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HRW Soft on UN, Doesn't Cover Dec 17 Rapes Report, Who Watches the Watchers?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 27 -- Today Human Rights Watch released its 2016 report with much fanfare, purporting to cover full-year 2015. But for example on the issue of UN Peacekeepers involved in sexual abuse, HRW's January 26 report says the UN's  “panel was due to release its report on December 17.” 

   The December report, which HRW did not cover, slams two UN officials who already left as well as UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. See Jan 26 coverage here. At the UN, Ladsous on camera linked the rapes to “R&R,” video here -- something HRW never said anything at all about.

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is mentioned seven times in HRW's 659 page 2016 report, mostly praising him for canned statements issued during a trip to Central Asia. For example:

"During a June visit to Tashkent, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Uzbek government... During his June visit to Turkmenistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a forceful speech" -- really?

   This is typical of HRW: it wants to show its access to the UN and so goes soft on any criticism of it. When HRW comes to the UN, they often go behind closed doors with those who do not question them, to whom they dole out their own canned quotes and embargoed statements and reports. As set forth below, HRW refuses to even disclose what issues it raises to Ban Ki-moon.

  Who watches the Watchers?

Back on March 5, 2013, ten days after Haiti cholera claims were deemed “not receivable” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Human Rights Watch boss Ken Roth met with Ban.

  One might think HRW would issue some summary or read-out, at least of the issues it raised to Ban. But one would be wrong.

  Immediately after the scheduled meeting, Inner City Press wrote to Roth, his press office and UN lobbyist asking to be informed of the topics

raised to Ban Ki-moon at the meeting listed from 4:40 pm to 5:15 pm, including but not limited to:

did HRW/Roth raise the issue of Ban's dismissal of claims the UN brought cholera to Haiti?

did HRW/Roth raise any needed safeguards for the UN's use of drones?

did HRW/Roth raise the issue of Ban Ki-moon praising post-war steps taken by Sri Lanka?

did HRW/Roth raise the UN's “Human Rights Due Diligence Policy” including how it relates to Mali and/or the 126 FARDC rapes at Minova in the DRC?

Awaiting your response, on deadline.

  The last question, on the Democratic Republic of Congo, is meant to assess whether Roth and his HRW only raise the issue of the M23 rebels, or for example the 126 rapes committed by the Congolese army which is supported by the UN, which now seeks to use drones.

 On Sri Lanka, Ban Ki-moon as exclusively exposed by Inner City Press on February 22 accepted a whitewash report from Japan and others, then praised it in Geneva on March 1. Did Roth use his Ban face time to raise the issue? Many would like to know.

  But there has been no response from HRW. The seemingly automated Twitter feed of Ken Roth has been churning out messages unrelated to the meeting or UN, one an hour, on Pakistan and Azerbaijan and urging the EU to press Burma / Myanmar.

  But what did HRW “press” Ban about? What about Pressing HRW to disclose at least this? Previously in May 2011, its UN lobbyist Philippe Bolopion replied to Inner City Press' request for a read-out of Roth's meeting with Ban Ki-moon thusly:

Date: May 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM
From: Philippe Bolopion [at]
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]
Cc: Ken Roth [at]
Subject: Re: Press request for read-out of Ken Roth's meeting with Ban Ki-moon, incl re Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Sudan / Haroun, or explanation

Hi Matthew: To preserve our ability to have frank discussions with UN officials and advance our advocacy goals, we don't typically communicate on the content of discussions we have with them.

Very best

Philippe Bolopion, UN Director
Human Rights Watch

  And now? Is this acceptable? Watch this site.

Footnote: Perhaps just as HRW tells its big donors what it is raising, it tells some journalists (its UN lobbyist used to be a UN correspondent). But the UN Correspondents Association, increasingly known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, chose on the day Ban's Haiti cholera dismissal was announced at the UN noon briefing to demand the first question -- only to ask about an unrelated letter it had sent to the UN Department of Public Information about the floor plan of the renovated Security Council. This is an issue on which UNCA fell asleep in 2012 as it sought to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN.

  On the Minova rapes, for example, no reporting from the UNCA “leaders” - rather, hallways “exclusives” from UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, click here to view. This and HRW's secrecy are two reasons the UN has become what it is.

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