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Like UN's Haiti Impunity, ICP Asks of New Srebrenica Decision, BNP on Rwanda, Shell on Ogoni 9

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 – Days after UN cholera victims told Inner City Press in Haiti that the "community projects" UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described to the Press would be useless to them, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about a court decision that UN Peacekeepers bore responsibility for deaths in Srebrenica as well, and about human rights cases against UN Global Compact members BNP Paribas and Shell. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: the decision in The Hague by Netherlands appeals court confirming that the partial responsibility of the Dutch battalion of UN peacekeeping in the deaths in Srebrenica.  And people are angry because it’s reduced the damages to 30 per cent; it’s basically saying they might have been killed otherwise.  But what is the UN’s response, given that the Dutch battalion was, in fact, a UN peacekeeping battalion.  What’s been learned to it, and what do you have any to say about that?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we’re aware… I think, first of all, our thoughts need to be with the victims of the massacres that took place in Srebrenica and with the relatives of the victims and the survivors and all of those who perished in the atrocities committed throughout the Former Yugoslavia.  As you know, the UN was not a party to this court case, which was in a national court in the Netherlands.  We will study the judgment carefully, but, at this point, we’re not going to make any further comment, because our… my understanding, at least, is that it will be appealed to a higher court.  And as you know, the UN issued years ago a rather exhaustive report on its failings, the Organization’s failings in Srebrenica.

Inner City Press:   But isn’t it not a party because it cited immunity early in the case?  I mean, I’ve seen the lawyer even of this current case saying that that’s why the UN’s not…

Spokesman:  Well, the fact is we’re not a party.

Inner City Press:  Two related.  One, there’s a case also in The Hague against Royal Dutch Shell by, it’s called the Ogoni nine, but it’s a case basically tying corporate responsibility to a military crackdown.  Separately, there’s a case now just begun against the Banc Nationale de Paribas [BNP Paribas] about the Rwanda genocide.  I don’t expect… you can say obviously these are not UN related, but since both seem to be members of the UN Global Compact, I wanted to know, does the UN track such high-profile human rights corporate cases? And, if so, what… are… are the institutions expected to respond?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that these cases are all ongoing, and the Global Compact, as you know, has a mechanism to deal with its own members.  So I will leave it at that...

Inner City Press:  On the Burundi thing, have you run the names through?

Spokesman:  As soon as I have something on it, I will share it.

  Nothing. Dujarric dodged questions about what the victims said, from Inner City Press. This while Guterres is recruiting a "victims' advocate" - on every issue except those the UN killed? Video here. So on June 28 Inner City Press asked Dujarric if Guterres' supposedly "new" approach to the cholera the UN brought to Haiti meant he will continue to seek impunity. From the UN transcript: at least two federal court cases about the UN having introduced cholera to Haiti.  In this case that's in Brooklyn, where they're arguing that… that the UN essentially waived the immunities that it's claiming by having a mechanism to deal with negligence, which I think most people would say this was, as opposed to intentional, is there anything in the new Secretary-General's new approach to cholera that will be reflected in a response, or is it the UN's continuing response that it bears no legal responsibility at all?

Spokesman:  Our legal position is unchanged.  The UN's effort as outlined by the Secretary-General is focusing on preventing the spread or resurgence of cholera in Haiti and helping communities in a first instance.

Inner City Press: And what's the status of his discussions with countries about the $40 million that…?

Spokesman:  I've nothing more to say than what the Secretary-General himself announced.

 From the UN's June 27 transcript: Inner City Press: in Haiti, as the Security Council made its trip, various people approached the… the Press that was part of the trip and said very clearly that they interpreted what Amina Mohammed and Mr. [António] Guterres had said as a retrenchment, as a stepping back from the idea of possible individual reparations that was in the November 2016 report by then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  And one gentleman, 57 years old, who has had cholera and his spouse died, said: "Community projects are useless to me, do nothing for me."  And I wanted to understand more clearly,  Farhan [Haq] ended up saying that there's still some consideration of  individual reparations.  That's not really the way that I read what the Secretary General said.  What is the current thinking of the Secretary-General on attempting to make at least some type of reparatory payment to people whose relatives got cholera and died and have to educate their children?

