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On UN Rapes in CAR, ICP Asks Banbury, UN Says 29 Cases, Burundi Answers To Come

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- Amid a litany of rape charges against UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press on January 27 asked the UN Spokesman to confirm new allegations in the Central African Republic. The spokesman declined.

On January 29, first High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid then this same UN spokesman issues statement about (what else), new rape charges in CAR. But even these lists do not appear to be complete, omitting alleged rapes that UN officials have spoken about involving UN peacekeepers from Burundi, the Republic of Congo and Gabon.

  Inner City Press asked Assistant Secretary General Anthony Banbury about these still unreported cases, and why it was him and not the head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, who was answering for the charges at the UN's January 29 briefing. Banbury said reporting is getting fast; he also said he “doesn't buy” that anyone fears retaliation if they report sexual abuse charges. Video here.

  Given that even an official at the rank of Ander Kompass was pursued in the UN “legal” system for reporting, the claim seemed strange. Another reporter said it was not credible; the spokeman said that's not a question and the briefing was over.

  Banbury, visibly upset, shed tears during the briefing. But again, why isn't Ladsous as the person responsible, named in the Deschamps report as having failed to vet contingents subsequently charged with rapes, the one answering questions?

  In the briefing, video of which Inner City Press will be posting, the UN set aside the first question for a representative of the UN Correspondents Association, and then two UNCA board members: none of these questions involved the head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous. We'll have more on this.

 And on this: it was said that the UN Peacekeeping "Conduct and Discipline Unit" will answer all journalists' questions. Inner City Press inquired how and sent questions to the designated spokesperson. Later in the afternoon the following arrived:

"Regarding the questions you asked at the latest noon briefings on sexual exploitation and abuse and on Burundi, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has the following answers:

Q: What is the status of each of the cases listed out by Deputy SRSG Diane Corner in her briefing to the Press Briefing Room? What is the status of the cases attributed in the Washington Post of January 11, 2016 to U.N. officials involving “peacekeepers were from Gabon, Morocco, Burundi and France. The prostitution ring they allegedly used was run by boys and young men who offered girls 'for anywhere from 50 cents to three dollars,' and, as I asked Jan 27 and today, any allegations in CAR involving peacekeepers from Republic of Congo?

A: Since the establishment of the mission in April 2014, we have recorded 29 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. Investigations on three cases have been concluded and one was substantiated. Four alleged perpetrators have been repatriated. All other investigations are ongoing and more data will be included in the SG's forthcoming report on Special measures to prevent from sexual exploitation and abuse, including country-specific information.

Q: Beyond sexual abuse, what is the status of the deployment (or nor) of the Burundian officials I have asked the Spokesman about, including Niyonzima and Rusheshe?

A: UN Peacekeeping is looking into the files of these two individual. We will have something to say on this issue in the coming days."

 So will we.

Having been told by sources of more rapes by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, Inner City Press on January 26 reported them and on January 27 asked the UN's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric to confirm them - but wouldn't. UN transcript here. Video here.

 Now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid on January 29 says:

"UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday he was extremely alarmed at continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in the Central African Republic (CAR) by members of foreign military forces. The alleged crimes mostly took place in 2014, but only came to light in recent weeks."

  So what is the protocol of UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, who linked the rapes to "R&R," here? How many more do they know about?

The UN report on rapes in the Central African Republic, released on December 17, found that UN Peacekeeping's Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous “illustrate[s] the UN's failure to respond to allegations of serious human rights violations in the meaningful way.”

 Ladsous has yet to take any questions about the report -- this as Inner City Press exclusively hears from sources of yet more sexual abuse cases in CAR, involving DR Congo AND Republic of Congo, and changes of abuses will in detention.

 On January 27, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about these new charges, transcript here:

Inner City Press: on CAR, I've heard there's a new round of sexual abuse allegations found by the Mission involving soldiers from the Republic of Congo and DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  Is that the case?  And what's the… why… if you haven't yet announced it, why haven't you?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't have anything to share with you at this point on this.

