UN Dodges Sex
Abuse Follow-Up, Myanmar Crackdown, Terrorist Trade
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Media Analysis
May 2 -- As the UN was accused of working with a war criminal in the
Congo, exchanging the freedom of its stealth envoy to Niger for the
release of terrorism suspects and not following up on allegations of
sexual abuse by its staff UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka in Haiti,
and from Morocco in Cote d'Ivoire, while closing UN offices in
Bangladesh and turning a blind eye in Myanmar, the Office of the
Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week dodged most
questions on these topics. [Sri Lanka dodges here.]
At the UN's noon media briefing on Monday,
April 27, Inner City Press asked lead spokesperson Michele Montas:
City Press: There is a report that Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
has put a statement saying that Mr. [Robert] Fowler and his
colleagues were released in exchange for the release of Muhajadin,
they put it. I’m wondering whether the UN has seen that report and
when Ban Ki-moon put out a statement he praised Mali, Burkina Faso --
what did he praise them for? And is the UN aware of the prisoner
exchange for Mr. Fowler?
Montas: No, we’re not. And what I can say is that we can check
for you on what was done. But all the information that we had, you
April 28, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas about the UN's
use of peacekeepers from post-coup Fiji:
City Press: A follow-up on that. Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd had been quoted as saying that there’s some new decision by
the UN not to recruit any further Fijian peacekeepers.
Spokesperson: I’m not
aware of this. I think this is something you should ask
City Press: In terms of asking the UN, since the argument by
Australia and New Zealand is that the money paid by the UN to Fiji
for the peacekeepers buttressed the unelected regime’s power, can
we get a number from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] on
how much Fiji has been paid, either so far this year or in 2008?
Spokesperson: You should
address that question to DPKO. Please address the
question to DPKO.
City Press did email this and
other questions to DPKO, including
requesting follow-up information on peacekeepers repatriated for
sexual abuse, and again for the budget of the UN Interim
Administration Mission in Kosovo. Only the Fiji question was answered
by week's end, and only part of it: the number of Fijian troops
serving: 223 in Iraq, 12 in Darfur, 15 in the rest of Sudan, 31 in
Liberia and one in Timor Leste.
It was said, “We're checking for
information on reimbursements and will get back to you shortly,”
but by the end of the week that had not happened. Rather, DPKO later
clarified that the 223 in Iraq actually serve under the UN's
Department of Political Affairs. So why didn't the Spokesperson refer
Inner City Press there, or better yet, simply get and provide the UN
28, Inner City Press asked about developments in Bangladesh,
City Press: There are reports that various UN agencies have shut down
their operations in southern Bangladesh due to threats by militants. Is
that -– I know you don’t speak on -– but is it a fact that
the UN has pulled its staff out of that area and closed its
Spokesperson: I’m not
aware of it, but I can check for you.
City Press: Okay. And the other one is, there are also these
reports of cross-border action between Myanmar and Thailand. Of a
Myanmar attack on the Karen National Union that injured or seriously
injured two Thai soldiers. Since it’s a cross-border incident, is
it something that either DPA [Department of Political Affairs] and
Mr. Gambari or is the UN tracking that? What’s the response to it?
Spokesperson: No, we
don’t react at every cross-border problem that exists. We
don’t have anything to say about that.
City Press: But given that it’s a Government offensive against a
long-standing rebel group, this Karen National Union, is it something
that like Gambari -– what’s the status, I guess, of his good
offices mandate in Myanmar?
Spokesperson: His good
offices mandate did not include this type of situation. We
don’t have anything to say about this.
City Press: I appreciate it.
So the UN's
envoy to Myanmar does not cover this armed conflict, according to the
UN spokespeople in a statement not amplified or corrected by the end
of the week, when Inner City Press asked another question about
Myanmar, see below.
UN's Ban, Nambiar and Gambari, bloody
battles, no comments
April 29, Inner City Press asked Associate
Spokesperson Farhan Haq
City Press: On Satyam, can you say whether, explain
whether, this prohibition or decision not to give them any new
contracts also applies to the International Computing Centre, and
whether this ICC unit in fact does computing work for DPKO and other
entities? Some have described it as sort of a loophole in the
barring of Satyam.
think...Didn’t you get an answer on this a few weeks ago?
