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On Darfur Rapes, UK Rycroft Tells ICP UN Reviews May Ensure Follow-Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 29, more here -- With UN Peacekeeping still providing few to no updates on its UNAMID mission's under-reporting of attacks in Darfur, including 200 reported rapes in Tabit in October 2014, Inner City Press on June 29 asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about Tabit and the subsequently reported cover up of rapes in the Central African Republic, and about what can be done. Video here. UK transcript:

Inner City Press: Ambassador Rycroft, you mentioned Tabit and the rapes that took place there last November. I wanted to know what, if anything, can done at this point to get to the bottom of that situation. And do you think that this Ramos-Horta report or the response to the Central African Republicís seemingly similar kind of cover up or underreporting, can this be solved, so that going forward so that UNAMID and other missions donít cover up what seems to be sexual abuse in conflict.
 
PR Rycroft: Well there are very serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in Darfur and elsewhere around the world, as you have mentioned. It is important wherever there are allegations, they must be vigorously followed up, pursued, investigated. There is a very important role for UN Peacekeeping missions around the world to do that and to set the highest standards of behaviour amongst their troops. And I think there are opportunities through the Review of Peace Operations, through the review of the Peacebuilding architecture and later this year through the review of the whole Women, Peace and Security Agenda to make further progress on that issue.

Back on March 17 Inner City Press asked that month's Security Council president, Francois Delattre of France, if the issue came up in closed door consultation.

  Inner City Press specifically asked Delattre about the November 9 press release by the peacekeeping mission UNAMID which said there was no evidence of rape and that Tabit residents get along well with Sudanese security forces -- essentially covering up the rapes.

  Delattre to his credit did respond to the question, saying that the issue came up in consultation and mentioning a November Press STATEMENT by the Security Council urging access. But the Press RELEASE by the UNAMID mission, which remains online, has yet to be explained or addressed, and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refused to answer Press questions on it on March 17.  We'll have more on this.

From the French Mission's March 17, 2015 transcript:

Q : On the mass rapes allegations that were made in Tabit in October, could you give us some sense in the consultations of what Council members are expecting DPKO and Unamid to do to get access ? Also how they explained the 9 November 2014 press release which said the rapes didnít happen and that people were happy with the army. What is it going to be done about that?

A: First, as soon as the news of these horrible rapes broke, DPKO requested Unamid to launch an investigation which faced considerable restrictions of access from the Sudanese Government.

Secondly, as you said the Security Council in a press statement back in November called on the Sudanese authorities to allow the full and unrestricted freedom of movement for Unamid to be able to conduct its investigation without any interference.

This issue was raised during the consultations this morning and Hervť Ladsous mentioned the fact that efforts are ongoing to continue the investigation. In other words, we donít give up.

  Back on January 26 Inner City Press asked Security Council ambassadors Mark Lyall Grant of the UK and Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania, "what happened with UNAMID going back for real investigation of rapes in Tabit?"

  Lyall Grant replied, "We continue to press DPKO to encourage UNAMID to revert on the Tabit allegations."

   Murmokaite added, "have been raising the issue at consultations, will continue."

 And so Inner City Press at the January 26 UN noon briefing asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: two of the Security Council ambassadors this morning said they continued to ask DPKO to ensure that the Tabit site of alleged mass rapes is revisited. I want to know has any action been taken on that? Has there been any move by UNAMID?

Spokesman Dujarric: The request to visit Tabit stands. There's nothing to report.

 Nothing to report? Back on January 8 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, video here:

Inner City Press: what has the UN system done in order to get access again to Thabit in Darfur, where there were allegedly 200 rapes, and then the Government didnít allow any inspectors. What have you done since we last spoke on it?

SG Ban: As for the first part of the question, as you know, we tried to have a thorough investigation. This report might not have been sufficient because of the lack of full cooperation of the authorities on the ground. That has really hampered our authorities to go into the field and get a thorough investigation. It is important that we have to have a thorough investigation and as a matter of principle, there should be a clear accountability process and justice. I am firm about this matter. And we will, in the course of time, have better information on this matter.

  While appreciated, it is widely recognized that the more time goes by, the more difficult a credible rape investigation becomes. So why did UNAMID issue a cover-up November 9 press release?

  On December 12 in International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's six-month report to the Security Council, she said that the reported rapes in Tabit should "shock the Council into action." But will it? To some, the Council appears to have moved on.

   Bensouda, who like the Security Council members was given only the Executive Summary of Ban Ki-moon's cover up (of cover up) report on Darfur, thanked Ban for the report and hoped that it would be acted on. Belatedly ensuring that UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous answers questions about his and his Department's performance would be a start.

   Ten days after after the UN issued a statement on its internal investigation into charges it covered-up attacks in Darfur, its UNAMID mission there  on November 9 issued a statement that "village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area" and that no evidence of rape was found.

 On December 4, Inner City Press asked Ladsous, Why did UNAMID not say on November 9 that it was surrounded by soldiers? Video here, and embedded below.

  As is his habit, Ladsous did not answer on December 4, even with his UN Peacekeeping under fire for cover ups. It is a pattern with Ladsous. He refused Press questions for months about rapes in Eastern Congo in Minova by DRC Army units his UN Peacekeeping supports: video compilation here; Vine here.

  On the morning of December 4 Ladsous claimed to the Security Council that UNAMID's findings were "inconclusive" due to army presence. But his UNAMID's press release whitewashed the situation in Tabit and did not mention the army presence. The covering-up continues, with no credibility, as Ladsous did on the Minova raped by DR Congo Army units his UN Peacekeeping supports.

 On November 25, a wide range of groups in Darfur petitioned the UN Security Council about UNAMID's malfeasance. Inner City Press that morning obtained the letter (h/t) and put it online in full here.

 While UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked at noon, said he had not seen the letter, by 6 pm when Inner City Press asked November's Security Council president about the letter, he confirmed receipt.

  Quinlan said he had circulated the letter to the other 14 Council members -- as of 3 pm, one of them had not yet received it -- and that he expects the issues to be considered when the Security Council takes up UNAMID "next week, under Chad's presidency."

 (On November 26, the UK Mission to the UN"s Arran Skinner told Inner City Press, "I can confirm that we received the letter indirectly. In terms of contents, on alleged rape cases, the Security Council issued a press statement calling for a full investigation. The UK initiated the call for a press statement and so agree that this issue needs to be looked at.")

  On Ban Ki-moon's report into UNAMID under-reporting attacks on civilians and even peacekeepers, Inner City Press asked and Quinlan repeated it should be taken up soon, the question is finding the right, credible (or disinterested) briefer. Watch this site for that.

  Inner City Press at the November 17 UN noon briefing asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Sudanese forces having filmed UNAMID's interviews.

  Who is going to take action, on whom, about that? Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access are asking.



  We'll be following this. Watch this site.


 

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