Antonio Guterres was doing. UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  Just now at the stakeout, I asked Nikki Haley about this Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán and the UN, the report to date, and she seemed to say that, that relying on, on the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] to investigate is not acceptable to at least one of the countries of the two deceased.  So, what… I mean, I know that you've been asked, and I'm not sure I understand the answer.  What exactly, does the Secretary-General intend to have there be an investigation that is not DRC run?  Spokesman:  There needs to be a, there needs to be some sort of a follow-up mechanism.  Those issues are currently being discussed within the house and with the Security Council.  Obviously, there are also issues of, of sovereignty and of the Security Council that need to be taken into account.  But I think the Secretary-General is, first and foremost, wants to make sure that justice is done for these two young people who were doing work on behalf of the United Nations, on behalf of the Security Council, to try to bring light to illicit, onto illicit activity.  And so we are, we are dedicated to ensuring that there is accountability and that justice is done."  But is that an investigation? After the issuance by the UN of whitewash report, on August 17 the UN Security Council met about the DRC. In attendance were John E. Sharp and Michele M. Sharp, and Maria Moresby and Elizabeth Moresby. Photos here. Before the meeting began, Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen, as transcribed by the UK: Inner City Press: The security management system has said it was unclear if the experts are subjects to its regulations, do you think they are or should be and if they were at the time they were murdered, who should have told them they were actual subjects to it? It’s paragraph 24.
Amb Allen: I’ve read the Board of Inquiry report. I think there are a number of questions there are to be followed up with the UN system and we will be doing that.

   Inner City Press also asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, who would not say if the regulations applied and who, when Inner City Press asked for report lead author Greg Starr to hold a press conference said Starr is not a UN person. The buck-passing is extensive. If the UN cannot rule out that the murders involved the Congolese government, how is counting on them to investigate acceptable? We'll have more on this. Inner City Press on August 10  asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report into the killing of the two experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán, I noticed that the Deputy Secretary-General met with the perm rep of DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] this week?  Is that report, in fact… I think you'd said it was coming out quite soon.

Spokesman:  "Yeah, I expect a, it is coming out quite soon.  I also made sure not to box myself in with a… with a date promise, but I think we should have… we should be able to announce something either late this week or early… early next week." And now on August 16, the day before the Security Council meets on its, Inner City Press is publishing the summary of the report, here. It is a whitewash. Specifically, it is another whitewash by the UN Department of Safety and Security of itself. Earlier this year Inner City Press published a leaked complaint of another alleged cover up by the head of DSS Peter Drennan, here. But in this summary, paragraphs 23 and 24 are particularly shameful. The Starr report states that the Board of Inquiry named by Secretary General Antonio Guterres "found that the United Nations had a fully functional, in-depth security program in place that was adequately staffed and resourced to perform required security functions." Really? The report states that "members of Groups of Experts do not believe that the United Nations Security Management System regulations pertain to them." But did they, in March 2017? And if they did, whose responsibility was it to have told the experts? Do they now?  What actions, or factors, regarding the lack of implementation of the UN Security Management System contributed to their deaths? This is not answered. It is a whitewash. 

  On August 8, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], and this is not about… this is about the Government itself announcing two telecom companies to slow down the internet so that images cannot be transmitted by Twitter or other…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the situation.

Inner City Press: I guess what I'm wondering on that — there's an article on it, so you could be aware of it —is, does the UN, as much as you might seem like you don't monitor Twitter, given that photographs are one of the ways in which human rights violations in the Kasais are being documented.

Spokesman:  I understand.  I'm aware of the situation.  I can check.

  Eight hours later, nothing - but UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed, who met with a Cameroon trio on August 8 with Dujarric not despite Press requested providing the attendees list, is set to meet with the DRC on August 9. We hope to have more on this. On August 4, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about a UN report, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: there's a due-diligence and vetting process.  So, one side of the UN has found that there may be Government units supporting these.  Are you saying that these units are not being supported… the… the supervisors or whoever the UN is aware of…?