City Press: I did get an answer, then I’ve heard
contradictory things that DPKO was using ICC, even at the Valencia
Computer Centre, and that some individuals may have even been sort of
“rehatted” under the ICC. So, I guess...
see if there is any change, but I believe you’ve received some
information on this a few weeks ago. I am not aware of any
change since we gave you that.
City Press: And also, do you have a response to these
reports that Bosco, the ICC indictee for war crimes, was described as
a deputy coordinator in the Congolese Army action against the FDLR,
and also, therefore, calling into question the UN statement that it
doesn’t work with indicted war criminals.
we’re aware of those reports. At the same time, the UN
Mission in the DRC, MONUC, has not seen the documents that were
referred to in the media reports that allegedly showed that Jean
Bosco Ntaganda was part of the joint operation. Actually, on
the contrary, the DRC authorities have shown MONUC relevant documents
defining the operation’s command structure, which does not make any
mention of Mr. Ntaganda. MONUC has clearly stated that it
will not conduct or support joint operations in which Jean Bosco
Ntaganda plays a part.
This has been communicated
the DRC Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff, who
in turn have assured MONUC that Mr. Ntanganda is not a part of
any joint operation’s command structure. MONUC leadership
continues to engage with our Congolese interlocutors on this matter.
City Press: Even when you actually see this document,
what will the UN do if it turns out he was the deputy commander of
Spokesperson: Well, as
I just said, we continue to engage with our Congolese
But I’ve told you exactly the precise assurances that we’ve been
given by the Government of the DRC on this. And as for the
hypothetical question, we’ll cross that bridge if that is a
UN was proud of this answer; a well placed UN staffer told Inner City
Press, that's the only question of yours that they answered this
week, and only because DPKO had given them an if-asked to read out
when, as they predicted, you asked it. But the UN internally says it
no longer cares what the underlying document shows: it has cleaned
its hands by getting a second statement from the DRC Army that Bosco
was not "directly” involved.
29, Inner City Press asked
Haq regarding the since WHO renamed swine flu:
City Press: Can you confirm that the UN has raised the threat
assessment level in Mexico to 1 and to 2 for [inaudible]...? [that
was, Ciudad Juarez]
Spokesperson: I cannot confirm that. We tend not to give out
security phase levels. I’ve already told you what WHO’s phase
level is for the outbreak; where it’s at level 4. But in terms of
country level security things, that is not information that we give
City Press: Forgetting the threat level for a moment, in terms of UN
staff in Mexico, have there been any specific precautions taken?
Spokesperson: I am not aware what specific precautions in Mexico
would be. Certainly, the staff continue to go about their regular
City Press: I’ll ask one more thing. Yesterday, Mr. Choi, the SRSG
for Côte d’Ivoire, was asked about the status of the Moroccan
peacekeepers that were repatriated from Côte d’Ivoire on charges
of sexual abuse or exploitation. And he said that everything somehow
went well, the Government committed to training. But he was unable
to say whether anyone was actually disciplined. So, I mean I
e-mailed DPKO, [inaudible],...but I haven’t heard back. So I
wanted to know, both on this case and also on the Sri Lankan
peacekeepers from Haiti, can the UN state whether any of these
peacekeepers charged with sexual abuse and exploitation were in fact
disciplined by the [inaudible]...?
Spokesperson: If you’ve already asked DPKO, I suggest that they
would be the ones that would have any further information. For now,
we’d stand behind what Mr. Choi has said...
City Press: [How about] a one-page memo updating the various publicly
reported repatriations and what actually happened in each case. Because
the reason I am asking here is that I am feeling that this
information -- I asked the same thing on Haiti, the ones repatriated
from Haiti -- I never got it. So I don’t know if there is a policy
on the UN’s part despite saying zero tolerance, to not release any
actual information about what happens to the peacekeepers.
Spokesperson: We mention what happens when peacekeepers are
repatriated. After that, it’s up to their home Governments to
pursue any further action, and we follow up with those Governments to
see whether action has been taken. But it is not our ability or our
authority to do that.
