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Amid Somalia Gang Rape Charges, UN Silent on Policy, Post-MSF Plan B

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 16, updated -- With the UN-supported African Union force in Somalia accused, along with the national army, of gang rape, does the UN's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy apply to the support it gives through UNSOA?

  Inner City Press asked this policy question at the August 15 UN noon briefing -- but 23 hours later, there is no answer from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, led by Herve Ladsous. Under his watch, the Policy has been made a mockery of in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  After the Congolese Army's 391st Battalion was implicated in mass rape, Ladsous tried to cover it up (video compilation here) then decided to continue support.

  Now that the same 391st Battalion is implicated in the desecration of corpses, support continues, and Ladsous is nowhere to be found. And there are no answers on policy.

  From the UN's August 16 transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Somalia. There are these allegations that the AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] peacekeeping force there, as well as the national forces, perpetuated a gang rape, and it’s something that the AMISOM itself has said that it would investigate. But, what I wanted to know is that, since the UN provides support to AMISOM though UNSOA [United Nations Support Office for AMISOM] and provides money and otherwise, does this human rights due diligence policy apply? And what are the next steps if, in fact, either AMISOM or units of the national forces of Somalia, which they, in turn, support, are guilty of the gang rape as alleged?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well, we’re going to have to see what the AMISOM investigation comes up with. Obviously, it’s up to them to investigate and it’s very encouraging that they are going to investigate.

Inner City Press: No, but I guess what I want to know is, even before they reach their finding, it seems like the UN should be able to say does this human rights due diligence policy, which Patricia O’Brien spoke about, which is a Ban Ki-moon policy, does it apply to the support the UN gives to AMISOM in Somalia?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, we’ll have to find out about that, Matthew. I don’t have that information with me.

  Twenty three hours later, nothing. Inner City Press asked another question about Somalia:

Inner City Press: with the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] statement that you had yesterday, since then it said that Al-Shabaab either looted or took over, it’s a little unclear, one of the hospitals that MSF is leaving in a place called Marare, and I wanted to know, does the UN team there have any information on that? What’s going to happen? It turns out that MSF was running hospitals in eight cities with doctors and nurses that were Somali nationals. Is there any plan to try to get another NGO [non-governmental organization] to run the hospitals?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I said yesterday, Mr. [Philippe] Lazzarini, the Humanitarian Coordinator, is looking to see how the humanitarian agencies can, in fact, replace what Médecins Sans Frontières was doing.

  And what's the update from Philippe Lazzarini, or from the UN's top envoy in Somalia, Nicholas Kay? Watch this site.

Update :

And look! After publication of the above, and seven minutes before the Friday noon briefing, the UN and DPKO send an answer:

Subject: Your question on alleged rape in Somalia.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 11:53 AM

The Human Rights Due Diligence Policy does apply to support given by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) to the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, including UNSOA, take all allegations of violations of human rights by troops supported by our missions with the utmost seriousness. In the particular incident referred to, we understand that investigations into the alleged rape are ongoing.

The Human Rights Due Diligence Policy emphasizes the responsibility of national or responsible authorities to take action to mitigate or respond to human rights abuses by security forces that receive our support. The policy is aimed at over-all performance and respect for human rights and is intended to prevent the United Nations supporting units associated with "grave violations" as a pattern of behaviour.

This allegation is a reminder that violence against women and girls is pervasive in Somalia. Early this year, Somali media, civil society and the Government began to give the issue of sexual and gender-based violence the attention it demands. At the London conference in May, the Government further demonstrated its commitment when it signed an agreement with the UN on preventing sexual violence.


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