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On Haiti ICP Asks UN About Lax 2015 & Cholera, Canada & Sexual Abuse

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 --  When the UN of Ban Ki-moon is asked about bringing cholera to Haiti, the answer is usually, “Our position remains unchanged” -- that is, immunity.  Now it's reported that may change. But when Inner City Press asked on June 1, Ban's spokesman again said, our position has not changed. Video here, UN transcript here and below.

On August 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about UN negligence, cholera and sexual abuse and exploitation in Haiti. Beyond the Vine here, UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: I have some questions about Haiti.  One has to do with this OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) audit about waste management.  I'm sure you may have… maybe you have something ready on it, but it seems to indicate that even after the spread of cholera that there continue to be negligence and pouring of untreated waste into canals leaving behind and failure to supervise contractors as well.  What's the UN's response to that audit and… and… including as relates to its responsibility for cholera in Haiti?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that audit, if you have noticed, the date on that audit, it was completed as of May 2015.  It's been disclosed more recently than that, but what the information is that we have from the Departments of Peacekeeping Operation (DPKO) and of Field Support (DFS) is that the sort of recommendations in that report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services were, in fact, implemented and taken into account so that, by October 2015, or almost a year ago, all of the appropriate steps were put in place.  So, at this point, they report that the remedies that were needed have been taken.

ICP Question:  Sure.  But I guess what I'm saying is, if even… as you put it, up until… up until October 2015, these type of practices took place, does this not cast some light on… on what the practises were at the time that the cholera took off in Haiti and… and… and caused the UN to rethink its invocation of immunity as to its responsibility for that?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's certainly worrying that it took as long as it did for some of these problems to be rectified.  You will have seen over the years, and the report itself makes clear, that there were steps that needed to have been taken.  And it's a grave disappointment that it took as long as it did.  As of now, those steps have been taken.

ICP Question:  One more on Haiti just quickly.  I wanted to… this had to do with the case where the Canadian police that served in MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) went back and were allowed to retire with benefits, and one was suspended for only nine days.  Mario Joseph, a well-known Haitian lawyer, is in Montreal at this world social forum.  And he said that… at least in his opinion, that… that the way… the failure to punish in Canada reflects on the UN in Haiti, that the UN needs to take action to ensure that people that it brings that… that engage in sexual exploitation or… or abuse are held accountable in the home country.  So I wanted to know, do you have any… it… it… I think it was said it was totally up to Canada.  But I'm saying people there don't seem… see it in that light.  What do you think?

Deputy Spokesman:  The way the legal process works with the soldiers is up to the national authorities.  What we try to do as the UN is push the countries to make sure that there are prosecutions or some form of accountability for the soldiers who commit wrongdoing.  We try to get commitments, therefore, from the countries that they'll follow up.  In this case, Canada followed up, but whether that was sufficient or insufficient is something that people need to take up with the respective Government.  We don't have control over their legal process.

ICP Question:  Right, but there's a lot of talk now of Canada stepping up its participation in peacekeeping.  They seem to want to be on good footing with DPKO.  Wouldn't it be a time to sort of seek these type of commitments?

Deputy Spokesman:  We certainly hope that any country that contributes will be able to ensure that their troops will be held accountable, and that's something we will seek from all countries. 

On July 12, then, Inner City Press asked about Rep Maxine Waters, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: US congresswoman Maxine Waters has announced that she sent a letter on the date of 6 July to the Secretary-General urging him to pay compensation to the victims of Cholera and saying that he should reconsider the Legal Counsel's advice in light of the special rapporteurs.  Have you received it?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  Yes, we have.

Inner City Press:  Will you be responding to it?

Spokesman:  We will be responding.  I assume that response will be shared with Congresswoman Waters, whom the Secretary-General very much appreciates.  He saw her when he was last in California.  And then we'll see what we can share with you.  But, again, I think I'd refer you back to what the Secretary-General said in terms of his feeling towards Haiti when he was in Haiti last and he met with victims of Cholera, and of course our ongoing efforts to get funding for water and sanitation programmes in Haiti.

CInner City Press:  Right.  But, she's talking about compensation.

Spokesman:  I understand.

One of Ban's two least accountable Under Secretaries General, Herve Ladsous, has appeared in Haiti -- but took only three questions, none of them on cholera. The UN's Department of Public Informaition under USG Cristina Gallach pumped out a propaganda video about cholera which did not even mention that the UN brought the disease, and has refused to pay any reparations to families who lost their bread winner, their schooling, their homes. This is impunity.

Ladsous on the run - right out of DPKO, we're hearing...