City Press: No, I understand that. But once the Government tells
you something was done or wasn’t done, do you then release the
information under the rubric of zero tolerance to see whether
anything actually happened to the people? See what I mean? I think
the credibility of the whole referral to the country comes down to
what happens in the country. So do you release that information when
you get it?
Spokesperson: It’s not our place to comment on what is happening
at the national level. That’s for the national Government to do. But we
do try to accumulate this information and then report that in
to the respective bodies who deal with that here. And with that I
will bring Enrique Yeves, the Spokesperson for the President of the
General Assembly [PGA]
So the UN
claims “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse, but claims it is not
its ability or authority to provide basic information to show what
tolerance of abuse it does, in fact, have.
Press asked PGA spokesman Enrique Yeves if the PGA d'Escoto Brockmann
wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama to invite him to the
General Assembly's June 1-3 session on the global financial crisis.
Yeves said yes, and Inner City Press asked if the letter could be
released. By week's end, it hadn't been. Rather, the PGA's Special
Advisor for the global financial crisis event, Michael T. Clark, gave
a briefing about the event. Inner City Press asked if Clark is the
same Clark who led the U.S. - India Business Council. Yes, was the
answer. Are you a UN staff member? No. He said he is paid from the
PGA's budget, said to stand at $280,000.
April 30, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe
City Press: there was in December a UN staff member who was either
suspended or terminated for pornography –- for viewing and
forwarding pornography, including bestiality pornography, if you
remember this case. And the UN said he’d been suspended. But the
OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report said that there
were other –- that the investigation continued and that 13 of these
had been forwarded and involved DSS [Department of Safety and
Security]. I wanted to ask you, what has been the follow-up by OIOS
and the UN system on that case?
Spokesperson Okabe: I’m not familiar with the case that you’re
referring to, so I’d have to look into that for you.
City Press: How about the DESA [Department of Economic and Social
Affairs] staff member that was recently arrested in Kenya?
Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what I told you on that. Okay?
Thank you very much.
the child porn case, the arrest was made in Canada, not Kenya. [The
Kenya case is the failure to act on a senior UN official's waving of
an unlicenced gun.] And Inner City Press is preparing an update
report on this, and certain pornography related demotions said to be
slated for June 1. Also on
April 30, as she tried to cut off the noon
briefing, Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe
City Press: ...report saying that the army of the Central African
Republic killed 30 civilians on its border with Chad, which seems to
be right in the zone of this MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in the
Central African Republic and Chad] Mission. Was the UN Mission at
all aware of this? Did it catch them by surprise? And how’s it
going to change their engagement?
Spokesperson: We’re looking into that to see if there’s a
response from the field.
1 Ms. Okabe read out an answer:
was asked yesterday about reported attacks by Government troops on
civilians in the Central African Republic. In a response, I can say
Secretary-General is concerned about any developments that could
undermine the ongoing peace consolidation process in the Central
African Republic. He views respect for human rights as a critical
element for sustainable peace in that country. He, therefore,
remains concerned about reports of alleged human rights violations in
the country. And as he has consistently done on several occasions in
his reports and meetings with the authorities of the CAR, he once
again calls for the respect of human rights and the rule of law.”
Press also on Friday asked
City Press: Can I ask you one more question? There’s a -- Human
Rights Watch and other groups have said there are 20 aid workers that
were arrested in the wake of Cyclone Nargis for things such as
“public mischief” and sentenced for up to 35 years in jail. They’re
calling on the UN to use what leverage it has to try to get
these aid workers released. Has the UN been doing anything?
Spokesperson: Let me check with OCHA on that for you. Okay?
City Press: And one last thing. I’ve heard that the National
Competitive Exam through which people work for the UN on a
competitive basis from underrepresented countries is slated to be
eliminated in 2010 according to OHRM [Office of Human Resources
Management]. Are you aware of that? And, if so, what would replace
it in terms of an open and non-transparent way--
Spokesperson: I don’t know anything about that subject.
Deputy Spokesperson later told the reporter that the United Nations
is not scrapping the National Competitive Examinations. They have
been temporarily suspended for revamping to make them more
And so the week
of noon briefings ended with this too-rare answer, and Inner City
Press wrote a story, here. The trend is the UN trying to answer fewer
and fewer questions -- a trend that should be combated. Watch this
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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undefined trust fund. Video
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