Spokesman:  I think, as you know, we've said in the past and we do due diligence.  There are some units we've worked with and others we have not, and we've been very open about when we've refused to work with certain units.

Inner City Press: And although this report doesn't specifically name, but seems to show some knowledge of, who in the Congolese governmental system is supporting these militia units, has that information been turned over for the… for purposes of vetting?  And are there any people actually being vetted?

Spokesman:  I'm sure that, in drafting the report, it was shared with the Congolese authorities.

   On August 2 he returned to say more than 100 had been arrested, including journalists (he himself evicted the Press from the Briefing Room and UN); Inner City Press asked him, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Thanks for the, I guess, the numbers on DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  I wanted to ask you about another report from there which is that the press there is reporting that the Gregory Starr report into the death of the experts, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, exonerates the Government.  That’s what the media in the DRC is saying, is the report finished?

Spokesman:  The report is still in its final stages of being finished.  I think anybody who claims to know the conclusions of the report is speaking on, not based on any knowledge or facts.

Question:  Sure.  Well, I mean Gregory Starr presumably would know?

Spokesman:  I'm saying in any press reports to that effect.

Question:  What is going to be the logistics and the timing of actually people, because, given the interest in this in of knowing of the report being made public or a summary being made public?

Spokesman:  I think there will be some type of executive summary that will be made public.  After 17 years in this Organization, I try not to be too tied down by timeframes, but we do expect it either this week or next week.

Question:  And do you think that one or more of the authors could…?

Spokesman:  I wish I could predict that.

From the UN's August 1 transcript: Inner City Press: now more than 100 people were arrested in the DRC in the protests of the passing of the time, so yesterday you said you didn't have it?

Spokesman:  No.  We, obviously the Mission is aware of it.  We understand a number of people have been released and the human rights component of the [UN] Mission is monitoring the situation.

  Already downplaying it. From the UN's July 31 transcript: Inner City Press: anything on the Democratic Republic of the Congo?  There have been major protests there today.  This was the day people were supposed to be registered to vote for the election.  There have been arrests and the use of tear gas in Kinshasa, Bukavu, Goma.  Given that the UN has a billion-dollar peacekeeping mission there, do they have some statement on it?

Spokesman:  I have not gotten anything from the mission on that today.

  And eight hours later, nothing. After the UN belatedly focused into the murder of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, unprotected by the UN in the DR Congo, on July 10 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what it is, exactly, that the UN is investigating. UN Transcript here and below. Then on July 11 Inner City Press asked the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix what is being done. Periscope video here. Lacroix answered that he raised the issue "at the highest levels" in the DRC, as of concern to the UN and to the countries of origin of the experts. (In fact, Sweden's Olof Skoog has called for a more rigorous investigation that those current underway.) Lacroix noted the current DRC cases and said the UN has shared detailed information with the authorities there. We'll have more on this. Back on July 10, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarrric: on DRC.  There's been a letter by ten US senators, pretty much bipartisan about the killings of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.  And I wanted to ask you about this sentence in it.  They said that they've heard of the UN Board of Inquiry [BOI], but they understand, quote, it will not seek to identify perpetrators or what happened to Mr. Sharp's and Ms. Catalan's Congolese interpreter and drivers.  So, they're asking for a more serious investigation.  One, I wanted to know, what's the status of that Board of Inquiry given the interest and what happened.  And is it true that the Board of Inquiry, as these senators are saying, will not look at all at what happened into the UN-contracted interpreter and driver?

Spokesman:  No.  The BOI is under way. We… last I'd heard, we expect it for the end of this month.  As we've said, we would effort to make some of its findings public.  The BOI was appointed to establish the facts and, if possible, identify the perpetrators around the killings.  We'll submit a report with recommendations as to the next step.  We're also looking at further options that may be available to us.  Obviously, first and foremost, the responsibility lies on the Congolese authorities.  We cannot substitute ourselves for a national criminal investigation unless, of course, there is a Security Council mandate.  I think I would urge you to wait and see what the findings are, and then we can take it, next step.  My understanding also is that the letter was addressed, from what I saw in the press reports, to Ambassador [Nikki] Haley, not to the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: What I wanted to know is, one, I remember at the time, there was some dispute about whether the… in fact, the interpreter of the two experts had also been found dead.  Is that… is your understanding that he has?

