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UN's Pillay Says While Few States Discipline Abusive UN Troops, They Are Needed

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- While the UN relies on troop contributing countries to discipline UN peacekeepers who rape or abuse, "very few states in fact have prosecuted" them, the UN system's top human rights official told the Press on Tuesday. Inner City Press asked Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, what the UN should do to ensure that more than "very few states in fact... prosecute" their soldiers who are accuse of abuse. Shouldn't the UN stop taking troops from such countries, or at least withhold some of the payments? "We need the troops," Ms. Pillay said. Video here, from Minute 39:43.

  Later on Tuesday her Office's representative in New York, Craig Mokhiber, told reporters not to accept governments' "justifications" the human rights abuses they should control. Video here. But what is the UN's and Ms. Pillay's argument, that the lack of discipline of abusers is excused by the need for troops, but a justification? If a government said it would not discipline soldiers in its own army for war crimes because then it would be more difficult to get volunteers, Pillay and the UN would surely not accept the premise. But how is the UN's position any different?

  Pillay went on to say that her office did get several generals from Nepal removed from duty, due to involvement in disappearances. She mentioned the case of Rwandan general Karenzi with the UN in Darfur, where despite indictment for war crimes by a Spanish judge, Karenzi remains in place.

UN's Pillay on Tuesday, discipline of abusive UN peacekeepers not shown

  Also concerning Spain, Inner City Press asked Ms. Pillay about the controversy surrounding the $23 million ceiling of the new human rights chamber in Geneva, whether Spanish international cooperation funds should have been used and whether, as reported, a square meter of the ceiling has already fallen. I would be alarmed by the ceiling, she said, since she will be sitting under it. She said Spain's Ambassador told her the funds used for the ceiling had never been expressly earmarked for the poor. International cooperation, apparently, can mean many things.

Footnote: Mokhiber appeared with a pro-UN pollster, Steven Kull, and Peggy Hicks from Human Rights Watch. Kull, when asked why he had not included sexual orientation rights in his poll, said he hadn't "found a sponsor" for such questions. Inner City Press asked if that didn't mean that the questions asked were directly by funders. Oh no, Kull assured. But strangely enough his organization has not, for example, polled people in the Congo on what they think of UN peacekeepers. To come full circle, the word for this is impunity.

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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