Spokesman:  First of all, our hearts go out to all the people who suffered from the cholera epidemic, either personally or through the loss of loved ones.  I think the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General were very clear in outlining the way forward.  The focus will be initially on community-based projects, and we're taking things one step at a time.  But, I can't really go any further than what the Secretary-General himself said.

Inner City Press: But, he seemed to say that individual was not being considered.

Spokesman:  Things are progressing.  We're taking things one step at a time. 

  So what has been the United Nations' real impact on Haiti? There will be longer answers to that questions - watch this site - but for now a vignette. After two days of speed meetings with the President, parliamentarians, police trainers, proud peacekeepers from India and Brazil, some civil society reps followed by businessmen with flash drives, a UN bus raced over ragged streets on June 24.

Inside, European staffers of the UN's MINUSTAH mission fretted about the addition of a vague paragraph about the cholera the UN brought in a statement soon to read out at the MINUSTAH Logistics Base. Outside the bus, Haitians pushing heavy cartloads of fruit, riding in in backs of pickup trucks pushed ot the side by the UN convoy, stared out, some in anger. The Press, along for the ride, heard the day before from residents of Cite Soleil who lost relatives to the cholera the UN brought, with criminally negligent inattention to sanitation for troops brought in from a cholera hot-spot in Nepal, who got cholera themselves. “The UN has to pay for this,” one said. “What good would a community plaza be fore me?” But it is community projects that new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is offering, as he told Inner City Press back in UN headquarters. The Security Council delegation that visited Haiti June 22-24 repeated over and over they support the Secretary General's “new” approach. But what is new about it? We'll have more on this.  When the UN Security Council visited Haiti's Presidential Palace on Thursday, they heard about the cholera the UN brought, specifically that the $40 million remaining in the MINUSTAH mission's budget should remain behind. On Saturday morning, the Security Council's president for June Sasha Sergia Llorentty Soliz held a press conference at the MINUSTAH mission's "Log-Base." Periscope video here. Inner City Press asked him about the UN cholera victims it has spoken with the day before, who said that the UN must pay individual reparations, not community project that are of no use to them. He said that messages had been heard. We will follow up on this in New York - and in Haiti on the intimidation and under-payment of judges. The Security Council got a briefing from India's Assam Rifles, complete with a slide about the unit's history in Sri Lanka. (More on that to follow). Outside, rifles and riot suppression equipment was displayed. A short bus ride led to the Brazilian camp, fruit juices and what felt like the wrap up of the visit. Should UN peacekeeping contingents buy more of what they use from the countries they deploy to? More on this to follow, too. Back on Friday when the Security Council met at the country's Cour de Cassation, invitee Massillon told them and then the Press that some judges in Haiti can't even afford any law books, work surrounded by garbage and are subject to intimidation and corruption. Another invitee told Inner City Press that while Massillon "said what had to be said," he had offended UN Envoy Sandra Honore with his criticism of MINUSTAH's performance. Who will head MINUJUSTH? (In a bad joke, some call it Mini-Jupe or mini-skirt, as some in the Congo have ajudge MONUSCO to be MONUSELESS.) We are putting Massillon's and a colleague's later audio up on sound-cloud; Inner City Press asked again about Haitian judges' paltry salaries. Earlier on Friday there was a protest while the Security Council met with the "private sector." A bus full of UN cholera victims was pressured to leave - but then returned, along with advocate Mario Joseph, and spoke with the Press. Long Periscope with Mario Joseph near the end here; second Periscope turned into YouTube here. Uniformly, the call was for individual reparations. Of a 57 year old victim who can now barely walk it was asked, what good would a community plaza do for him? But that is what the UN, when Inner City Press last asked, is offering. Done with the private sector, the Security Council drove a short way to the Cour de Cassation. The UN stands for justice? Cholera was less pointedly raised after the meeting with President Moise by his acting (for a day?) foreign minister, and was the subject of the sole questioner allowed. Video here. Friday when after a closed door meeting with Parliamentarians - the Army came up, wit the US - the Security Council had lunch with invited civil society members, there was a place set for cholera advocate Mario Joseph, next to Camille Chalmers. At first he wasn't there, and those who'd specifically invited him wondered why. Then he rolled in. But the Press was already told to wait outside, under a beautiful red flowering tree, and wait for the "private sector" to arrive. Earlier on Friday, the Security Council drove uphill to the Parc de Martissant and each placed a white rose at the earthquake memorial. FOKAL President Ms Duvivier brought up the UN's cholera and how little money the UN has raised; the artist Ms. Monnin explained her hanging heads of concrete and metal, with shattered mirrors on top. It spoke for itself. A small drone buzzed overhead. At the Council's next meeting, the Press was not even left in for five minutes. Earlier the delegation was escorted (run-up Periscope here) to the Haitian National Police School, where just as a meeting including the Prime Minister began, the Press was ushered out. For now, tweeted photo here. In the School courtyard, roosters could be heard crowing, and cadets singing during training. "Vous est journaliste?" a man asked, hand on his sidearm. Oui, je suis journaliste. Nothing yet on cholera, except finally some talk of new UN (part-time) envoy Josette Sheeran and her past. We'll have more on this.  