Inner City Press:  What's the protocol for the Mission going public when it becomes aware?  Because I've heard of this from pretty…

Spokesman Dujarric:  This Mission has been extremely proactive in sharing publicly allegations.  So, when we're ready to do so, we will.

 We'll see.

 On January 26, a new proposal on the systemic problem of UN peacekeeper sexual abuse was made by Code Blue: to take the UN’s "oversight of every aspect of peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse out of the hands of the UN Secretariat and place it under an external, independent management board," as Stephen Lewis put it.

  Inner City Press asked Lewis' co-founder Paula Donovan about retaliation against whistleblowers, and about Ladsous having on camera linked the rapes to "R&R," here.  Donovan replied that the board would decide how to have eyes and ears on the ground; she called the linking of rapes to recreation "appalling." It's the type of thing an oversight board would act on, she said.

 Following up about the UN merely handing a victim of sexual abuse in one of its camps in South Sudan the contact information of the alleged abuses, Inner City Press asked if that would be coverd by the proposal. Donovan said it would or should cover every single instance where any part of the UN system was implicated in alleged sexual abuse.
  Inner City Press then went to the day's UN noon briefing and asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the proposal, and when Ban's response to the Deschamps report will be out. Video here.

On January 5, Ladsous mission in CAR issued a press release about yet more allegation of sexual abuse of minors by its peacekeepers, below.

 On January 18, Inner City Press managed to ask UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson about the report -- the UN Deputy Spokesperson appeared intent on not allowing the question, but Eliasson to his credit took it. Video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: The UK Ambassador mentioned sexual abuse.

DSG: Yes.

Inner City Press: He did. And so I wanted to know…

DSG: I did also.

Inner City Press: So, since that report came out about the Central African Republic, what has the Secretariat or the 38th floor done to ensure that in the future if a UN staffer becomes aware of child rape, that it goes to the right people?

DSG Eliasson: This is very serious. As you know, the Special Representative in Central African Republic resigned, was asked to resign. One of the others who were named by the Deschamps group, panel, was considered to have abused authority has left the United Nations, retired.  And we have a group set up right now, led by the Chef de Cabinet - Edmond Mulet - that is going to work very, very quickly on following up the recommendations of the panel. Mr. Mulet and his group will report to the Secretary-General by the end of this month.

We will look into both issues of individual responsibility, but also primarily on the systemic problems. This reminded me of my reaction to the Sri Lanka tragedy back in 2009. The panel came to the conclusion that it was systemic failure, so we drew the [conclusion] to that – we need to have a systemic response. That was the origin of Human Rights Up Front.  This time also the Deschamps report talks about, almost in the same language – systemic reactions. I also expect, or we also expect, Member States again to draw the conclusions from this.  In so many cases we have passed on to the Member States very damning reports, but very little sometimes has been done by Troop Contributing or Police Contributing countries. So we need to have nation states following up these [inaudible].

  We will have more, too, on DSG Eliasson's reference to the UN's failure in Sri Lanka. At the January 19 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq if Mulet's report at the end of January will be made public. Video here.  We'll see.

Earlier in the month,  Inner City Press asked the Permanent Representative of New Zealand and of Uruguay, President of the Security Council for January, about the report(s). Video here.

Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen of New Zealand expressed concern. Ambassador Rosselli of Uruguay said in his national capacity that allegations should be dealt with has his country had, apparently a reference to Haiti. It appears the Security Council will take up this matter.

  Earlier at the January 5 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if now Ladsous, in the Security Council right then on CAR, would belatedly answer questions, since the firing / scapegoating of former mission chief Babacar Gaye clearly didn't end the rapes. From the transcript:

 I wanted to ask but CAR, since you have this new report.  One, I guess I’d like to… since Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous is briefing the Security Council today about CAR and has yet to answer any questions on the CAR sexual abuse allegations report… I guess it’s a timely request… can he do a stakeout, take questions on it?  Because it seems like Babacar Gaye was fired, but the problems go on.  So this is a request.  It seems like a reasonable one

 But as noted (and Vined, here), Ladsous did not answer.

