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After Haiti Shooting and Cholera Dismissal, UNSC Trip Starts, Silent on Both

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- Days after the UN belatedly acknowledged its peacekeepers shot at democracy demonstrators in Haiti, and the dismissal at the US' urging of a case against the UN for bringing cholera to Haiti, a Security Council trip begins. The statement issued by the UN follows, with no mention of cholera or the shooting:

"Representatives of the 15 Member States of the United Nations Security Council will begin today a three day mission to Haiti, which will include visits to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. The trip will be co-led by the Permanent Representatives of the Missions of Chile and the United States.
"With this mission, the Security Council looks to reaffirm its continued support for the Government and people of Haiti; to urge Haiti’s political actors to work cooperatively and without further delay to ensure the holding of free, fair, inclusive, and transparent legislative, partial senatorial, municipal, and local elections; to assess the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, including 2180, the increasing development of the capabilities of the Haitian State, in particular the ongoing strengthening of the Haitian National Police, and the national authorities´ increasing exercise of the Haitian State´s responsibility for the maintenance of stability and security in the country. The Security Council will also express its strong support for MINUSTAH and the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ms. Sandra Honoré.
"During their time in Haiti, the members of the Security Council will meet with President Martelly and high officials of the Government of Haiti, as well as representatives from the agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations working in Haiti and representatives from the troops and police contributors countries to MINUSTAH. They will also meet with political leaders and civil society."

  While the interest of Latin American states like Chile in Haiti is noteworthy, since the UN Security Council sent the peacekeepers to Haiti, largely at the request of the US, both issues - cholera and the more recent shooting - should be addressed. We'll have more on this.

More than a month after the UN promised an investigtion of its peacekeepers in Haiti have fired pistols and tear gas at protesters, and five months after a similarly promised probe of the deadly downing of a UN helicopter in South Sudan, Inner City Press on January 20 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about both reports. Video here.

   While Dujarric had not answered on January 20, and provided nothing in writing in the 24 hours that followed, at the noon briefing on January 21 his deputy Farhan Haq read out this answer:

"Yesterday, Stéphane [Dujarric] was asked about the status of an investigation by the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  I can tell you that MINUSTAH confirms that the investigation has been completed and the report is now being reviewed by the Mission’s leadership.  Appropriate actions have been taken on the initial recommendations for improvements in compliance with established operational procedures.  At the same time, the concerned individuals have been suspended from operational duty and the Member State concerned has been informed about the investigation.

"We were also asked about a Board of Inquiry report into a helicopter crash last year in South Sudan.  We were informed that the draft report is currently in the last stages of being finalized."

  Regarding Haiti, Inner City Press asked this follow up: "on the answer you gave on Haiti, I want to know what has MINUSTAH done to track down or to look into people actually injured by the videotaped firing into the crowd of demonstrators?"

  Haq replied, "Well, that update we gave you was what we have at this stage.  Like I said, that report is still being reviewed for follow-up activity.  We’ll provide any further details on the question of that incident in Haiti as we get them. "

  But Inner City Press had repeatedly asked about the shooting incident; no update was offered until after Inner City Press asked about it again. And what are these undefined "appropriate actions" that are referred to? We'll continue on this.

    UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, Good question -- but neither report has been made available. In the case of South Sudan, Inner City Press asked him to respond to those who say the UN may never release its report, given audio of rebel Peter Gadet threatening to shoot down UN copters, then and presumably now.

  To some these are simply more cover-up by the UN, entirely at odds with the UN's calls that others investigate and bring wrong-doers to justice. Do what I say, not what I do, is today's UN's message.

 Nor what the UN is caught doing on film: in Haiti, shooting into crowds of people protesting the failure to hold elections, and blocked the camera of media trying to cover it. Video here, from 0:18; a second video is here.

The UN's envoy to South Sudan Ellen Loj spoke to the Security Council on October 22 then came to take questions from the media.

  Inner City Press asked Loj to explain two separate lines from her statement to the Council, and one thing that was not mentioned: the deadly downing of a UN helicopter on August 26, allegedly after the UN was told by rebel Peter Gadet that it would be shot down.

  The first line Inner City Press asked about was Loj's statement that "UNMISS is looking into ways to support the efforts of national authorities to end the violence." Inner City Press asked, would the UN provide the Salva Kiir / SPLA forces military support?

  Loj asked to be shown the line, coming out from behind the UN microphone stand to take a copy of her own statement from Inner City Press. Video here.  Finally she said this might involve UNMISS conducting its own street patrols -- why would that be "supporting the national authorities" as opposed to the opposition, where it controls the streets -- or setting up a rape-help desk in police stations.