On this too: in the MINUSTAH mission the talk is of re-applying for posts in the new, smaller MINUJUSTH replacement set to start October 16, 2017. The UN's presence become routinized. There is a former star of the UN Budget Committee, now working on political affairs; there's Security from other Security Council trips - one in which a UN Security officer fired a bullet inside the UN plane, leaving Ambassadors and the press on a bus ride from Goma to Kigali in Rwanda. There are long-time UN communications people and ex-pat journalists. There is a dismissive or perhaps fatalistic view of those Haitians protesting the UN's presence and impact. Then there are Haitians striving, setting up small businesses in nooks and crannies by the side of the road, while French business people fly in for contracts, assisted by their country's ambassador Elisabeth Beton, who spoke June 22 on TV Metropole about Bollore, Total and Suez. What is the UN's role in this? After the June 22 meeting, Haiti's acting foreign minister spoke on cholera, that the $40 million unspent by MINUSTAH should remain in-country. But will it? In the UN Budget Committee there's talk against it, as a bad precedent. Wasn't bringing cholera, and then denying it for six years, a worse precedent? Sui generis. Earlier on Thursday morning, the country's booming voiced Ambassador to the UN was at the airport to greet the Council members. Protests, too, awaited - although MINUSTAH staff, and a Haiti-based European journalist, mocked the protest as small.  In the minibus that took the Council members up into the hills to the Royal Oasis Hotel, the talk was of the wind-down of the MINUSTAH mission, begun after the ouster of President Aristide in 2004, of access for interpreters but barely - five minutes at each meeting? - for the press. a meeting was held with the UN Country Team.  The Press was ushered about amid generic statistics from the Deputy SRSG. Civil society, however, has been chiming in with the Press. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a press conference on June 20, Inner City Press about the UN having brought cholera to Haiti under his predecessor Ban Ki-moon but now reneging even on what Ban belatedly proposed for individual reparations. Inner City Press mentioned upcoming protests in Haiti that it will be covering from there, June 22 and 23, accompanying the UN Security Council mission which took off from JFK airport early on June 22. Photo here, Periscope video here. Guterres announced that he was just then - minutes later the announcement went out - naming as a new special envoy on Haiti Josette Sheeran, formerly the director of the UN World Food Program and now the head of the Asia Society. Video here. Transcript here. He seemed to say the UN was never going to compensate individuals or families impacted by the cholera the UN brought. And the demands are for more than that: here's a sample list, in advance of the protest(s): "1. Close the MINUSTAH acknowledging its failure
2. Cancel the MINUJUSTH articulated following the ques Chapter 7 is a contradiction with the mandate defined
3. re-articulate globally the concept of relations between the UN and Haiti and especially among Latin American countries and Haiti. Recalling the generous internationalist commitment of the founders of our country and concrete, substantial and decisive solidarity offered to Miranda and Simon Bolivar
4. Launch a process of compensation, justice and reparation contemplating the numerous victims and destruction caused by this military occupation of 13 years.
5. Compensate victims of rape, men, women and children were raped or processes used in sexual exploitation
6. Support the thousands of women who have babies and children / children without parents because soldiers and police of MINUSTAH left without parents assume their responsibilities without leaving their addresses
7. compensate the families of citizens / citizens killed by the introduction of cholera by Nepalese MINUSTAH troops. We're talking about at least 20,000 bodies (the official figure underestimated speaks of nearly 10,000 dead)
8. Compensate survivors were infected by cholera by but did not die but their lives were severely affected (we're talking about more than 800,000 people)
9. To compensate the country for the huge economic losses caused by the presence of cholera during these long 7 years.
10. Invest to universalize access to drinking water for the entire population
11. To strengthen the system of public health and sanitation." On June 21 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq to clarify.
UN Video here, from Minute 16:21. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: this was something that the Secretary-General said on the record when I asked him about the seeming change in the cholera in Haiti plan.  And he said that that policy was announced by his predecessor and had two dimensions; one is fighting cholera, and the other is the possibility to support communities impacted.  It was devised not as individual support.  And just, since then, I went back and actually looked at the November A/71/620 document, and there’s a whole section on individual support.  It was called track 2B.  So I just wanted to--

