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Amid UN Peacekeeping Rapes & Failures, Meeting Goes Private, No Ladsous Q&A

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- 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.

Now amid UN Peacekeeping scandals ranging from rapes and sexual exploitation to the “protection o civilians” crisis exemplified by the failure at Malakal in South Sudan, the annual meeting between the UN Security Council and DPKO Force Commanders which has always before been open - has gone behind closed doors.

  This is 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:

Inner City Press:  I want to ask you about a bill that was passed out of committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regarding, among other things, sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping.  Senators [Bob] Corker and [Ben] Cardin had said that the bill reminds that prohibitions on funding for gross human rights abuses also applies to UN peacekeeping operations.  I wanted to know, given that this may have an impact on UN funding and given the hearings that were held and the statement that the Secretary-General was inept on this issue, what is your response to the bill passing committee?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Well, I think, you know, many bills go through many legal procedures in 193 Member States.  We're not going to start commenting on each bill as it passes various hurdles in each country's legislative process.  I think the Secretary-General very much shares the concerns of all Member States on issues of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and other international forces.  I think the Secretary-General has been very much focused on ensuring that Member States do their part and ensuring that the UN system does their part and ensuring that we put the victims at the centre of everything that we do in order to combat this issue.

Inner City Press:  But I guess what I wanted to know is, since the bill does sort of link or say that it's possible that UN peacekeeping is involved in, quote, gross human rights abuses, I wanted to know: do you have a response to that?  And do you have an answer to yesterday I'd asked you about a 61-year-old truck driver in Bangui?

Spokesman Dujarric:  No.  I was expecting something.  I don't have anything on that.

Inner City Press:  Do you have any records of who was killed? [Inner City Press actually said, does the UN even keep records on who it kills?]

Spokesman:  Matthew, as I said, I'm trying to get some information on it.  I will get it to you as soon as I can.  No one more than the Secretary-General is concerned anytime anyone, whether it's an international peacekeeper or UN peacekeeper or UN civilian, violates human rights or commits criminal conduct.  And he's extremely focused on ensuring that there's accountability and that there is no impunity.

  Extremely focused. That's why he and his Under Secretary General for "Public Information" Christina Gallach threw out the critical Press which is asking about these issues, and Gallach's "2016 Communications Guidelines" barely mention sexual abuse, and are silent on the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case which broke in 2015 and in which Gallach is implicated, see UN OIOS audit at Paragraphs 37-40 and 20(b).

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:

Inner City Press: There’s a lengthy 18 April piece in Time magazine about rape as a tool of war.  And one of the situations that it describes are people who sought shelter in the UN… UNMISS Protection of Civilians Sites being, they say, repeatedly raped inside the camps.  And so it… it’s not something that I’d heard of.  And I wonder, is it something that the UN and UNMISS keep track of?  It sounds pretty bad to be in a… in a POC (protection of civilians) site.  And so what is the UN’s position on whether rapes have occurred in these sites, as described in Time magazine?

Spokesman:  I don’t have any reports to that end.  Obviously, the situations inside the camps are challenging given that these protection of civilians sites were not designed to house the tens and tens of thousands of people we are housing.  We’ve seen that sometimes the security situation inside those POCs has been precarious.  We hope, if there are any reports, that they are reported to the UN authorities.

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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