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As Ban Fails on UN Rapes, Spox Tells ICP Kompass Not Retaliated Against

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- How low has the UN fallen, in terms of corruption, not stopping rapes, and retaliating against the Press that asks the questions? April 16 eviction here and here. May 14 New York Times here.

On June 7, when Ban Ki-moon was criticized for not fully and publicly addressing the rapes, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman, UN transcript here  and below.

On June 22 UN staff unions issued their own statement, including on the retaliation under Ban, see below. On June 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Farhan Haq about it, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I would assume that you've seen the staff unions, at least four of them, put out their own statement about sexual abuse and accountability in the UN system.  And as part of it, they said that one of the reasons that they felt a need to put this out was that “many staff are scared to report abuse for fear of retaliation”.  And I wanted to know, I've asked you about [Anders] Kompass, various people.  This is on behalf of a large percentage of employees of the UN.  What's the response of the Secretary-General to a pervasive feeling among staff that if they report abuse, they will suffer the same consequence as, for example, Mr. Kompass did?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, Mr. Kompass was a senior official.  It's not a question of an official above him trying to retaliate.  He himself is a senior official.  But, be that as it may, the basic point is that we want all staff to feel secure, and as you know, we, ourselves, are trying to provide as much information on sexual exploitation and abuse.  As you see in recent weeks, we've made tremendous strides forward in terms of naming names, of contingents that are involved in these sorts of abuses, and we want to make sure that whenever there's any type of abuse, the information comes out and comes out promptly.  So, the Secretary-General has put in place over the years policies to protect people from the threat of retaliation.  As you know, there are offices that look into these including the Ethics Office and the Office of the Ombudsman.  So, we're trying to make sure that people do feel secure, and we want them to feel secure.  It's certainly a matter of concern that if any staff member does not feel that sort of confidence because they should.

Inner City Press: I didn't expect you to say that of Mr. Kompass.  Didn't the review show that people above Kompass, he's the senior official, but there were people above him asked OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] to investigate him, and that's why he lost his job?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, they found different things that were improper, and I'll refer you back to the report.  I don't believe that anyone has determined this to be a case of retaliation.

Faced with increased allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN staff and peacekeepers, the staff unions of the UN common system today issue a statement calling for joint action by colleagues, UN management and member states to:

•    stop all sexual exploitation and abuse, whether by staff, contractors or peacekeepers;
•    provide a single and fair investigation process for both staff and military personnel;
•    put in place better reporting mechanisms for victims and staff, and more effective protection for whistleblowers;
•    implement zero tolerance not just for those who commit such acts but also for those in positions of responsibility who turn a blind eye or cover up;
•    institute a culture change at headquarters so that military forces with records of abuse aren’t contracted to peacekeeping missions; and
•    ensure accountability for all, including through national judicial systems.

Last year, 99 women, children and men were allegedly sexually exploited or abused by those working under the UN flag.

The staff unions believe that each case of abuse and rape, whether committed by military personnel or our own colleagues, tars all staff with the same brush and damages the trust staff have worked so hard to build with the communities they serve.

Both the Secretary-General and member states have rightly condemned this trend. But despite this, allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse continue to go un-investigated, high profile cases remain unprosecuted, member states continue to argue how best to prosecute guilty peacekeepers, and many staff feel scared to report abuse for fear of retaliation."

We'll have more on  this. Back on June 7:

Inner City Press:  these are questions about Central African Republic but also sexual abuse.  Down in Conference Room 3 this morning, in one of the side events of the HIV event, Stephen Lewis said that the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has yet to react publicly and fully to the December 2015 CAR review panel report and that they're basically putting their faith in next SG.  Do you… where has he responded publicly and fully, and will he take a question on this at his stakeout later this week?

Spokesman:  He will take whatever question is thrown at him.

Inner City Press:  Really?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has, through the appointment of Jane Holl Lute, through the actions that have been taken by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and DFS [Department of Field Support], I think, reacted very strongly to the report.  There's more transparency.  There are more updates.  Contingents are being removed.  Contingents are not being… are not being replaced.  All sorts of measures are put in place.  Trust Funds were established.  So, I think the facts of what we have done since then, I think, speak for themselves with all due respect for Mr. Lewis.

Inner City Press:  I guess then I'd like to ask about another mister, Mr. Kompass.  Mr. Kompass has now resigned from the UN system and has said it's because he has found virtually total impunity in the wake of the charges that he forwarded to the authorities.  Do you have any comment?  Have you seen what Mr. Kompass has said about the UN system, and what's your response to that?

Spokesman:  No, I mean I… we wish Mr. Kompass well.

Inner City Press:  And I have another CAR, just non-sexual abuse.

Spokesman:  Quickly.

Question:  Sure.  This has to do with there's a report in the French media of prosecution of French soldiers in the… in the… got to say this right because it is in French… in the “Régiment d’infanterie de marine”, and I don't want to get this wrong,  “violemment agressé des civils” in 2014 they're being prosecuted.  And I wanted to know, is this something the UN… now that the French authorities have… they didn't make it public at the time, but it's now been reported.  Is this something the UN's either human rights people knew about or the mission, and what do you say about this…

Spokesman:  I don't know about this particular case, but obviously, we welcome the prosecution of anyone accused of sexual abuse.