Deputy Spokesman:  And I was here at the time.  And I remember the discussions that the former Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had about this.  And, at that point, it was not determined whether it would be individual or community-based.  Even at that point, I believe the discussion was towards community-based.  So that’s something that’s… a process that’s been crafted.

Inner City Press:  I wish I’d had that document in front of me when he answered, because there are many people that are in Haiti that have seen the new announcement made by Amina Mohammed as a retrenchment, as a taking back of that before even consulting people.  Mario Joseph and others have put out a press release; they’re protesting on Thursday.  So I wanted to just get your quote before that protest, that at one time the idea of individual reparations to people harmed by cholera was in a UN document as being considered and it’s now not being considered at all?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn’t say that it’s not being considered at all.  And I wouldn’t say that initially it was something that was devised as the primary idea.  This is something that’s been under consideration.  It remains under consideration, but the primary focus, for reasons that were described at the end of last year and again at the start of this year, have been community-based.  And if you look at what Ban Ki-moon said in December, again, it mentions the community-based approach.

  But the UN document in November 2016 has a Track 2B, individual. Here's the beginning of the press release for the protests: "Port-au-Prince: Haitian cholera victims and their advocates called on the UN Security Council to deliver on the promise of a new, victim-centered approach to cholera during its visit to Haiti this week, by meeting directly with victims and committing to funding the $400 million initiative before MINUSTAH --the peacekeeping mission that caused the cholera epidemic—pulls out in October. 'The UN’s apology and promises were promising in December,' said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) that has led the fight for justice for cholera victims. 'But seven months later, with only a pittance raised for the so-called "New Approach" and not a single promised consultation with the cholera victims, they look like empty public relations gestures. It is time for the UN to deliver.' The 15-member Security Council is in Haiti from June 22-24 to finalize the transition from MINUSTAH to a new mission focused on supporting justice that will be known as MINUJUSTH. The BAI announced two protests during the visit: one at the UN logistics base in Haiti on Thursday at 11 am, and a second one in Champs de Mars on Friday at 11." We'll have more on this: Inner City Press will be accompanying and covering, in as much detail as possible, the UN Security Council's visit to Haiti from June 22 to 24. Watch this site.

Footnote: on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, to which Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric does NOT "lend" the briefing room and which has never and will never ask for a journalist to be thrown out or restricted, Inner City Press urged Guterres to more routinely take questions, for example on his way in and out of the Security Council. We'll see.


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