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Ramos Horta Tells ICP Barbarity Should Have No Protection, Code Blue

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 -- Nearly seven months after the Review Panel on Peace Operations began its work, and after  scandals emerged about the cover up of sexual abuse in Central African Republic, Haiti and elsewhere, the Panel's Jose Ramos-Horta and Ameerah Haq took questions on it, with the report still not released. Afterward, Code Blue offered a critique.

  Inner City Press asked about accountability. Specifically, was the Panel proposing that UN Peacekeepers face the judicial system in the countries they serve in1?  Periscope video, for now, here.

  Ms. Haq said no, the Panel is only proposing that civilian UN staff face the judicial system in the countries in which they are accused of sexual exploitation or abuse (SEA).

  Haq said, "In the case of uniformed personnel, it rests with their country of origin…they are not UN staff, and so therefore the UN rules do not apply. The agreement we have with the TCCs is that they will go through their judicial and prosecutorial process in their country and the UN will be informed.. This process must be done quickly, and we must have their reports."

 For civilians, Ramos Horta answered Inner City Press, "If there are credible allegations, the mission must facilitate, immediately, due process to take place in that country…it cannot challenge the host country… You commit a barbarity, you have no protection whatsoever, you are subject to the laws of the country where you operate."

  Code Blue praised this response, calling it a / the memorable moment, but noted what was not said, that the UN overuses immunity, and maintains it as its default position:

"When the High-Level Panel briefed media today about their soon-to-be-released report, a memorable moment occurred. The Chair of the Panel, former President and Nobel Peace laureate José Ramos-Horta, departed from his formal text to state, unequivocally, that, in his view, all non-military personnel serving with the UN anywhere in the world should know that the UN has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, and immunity will never apply in those cases, not even for a moment."

  Code Blue did not on June 16 say, but Inner City Press did ask (and Ramos Horta did reply), the UN's immunity is also misused with regard to its bringing of cholera in Haiti.

  Horta regarding cholera answered Inner City Press that "the instance of cholera traced back to Nepalese peacekeepers, it could have happened in any other mission. My preferred action would be for the international community to sit down and discuss, what can we do to assist those people who are affected? It has been done before, without waiting for clarification.

"In my country [Timor Leste], a Brazilian military ran over a child. The Brazilians…the ambassador went to the family, apologized and offered compensation. The family accepted, and they were very touched that the ambassador took time…this is how we expect people working under the UN flag to behave."

 We'll have more on this.

 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office released a three-page "Information Note" about it. Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access tweeted photos of it, here.

  The Note, under the heading "Addressing Abuse and Enhancing Accountability," says that "immunity must not mean impunity. Immunity was never intended and does not apply to provide immunity [sic] from prosecution to UN personnel alleged to have committed sexual exploitation and abuse. The immunity privileges are functional only, i.e., related to the exercise of his/her professional duty as a UN employee, not for private acts."

  Is this directed at the courts which receive arguments for UN impunity, as for killing 8000 people and counting in Haiti by bringing cholera?

  The Information Note goes on, "Bar troops from countries listed in the Secretary General's annual reports on children and armed conflict and on conflict related sexual violence, until de-listed."

  But the Secretary General choose to disregard his own Special Adviser's advice and not list Israel or Hamas, and did not list the French "peacekeepers" alleged to have engaged in child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic.

   There was a press conference on the report long scheduled for 1:30 pm on June 16; at the last minute the time was changed. The meeting at which the report was unveiled was closed.

  This UN cannot reform itself.

  On June 12, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the mounting scandals around Herve Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping, and Dujarric said that the Panel would respond. From the transcript


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