Back on June 2, when Ban Ki-moon did not even mention peacekeepers' rapes in the French organized Security Council debate on sexual violence in conflict, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask, listening to the Secretary-General's speech on this sexual violence and conflict, and I was sort of waiting for some reference to sexual abuse by peacekeepers themselves or by the Sangaris force.  Is there something that I'm missing in kind of the scope of the meeting?  Why was this important topic on which he actually had some… some, you know, responsibility and can do something, not mentioned in his speech…?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General has been clear in his outrage when violations are committed by peacekeepers or international forces.  The focus of the meeting was on those terror groups and others who are deliberately using… using sexual violence as a tool of war, and I don't think in any way, shape or form that applies to peacekeeping.

Question: Well, I mean… no, I guess I'm referring to the Sangaris, the bestiality allegations at a minimum are not… don't seem to be of normal… they seem to be…

Spokesman:  I think your… your… I don't agree with your logic.  I think you're talking about, on one hand, groups and organisations that pointedly use sexual violence as a tool of war.  And what I'm talking about are horrendous acts committed by an extreme minority… criminal acts committed by a minority of peacekeepers or international… international forces that doesn't… obviously, it doesn't reflect the intent of the missions.

Question:  Sure.  And I guess you may… I've been meaning to ask this for a few days.  The Secretary-General's most recent report on children and armed conflict goes through a number of things, but it mentions the attack by the US on the Médecins Sans Frontičres hospital in Kunduz, but the US is not listed in the annex.  The Saudis are listed for similar attacks, I guess, which you might call unintentional, in Yemen.  How is this determination made to list the… the…?

Spokesman:  There will be… there is a process, and we go through it every year, and there will be a formal presentation of the report by the Special Representative.  So I would ask you to save your questions for that. 

  On May 26 amid UN Peacekeeping scandals ranging from rapes and sexual exploitation to the “protection of civilians” crisis exemplified by the failure at Malakal in South Sudan, DPKO chief Herve Ladsous and DFS' Atule Khare held a press conference.

While Ladsous has engaged in censorship for some time, refusing to answer Press questions, Khare on May 25 indicated he would take a question. But apparently the DPKO-DFS partnership or "brotherhood" is not equal: Ladsous' predilections won out.

Khare spoke of recycling in Darfur, and of the Tanzanian battalion agreeing to paternity tests. When Inner City Press asked, quite audible, for Ladsous to clarify his September 11, 2015 linking of rapes to "R&R," he declined. Nothing on Malakal, either. This is Ban Ki-moon's UN.

  After Ladsous refused these audible questions, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about Malakal and, again, about the UNIFIL food re-sale scandal exposed by El Pais. Haq said the investigations are ongoing. This too is Ban's UN.

 This too: on May 18 the annual meeting between the UN Security Council and DPKO Force Commanders which has always before been open - has gone behind closed doors.

  This was particularly inappropriate given the Force Commanders present: rape-central MINUSCA commander Lieutenant General Balla Keďta; Lieutenant General Derick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi (South Africa) of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Lieutenant General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam (Ethiopia) of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and Major General Michael Lollesgaard (Denmark) of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

  Why is this meeting closed? Why is UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who linked rapes to R&R, not scheduled for a Q&A Press conference? Even to stakeout the closed meeting, Inner City Press is this year required by DPI's Cristina Gallach and ultimately Ban Ki-moon required to have a UN “minder” as it seeks to speak on background with sources. This is censorship and UN decay.

Still, it seems that at least one member state not on the UNSC this year was asked to leave; others wondered why the meeting was closed, or at least some part of it not left open. Inner City Press said to French Permanent Representative Francois Delattre, apparently NOT on the Security Council's mission to Somalia, "ca doit etre ouvert." He replied, politely, that he wasn't sure.

On May 17, Ban's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the availability of the UN's own count of sexual abuse and exploitation allegations in 2016, 44. Of this, 29 MINUSCA, 7 MONUSCO, 2 MINUSTAH, one each in UNMISS, UNOCI, MINUSMA, UNISFA, UNSCO and UNSMIL (Libya). Is it credible? When is the UN Peacekeeping Q&A?

  After a bill on UN peacekeepers' sexual abuse and exploitation  passed the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Inner City Press on April 29 asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon what he thought of the bill, video here, UN transcript here.

On April 20, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about rapes inside the UN's "protection" camps, UN transcript here.

On April 12 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about an April 13 hearing in the US House of Representatives about impunity for UN rapes. Just as the UN skipped court hearings on bringing cholera to Haiti, Haq's answer did not say that the UN would attend the hearing. Video here.

Inner City Press live-tweeted the House hearing on April 13, in which Aicha Elbasri described Herve Ladsous' cover up in Darfur, and former OIOS auditor Peter Gallo described how top UN officials just USE the OIOS (as they have to de-link Ban Ki-moon from the Ng Lap Seng scandal). Brett Schaefer said there is a need for US training of other countries' peacekeepers. There's truth in that, but one of the DRC Army units implicated in the mass rapes in Minova was US trained.

Chairman Chris Smith cited the UN's "zero tolerance, zero compliance culture;" in the Senate there were strong argument for reducing the UN's funding.

On April 14, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here.


 

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