   When Inner City Press sought to remind Loj of the second line it has asked about, two national staffers "detained" since August, the moderator attempted to move the questioning on. Loj still replied that the UN doesn't know who has these two national staff members detained.

    On the helicopter, Loj said that a UN Board of Inquiry was in South Sudan last week and she doesn't know the outcome. The helicopter was shot down on August 26, and transcripts of taped called between Gadet and UN officials have emerged. We'll have more on this.

  On Haiti more than a month ago on December 16  Inner City Press asked Dujarric, whether the peacekeeper filmed shooting a pistol and pushing back a cameraman -- like his boss Ladsous -- had been interviewed yet.
 Dujarric would not answer even this, saying he will only speak when he hears from MINUSTAH. Video here.

This might be called a cover up, or a hope it goes away -- even as Ban Ki-moon, in tuxedo, goes to the ball of his UN Censorship Alliance where an award about Haiti will be given out, with no answers on shooting protesters there.

  Back on December 15, Inner City Press also asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about the incident, which the UN mission MINUSTAH has said it is investigating itself. Dujarric repeated this, adding that he didn't want to "pre-judge." Video here. But MINUSTAH's short press statement already characterized as "violent" the demonstrators that were shot at.

 Dujarric said they'd have to see if the peacekeeper felt threatened. Video here. After the web-cast UN noon briefing, Inner City Press was contacted by viewers who noted this subjective idea of an armed authority feeling threatened is that invoked in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner on Staten Island in New York.

  As on its impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, the UN is on strange and untenable ground in seeking to justify shooting at unarmed people. And the head of UN Peacekeepering Herve Ladsous is conveniently in former French colony Senegal during all this.

 UN Peacekeeping's chief is Herve Ladous, and tellingly he himself tried to block the camera of the Press, right inside the UN, in September 2014. Vine here.

When a subordinate carries out the same act as his or her ultimate supervisor publicly did, it is  case of command responsibility. So who should be held accountable is known - but will it happen?

  Back on December 2, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about MINUSTAH and protests:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Haiti, since there's the Mission there.  There have been protests about the failure to hold elections and they've been put down by police.  I wanted to know, first, whether there's been any MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] involvement; and also what the Mission's thinking is as the 12 January deadline imposes when the Government will be dissolved and Mr. [Michel] Martelly will rule by decree.  Is that the fact?  And what’s the UN doing?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't believe there's been… I don't believe there's been any involvement of MINUSTAH in the demonstrations.  Obviously, it's important that people have the right to demonstrate peacefully and it's up to the authorities to ensure that right is respected.  The political situation in Haiti obviously remains a concern.  It is one that we're following closely.

   So what happened December 2 ("no involvement of MINUSTAH") and December 12 - MINUSTAH shooting into the crowd? Inner City Press has asked Dujarric about the UN's rules of engagement, so far without answer.

   With questions unanswered, UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous had the gall on the afternoon of December 13 to rebroadcast MINUSTAH self-congratulations that ignored its filmed shooting at protesters and threatening media. Inner City Press initially asked the UN Spokesman:

"What were the rules of engagement? Who gave the order to use pistol(s) and, separately, tear gas? What is the UN's understanding of injuries caused? What was the role, and is the comment, of the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous?"

  Inner City Press twice, in two media, asked for an explanation or comment from the UN Spokesman, and Saturday afternoon received this:

"The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, (MINUSTAH), has been informed of an alleged excessive use of force, while responding to violent demonstrators targeting law enforcement personnel supporting the Haitian National Police (HNP) and causing injuries and destruction of property, during the demonstration in Port-au-Prince today. The Mission takes this allegation very seriously and immediately opened an investigation to establish the facts."

  Artfully, or inartfully, the MINUSTAH statement does not state that it is the UN's own alleged (filmed) excessive use of force - so is the UN investigating itself? We've asked the UN Spokesperson and weekend duty officer this:

Because the MINUSTAH statement leaves it unclear, can you confirm that it is the UN's own “alleged excessive use of force” that the UN is now investigating?

What is the time frame for the investigation?

Who is doing the investigation? MINUSTAH's human rights unit?

Can to state now that the results of the investigation will be made public?

Since the MINUSTAH statement expresses conclusions about the demonstrators (“violent,” “and causing injuries and destruction of property”) please provide similar preliminary findings as to UN Peacekeepers' action shown on this video:

   Hours later, no answer, even as the second video emerged. Others in the UN system have been asked; we'll have more on that.

   Inner City Press has also sought comment from prospective UN-related awardee Andrea Bocelli, slated to accept without reference to the UN bringing cholera or now shooting into crowds there an award from the UN's Censorship Alliance next week -- and continues to await response.