Spokesman:  My… I don't have an understanding into that.  I think we have to wait for the BOI and see what facts they would have been able to clear up.

On June 5 US Ambassador Nikki Haley said "they and their families deserve justice. We owe it to their legacy to end the human rights abuses being carried out by armed groups and the DRC government against the Congolese people. We hope other nations will join us"- she called for a Human Rights Council and a UN Secretary General investigation. On June 16, Haley added: "reports of the Congolese government’s campaign of murder and rape of women and children should shock us into action. These allegations must be investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is past time for the Human Rights Council to take decisive action and launch an independent investigation into the human rights violations and abuses in the DRC. This is the core mission of the HRC. If they can’t act in a situation this horrifying, why bother having one." On June 6, Inner City Press asked the SG's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Nikki Haley has called on the Secretary-General, António Guterres, to initiate a special investigation into the murders of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.  I saw you were quoted, something about… I want to understand your position, something about using maximum authority.  Doesn't he have the authority to investigate the murder of UN staff members?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, you know, first of all, we, obviously… you know, the call from Ambassador Haley and we've seen calls from the… from Sweden, as well.  We take the requests very seriously.  I think they echo our own concern.  The Secretary-General has consistently said that he and the Secretariat would do everything they could to make sure justice was done in this case while recognizing first and foremost that the responsibility for a criminal investigation rests with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  We cannot substitute ourselves… the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, cannot substitute himself… ourselves for the criminal justice system of a sovereign State.  We're cooperating… actively cooperating with national authorities conducting criminal investigations, but we're also ready to implement any Security Council decision on this matter.  As you know, there is a Board of Inquiry (BOI) that was appointed.  They are fully at work.  We expect their conclusions of that work to be done by the end of July.  They're there to establish the facts and, if possible, identify the perpetrators. And they'll submit a report with recommendations to the Secretary-General.  We're also looking at further options that may be available to us.  But that review, the work of the BOI, should provide a good basis for putting together a set of possible next steps for the Secretary-General Member States to consider in the murder of… to find out what happened… not only find out what happened to the murder… to our two murdered colleagues, but also to ensure that justice is done and those who killed them are brought to justice.

Inner City Press: Since often these Board of Inquiries are not… not made public, can you… is the intention, at a minimum, to at least make it public…

Spokesman:  We will… as we've done in certain cases, we will share with you what we can and make public what we can of the Board of Inquiry, in a way that doesn't jeopardize any future investigations that may take place.

   We'll stay on this. Earlier on June 6, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft: Inner City Press:  Does the UK think that the Secretary-General should do his own inquiry to the death of the two experts in the DRC? Nikki Haley has called for that, as well as for the Human Rights Council to do it. Which do you think should happen, or either?
Amb Rycroft: Well, we want to just get to the truth. We want those who are responsible for the devastating murder of the two UN officials to be held to account. So whichever way will get to the truth, we support.

   Meanwhile, as Inner City Press has reported, the UN Department of Safety and Security's alleged burying of reports should not itself be covered up. After Inner City Press exclusively reported that UN Department of Safety and Security's top officer Peter Drennan -- to whom the Board of Inquiry report on Sharp and Catalan would be filed on July 31 -- ordered that a security report on UNESCO chief Irina Bokova be “buried” last year due to the personal political implications for Drennan if Bokova instead of Antonio Guterres became UN Secretary General, the UN's response was to attack the leak. (On May 23 they insisted a Garowe, Somalia Board of Inquiry report was shared with interested parties). Also on May 23, when Inner City Press asked about criticism of the UN in the DRC, the response was to defend everything. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen the editorial in The New York Times saying, “astoundingly irresponsible approach by the United Nations to an obviously dangerous and unusually important task”.  They also question what's been accomplished for the billions spent in the… in the DRC.


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