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ICP Asks UN About S. Sudan Contractors Detained, Journalists Killed, DRC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- With 12 UN contracts in South Sudan still detained, Inner City Press on October 30 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: in what you read and what was published in UN News Centre, is the allegation that the weapons were going to the opposition or going to the government to conduct further operations against the opposition?

Spokesman:  The allegations weren't made by us.  Questions were raised, I think including by you or somebody else, that there may have been going to somebody else, and there may be weapons on board.  The only weapons that were on board were those belonging to peacekeepers.  You would have to ask the opposition to see what their motivation was to grab this barge, take the fuel, but I can't…

Inner City Press: does UNMISS believe that the opposition was grabbing weapons they thought were meant for them…?

Spokesman:  There were no weapons on board.  Again, I think you have, besides the ones the peacekeepers had, which have not been returned.  Again, I can't speak to the motivation of people who have gone and committed illegal actions against the United Nations.  You have to ask them.

Inner City Press:  The more nitty-gritty question I wanted to ask is that most people there are saying that it's Johnson Olony, not Riek Machar.  You said that Mr. Ladsous had called Riek Machar.  It seems like it's another commander, Johnson Olony, who Mr. Gordon Brown has called a warlord, who may not be under the command of Riek Machar…

Spokesman:  I'm sure that contacts are being held from the ground.  From here, we spoke to Riek Machar, who portrays himself as the leader of the opposition, and therefore has responsibility.

 Inner City Press also on October 30 asked about Syrian journalists killed in Syria (video here) on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, and about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (video here, from Minute 2:14)

Inner City Press: there's this case of two journalists from Syria from a group called Raqqa being silently slaughtered, Mr. Ibrahim Abdul-Qadir and Fares Hamadi, who were found killed, murdered, inside Turkey.  And so a number of press freedom groups are saying there should be an investigation.  The idea that these were guys seeking out a reporting about ISIS crimes.  Do the…?

Spokesman:  I don't need to look into that report.  I don't want to comment on something I'm not aware of...

Inner City Press: There's a long story in a publication called Kigali Today where they interview an FDLR person who they say has escaped into Rwanda and who gives a lengthy and detailed account of his time with the FDLR.  And he says repeatedly that the FARDC, the Congolese Army, works with the FDLR, that many FARDC commanders are in fact FDLR members, and the only weapons, the only ammunition FDLR has comes from the Congolese Government.  Given the mandate by the Security Council to neutralize the FDLR and given, I guess I'm wondering, what is the response of MONUSCO or the UN System to a seeming defrocking of a connection between the two?

Spokesman:  I did not read Kigali Today today.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Inner City Press:  It’s more than an opinion.

Spokesman: You're entitled to an opinion.  I'm entitled to an opinion.  Obviously, as you know, MONUSCO, within parameters of its human rights due diligence policy, has been supporting the fight against the FDLR.

Inner City Press:  The purpose of my question was to say it seems in fact that the incoming president of Security Council, Mr. Rycroft, in a Twitter response today said that he hopes that MONUSCO can work with the Government to neutralize the FDLR.  The article alleges…

Spokesman:  I understand what your end goal is here.  The UN does work with the Government to the best of its ability within the parameters of its human rights due diligence policy.  And then that's it.  And then I'm going home.

  The UN's peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, under Herve Ladsous, has been slow to report on crimes against (some) civilians, much less to protect them as this month in Leer. Inner City Press on October 28 asked the UN to respond to criticism from the African Union, below. Inner City Press asked on October 26 about Leer, and on October 27 the UN came back with this:

"Yesterday, Matthew you asked about South Sudan.  The Department for Peacekeeping Operations says that it is aware of reports of SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] attacks in Leer.  While the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) does not currently have presence in Leer, it is looking at ways to improve its ability to assess the situation and enhance the protection of civilians by establishing longer and more established presence in southern Unity state."

But now that the African Union report has been released, there are more questions for the UN and Ladsous to answer.

 From Paragraph 27: "the Commission was unable to access any data in the possession of the UNMISS which has been
documenting the violations committed since the start of the violence in December 2013 — despite the resolution of the Security Council mandating it to cooperate with AUCISS."

  So, despite the UN's claims about "Rights Up Front," not only did UNMISS not comply with general requirements of reporting on harm to civilians - the AU says UNMISS didn't even comply with UN Security Council resolutions. Who will answer for this?

 On October 28, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen finally, after much delay, the AU [African Union] released its report on South Sudan.  There's a lot in it, and many people are saying many things about it, but the thing I'd wanted to ask about is the section that has do with the UN.  And it says… this is in paragraph 37.  And this is… it's sort of surprising.  It says, "The commission was unable to access any data in the possession of UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] which had been documenting the violations committed since the start of the violence despite the resolutions of the Security Council mandating it to cooperate with AU CISS.  So what does DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] say?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, we welcome the report and the issuance of the report, which the Secretary-General has called for, had called for.  I think the issue of transparency is an important one, as is the issue of accountability.  As for the details of the report, I think we're still reading through it.  So if I have something to add…

Inner City Press:  Right.  Eventually, there's some direct allegations about the mission…

Spokesman:  I understand.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  I have one more...
  On October 29, Dujarric returned with this, on which Inner City Press followed up:

Yesterday I was also asked about the report of the African Union on the human rights situation in South Sudan.

I can tell you that in line with relevant Security Council resolutions, the UN Mission supported the African Union Commission of Inquiry.  

The Mission fully cooperated with the Commission's investigation team at all stages of its work in South Sudan, in accordance with standard practices and policy, including the need to preserve confidentiality and to protect victims and witnesses.

This support is acknowledged in the report of the Commission, in its paragraph 3 where it states that the Commission would like to thank the former Special Representative of the Secretary General, her interim successor, and their team for the immense support provided to the Commission in the course of its work in South Sudan.

  Inner City Press followed up:

Inner City Press: thanks for the response on the African Union report.  But, obviously, I mean, they said that no data was provided to them.  So maybe there's some... I just... I guess I would like you to explain, because this same issue seemed to have come up with the rapes in the Central African Republic, that the UN seems to have some reading of confidentiality, which either makes it impossible to make information available or, in this case, you know...

[Cross talk]

Spokesman:  I think they're two different... very much two different cases.  The case in the Central African Republic, as you know, is the subject of an inquiry.

On South Sudan, you know, obviously, people can interpret it different ways.  Obviously, there is a need to respect the confidentiality of witnesses and victims.  When you are a human rights investigator and you collect those names and the witnesses, you do so in confidence.  So it's important to protect that.  I think it's clear from the AU mission's report that, overall, they were very grateful for the support and work from the peacekeeping mission.

Inner City Press:  But they said any... the Commission was unable to access any data in the possession of UNMISS.

Spokesman:  Well, I think people can have different interpretation.

Inner City Press:  Right.

Spokesman:  The AU have... has said what it has said and I have said what I have said.

An internal UN document leaked to Inner City Press, which exclusively published it here, shows the high degree of dysfunction in the country, and in the UN.


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