  The MINUSTAH mission has just published this: "MINUSTAH has been informed of an alleged excessive use of force, while responding to violent demonstrators targeting law enforcement personnel supporting the Haitian National Police (HNP) and causing injuries and destruction of property, during the demonstration in Port-au-Prince today. The Mission takes this allegation very seriously and immediately opened an investigation to establish the facts."

  But UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous is already accused of cover-ups. This MINUSTAH statement doesn't even say against whom the allegations are.

  Inner City Press, before the December 12 protests and footage of the UN firing into them, asked the UN Office of the Spokesperson about the failure to hold elections, and if the MINUSTAH mission was involved in cracking down on demonstrations. On the latter, the answer given then was no.

  Now, this video, by Le Nouvelliste. Who will be held accountable? UN Peacekeeping is run by Herve Ladsous, a former French diplomat and spokesman during the ouster of Aristide. We will have more on this.

The day after the injustice of the UN's impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti was the subject of a religious service across First Avenue from the UN, photo here, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press:  About Haiti.  There was — yesterday afternoon, almost at the same time as the Ebola press conference, there was a religious ceremony held across the street of the Church Centre by both Haitians that live in New York who have had family members killed by cholera and also UN staff who feel that the UN policy of not directly addressing the claims for the families that were victims of the cholera is unjust.  I wanted to know if you were aware of that, if you have any response to it?

Spokesman:  I personally was not aware.  I think you know that the legal position of the UN as to this case is not, has not changed.  That being said, the UN continues to be very involved jointly with the Government of Haiti to work on the cholera issue in Haiti, to work on rebuilding the sanitation system, and I think the Secretary-General in his visit to Haiti in — over the summer, right?  In July, in mid-July, excuse me, in mid-July, I think, you know, went to one of the impacted village, prayed with the families and showed his empathy to the victims.

Inner City Press:  I understand that.  I don't think — people see the Secretary-General trying to raise funds for water and sanitation going forward.  I guess the question becomes for families that lost their breadwinner and, therefore, have kids who are unable to go to school with school fees, things like that, is there any — what's the UN's thinking?  Is the — the Government apparently has not addressed that problem.  So I'm wondering… I guess…

Spokesman:  I think whenever you have — whenever you have victims of any disaster, the issue of losing the breadwinner is an important one and one that needs to be addressed by national authorities in assistance with the international community.  Masood?

  Up to December 12, a item in the US State Department's public schedule read:

"COUNSELOR TOM SHANNON Counselor Shannon is on travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti through December 12. He is accompanied by Haiti Special Coordinator Thomas Adams."

  Shannon and Adams have been in Haiti for days, it seemed preparing for a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry on December 12. Protests are planned, not least due to the US arguing in court in support of the UN's immunity, that is, impunity, and refusal to help its victims, families whose bread-winner was killed by the cholera UN Peacekeeping brought.

   Does the US read its own (incomplete) travel warnings?

 But at the UN State Department's December 12 briefing, the Department's spokesperson said "we believe elections are essential for Haiti’s democratic development and to advance progress made in reconstruction and development. The United States and, certainly, Counselor Shannon on his trip and Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams are certainly advocating strongly for dialogue and compromise among the parties that will lead to a Haitian solution to permit elections without further delay. Toward that end, we welcome the December 9th recommendations offered by the consultative commission established by President Martelly as a basis for dialogue. We understand he’ll speak today regarding the recommendations.

So our position as the United States is that we broadly support dialogue and compromise leading to a solution in Haiti that will permit elections without further delay, and we think that’s incredibly important to advance progress made there."

  There was no visit by Kerry. But, on Twitter, a photo of the UN's MINUSTAH using a gun to shoot, for which Inner City Press has asked the UN Spokesperson for a response. Watch this site.

  MSF Doctors Without Borders said on November 24 that "the population has slowly lost their immunity to the disease. Compared to the same period in 2013, the number of cases handled by MSF has almost doubled. The lack of sanitary infrastructure and of measures to clean water risk aggravating the epidemic."

  Inner City Press asked the UN to respond to this, on November 28, but the UN has refused. The US government has online, also dated November 24, 2014, a Haiti web page that (still) says, under Health, that "Incidents of cholera have declined dramatically  since a major outbreak in 2010." Click here for that.

  While that page was not changed or updated, on December 4 the US State Department put out a travel warning for Haiti which mentioned what MSF called the "lack of sanitary infrastructure" - but NOT that the UN brought cholera to Haiti, much less that the US is supporting the UN's claim of immunity or impunity for it. Click here for the December 4 travel warning.