 Back in December, once the report came out from under embargo at the noon briefing Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will do about the findings against Ladsous, and that he escaped the “abuse of authority” moniker only because “the mandate of the Panel is to assess whether an abuse of authority has occurred in connection with the Allegations.”

 Since the abusers Ladsous let into MINUSCA were not the French troops who are accused of rape -- these troops are not in MINUSCA -- Ladsous' malfeasance is not “in connection” with the Allegations. But is it acceptable?

  Dujarric seems unfamiliar with the report; he implied that the third person found to have abused authority was the Ethics Officer, when it was a lower level official in CAR. Inner City Press asked what this all says about Ban Ki-moon's management, along with the John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng and Bernardino Leon scandal, a question Dujarric did not allow Inner City Press to asked Ban himself on December 16. “Those are your words,” Dujarric replied. Yes, they are.

  When the Panel's three members held their press conference, Inner City Press asked about Ladsous' failure to vet and his linking of rapes to “R&R.” Video here.  Marie Deschamps said pointedly she wouldn't comment on Ladsous' remarks; Yasmin Sooka said these are crimes for punishment, not recreation.

  As the last question, Inner City Press asked what it had wanted to ask Ban, and tried to ask Dujarric: what does this say about Ban's management? Video of Q&A here. Didn't Ban's chief of staff Malcorra, criticized in the report, do it for Ban? Didn't the “senior official” who ostensibly let the rape information die on the vine in the 38th floor work in an atmosphere created by Ban's nine years? We will pursue this.

And this: if OIOS' Lapointe was wrong, isn't James Finness, who continues the OIOS campaign? While the UK has spoken, where is France, given Sangaris and Ladsous?

  As to Ladsous, the finding was made even though the three authors of the report do not mention, and apparently have not yet seen, the notes from Ladsous' October 1, 2015 meeting about the CAR mission with Burundi's Vice President, in which Ladsous said he is “pragmatic” on human rights, in Burundi and by extension elsewhere, nor Ladsous' September 11, 2015 on-camera comments linking the rapes to “R&R,” video here.

  But Ladsous still as of December 17 holds the senior UN position into which France, which has chosen the last four heads of UN Peacekeeping, put him in September 2011. How much longer?

By contrast, the former head of OIOS Carman Lapointe, of whom the panel finds an abuse of authority, is conveniently gone, as is Babacar Gaye, who worked for Ladsous at the CAR mission.

  Perhaps it was easier for the panel to make the formal finding against people who had already left the UN by the time the report was released.

  One wonders: if responses like Ladsous' legalistic (and largely false) November 2 letter were received so long ago  by the panel, why did they withhold the report all the way until December 17, the day AFTER Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's rare (and last of the year) press conference?

  High Commission Zeid, of whom it is said he was slammed in the report, in fact gets the same treatment -- critical, but no formal abuse of authority -- as Ladsous, who is airbrushed out and conditions access to information and answers about Peacekeeping on positive / false coverage.

 The same finding is made with regard to former Chief of Staff Susana Malcorra. Will the critical language hurt what chance she has, as a non Eastern European, to try to follow Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General?

 More generally, how does all this criticism reflect on the tenure of Ban Ki-moon? The report does not mention the concurrent scandals regarding UN Secretariat documents purchased by now indicted Ng Lap Seng through former President of the General Assembly John Ashe, nor Ban Libya envoy taking instruction and a cushy job with the UAE while representing Ban on and in Libya.

  In December 2015, Ban allowed those who cover him, at least the UN Correspondents Association, to sell seats with him for $6,000. And it is these same who have airbrushed out Ladsous and others.

  The Panelists -- Marie Deschamps, Hassan Jallow and Yasmin Sooka -- leave unnamed a senior officer in Ban Ki-moon's office (finding that he misspoke when he said he had informed Deputy Jan Eliasson), without saying if the officer remains in the same position. We'll have more on this.


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