On June 29, 158 members of the U.S. Congress wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that he and the State Department make the UN answer for bringing cholera to Haiti, including with reparations to victims.

On June 30, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric for Ban's response to the letter, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen this.  158 members of the US Congress have written to the State Department urging them to have the UN be accountable, including paying reparations for having brought cholera to Haiti.  It's a pretty large number of congresspeople, and I'm wondering what is the… what's the response to it?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we've seen… we… you know, we've seen those reports.  I think the UN's commitment to helping Haiti, helping the people of Haiti overcome the many challenges that they have remains the same, especially on issues of water and sanitation.  We have worked tirelessly in an effort to raise funds to address these issues, and we will continue to do so.

Inner City Press:  Right.  But the… they've obviously seen those presentations.  The word “reparation” is the one that they're using in terms of people who lost homes, education.  Is there any thinking by the UN to try to address that?

Spokesman:  We're trying to do as much as we can to address the very challenging sanitation situation in Haiti.

The letter, here, is sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) and includes 11 other Republicans; half of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) i.e. 22 of its 44 members, including six Republicans; ten of the 14 members of HCFA's Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, four Republicans and six Democrats; and four of the eight members of HCFA’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations ("Global Health") Subcommittee, two from each party. Republican HCFA signatories include former HCFA chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, current Global Health Subcommittee Chair Christopher Smith, and Representatives Daniel Donovan, Michael McCaul, Steve Chabot, and Lee Zeldin. The 16 HCFA Democrats include the respective ranking members of the HCFA itself, Rep. Eliot Engel, and of its Western Hemisphere and Global Health Subcommittees respectively, Representatives Albio Sires, and Karen Bass. We'll have more on this.

From the UN's June 1 transcript:

Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen The Guardian piece about Mr.… Deputy Secretary-General [Jan] Eliasson's letter about cholera in Haiti.  And it's being portrayed as a possible breakthrough or change in position.  I wanted to know if, in fact, it is, as the letter apparently says that the prom… that the promise of resources could be fine-tuned or expanded as needed.  And I wanted to know whether this involves any consideration of paying compensation to the families who had a breadwinner or other family member killed by the cholera.

Spokesman:  What is… the UN's position on the legal claims has not changed.  What has also… always been the case is the UN's determination to help the people of Haiti with the cholera outbreak and with the impact of the cholera outbreak.  I think the Secretary-General, if you look back to the statements that he made when he was in Haiti, expressed clearly the will and his commitment to help the people of Haiti.  That also involves donors stepping up and funding the necessary projects that are needed to deal with the outbreak.  The UN on the ground has already made… has already worked clearly in that… to that effect, providing assistance to national sanitation campaigns, ensuring that certain villages are free of open defecation, and also bring whatever support they can.

Question:  The piece is saying this represents a change in position.  Are you saying that it's not… there's no change in position?

Spokesman:  Well, I think… I'm telling you our position.  Obviously, journalists are free to interpret it one way or another.

Inner City Press:  What was the impact of five Special Rapporteurs writing to the Secretary-General and saying that the UN's reputation is being injured by not offering compensation?

Spokesman:  I think we clearly hear what the Special Rapporteurs are [saying].  The respect for human rights remains at the centre of what we do and how we try to act every day.

Inner City Press:  And just one related question, maybe you'll have it or you can get it.  What's happening with the Kosovo… it was said that it was recommended that the mission pay for lead-poisoned children?

Spokesman:  I have no update on that. 

The UN in Kosovo left Roma children lead poisoned by putting there in a refugee camp by an old mine. In that horrendous case - video here - the UN is now said to be considering compensation. Why not in Haiti? On May 16, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Kosovo, since it's in the Council today, I wanted to ask whether it was said in April that Zahir Tanin had raised to the UN Headquarters this idea of paying compensation for the Roma children that were living in a camp over… and got lead poisoning.  Now that it's mid-May, what… what… one, can you confirm how this was raised?  And what is the process at the UN to decide whether to pay this compensation or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe that process is still under way.  I don't have anything to add to what Stéphane said about this several weeks back.  But, as you know, that there was a panel that made its recommendations, which are being evaluated, and we're trying to follow up.

Question:  And how is that… I guess… many people don't understand it.  How is this process different than the one on Haiti?  Like, was a panel set up by the UN to decide whether to even consider compensation or what's the difference?

Deputy Spokesman:  They're completely different circumstances.  They have had different bodies looking into them.  They have had different ways of looking at it.  You'll have seen what we've had to say about Haiti.  It's a separate matter.

We'll have more on this. For now, NYT of May 14 here.


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