   The new US Travel Warning does, however, mention the UN, in this way: "The United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) remains in Haiti to support the activities of the Haitian National Police (HNP). The HNP, with assistance from MINUSTAH, is responsible for maintaining order and rendering assistance.  However, given the possibility and unpredictability of spontaneous protests, their ability to assist U.S. citizens during disturbances is very limited."

  It must be said: some of these protests are ABOUT cholera, and are DIRECTED at the UN, having having brought it and for having done nothing for the victims, whole families left without their main breadwinner.

   The US page on Haiti, on Safety and Security, says "Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States."

  What about compensation for the victims of the UN in Haiti?

  Inner City Press continues to pursue this question at the UN. On November 20 when Jose Ramos Horta took questions about the UN Peacekeeping review panel he now chairs, he initially said that the UN bringing cholera to Haiti was beyond the panel's mandate.

  When Inner City Press was able to ask him a question, it was to challenge this. How could more than 8,000 people killed, and the continuing impact on the UN's credibility, be beyond the mandate of this panel? Video here.

  Ramos Horta replied that, on reflection, he would raise the issue of cholera in Haiti to the panel's members, which now include Sri Lankan former UN official Radhika Coomaraswamy as well.

  Inner City Press also asked about the cover-up scandals swirling around UN Peacekeeping, about rapes and more in Darfur. Ramos Horta replied about abuses by peacekeepers in Timor Leste, that there must be accountability (he praised Sergio de Mello in this respect.)

UN Peacekeeping has become subject, under Herve Ladsous, to mounting questions about its operations, from crashed drones, selective “neutralization” of some rebels groups and not others, like the FDLR in the DR Congo, covering up attacks in Darfur and lack of accountability for negligently introducing cholera to Haiti, to name just a few.

While Ladsous refuses and even blocks Press questions about these topics, recently Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has taken to saying that a major “external” panel will be set up to review the issues. On Friday, October 31, Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the 14-member panel, to be chaired by Ramos-Horta.

In a run-on sentence, Ban listed the panel’s topics: “the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peace-building challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians, uniformed capabilities for peacekeeping operations and performance.”

Inner City Press asked Dujarric about a word NOT in the list: drones. Earlier on October 31 in the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, the representative of Ecuador said that UN Peacekeeping’s use of drones should be subject to review by the General Assembly’s C-34 Committee: that is, by member states. (Ladsous evaded the C-34, then deployed more drones than he’d mentioned to the Security Council, and won’t answer on the reasons behind the crashes; DRC envoy Martin Kobler told Inner City Press it was due to “wind.”)

Dujarric cut the question off, saying that it was “too granular” and that drones might fall — as one did in DRC — under “the changing nature of conflict.”

But the question is, should UN Peacekeeping and Ladsous be subject only to review by a panel picked by Ban Ki-moon, or by the member states? Dujarric said Ban’s panel’s report will go the the General Assembly.

It is called an “external” panel, but included not only a number of long-time insiders, but even the current Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Ameerah Haq. This reporter asked Dujarric if this meant that Haq is leaving, and Dujarric said yes. The Free UN Coalition for Access opines: she is the wrong one to be leaving.

Strikingly, only TWO of Ban’s Panel’s 14 members are from Africa, where the vast majority of UN Peacekeepers are deployed. These members are from Ghana and Tunisia, not from countries with UN Missions like DRC, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic if not to say Liberia, where Ladsous is said to be planning “emergency responses” with a government that has quarantined whole neighborhoods like West Point in Monrovia.

Recently during the Security Council proceeding to renew the mandate of the mission in Haiti, many ambassadors from Latin America said Troop Contributing Countries weren’t sufficiently consulted; Argentina said it would not participate in certain policing or repression activities. Will that be reviewed? We’ll have more on this.

Beyond Ramos-Horta, the Panel’s members include Jean Arnault of France — some wonder if he’s there to protect Ladsous — Abhijit Guha of India, Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh, Andrew Hughes of Australia, Wang Xuexian of China, Hilde Johnson of Norway after a troubled stint in South Sudan, Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu of Ghana, Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto of Brazil, Bruce Jones of Canada, Youssef Mahmoud of Tunisia, B. Lynn Pascoe of the US, whom Inner City Press reported was in the mix to replace Alexander Downer as UN envoy to Cyprus but was said to be blocked from getting it, Alexander Ilitchev of Russia and Ian Martin of the UK, who returned to the UN to mull mediation after starting the ill-fated UN Mission in Libya. Martin’s previous Board of Inquiry report on bombing in Gaza in 2009, Ban Ki-moon undercut with a cover-letter. We’ll have more on this, too.


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