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Amid Rape Charges Against UN in Liberia, Delayed Probe, Disappeared Article

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- How long does it take the UN to investigate its alleged wrong-doing, from peacekeepers' rape in Liberia to mis-transporting of weapons by land contrary to its agreement with South Sudan?

  And beyond attacking press articles, as UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous did on South Sudan, does the UN play a role in getting articles to disappear?

   On April 30, Inner City Press asked about both cases. Two days later, while US Secretary of State is in Juba, the UN has yet to answer the South Sudan question. On Liberia, from the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: There’s a report of, essentially, rape by an UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) peacekeeper in Liberia and it’s been reported in AllAfrica, from the local paper there… it’s obviously troubling and I wonder, what is UNMIL’s position? Did it happen? Did it not happen? And if it did happen--

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: Obviously, reports of any sexual assault by UN staff or peacekeeper is very troubling; but I would look into it. I don’t have any information beyond what you’ve just told me.

On this, the UN did at least reply, two days later:

Subject: Your question on Liberia
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, May 2, 2014 at 9:41 AM
To: Matthew Russell

Regarding your qeustion on allegations concerning the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), we have the following information from the Mission:

Allegations stemming from events at UNMIL on 27 December 2013 are being investigated. These include allegations against staff members, as well as allegations made by those staff members.This process is ongoing.

So, more than four months. How long will it take? Notably, after Inner City Press asked the question, the article was taken down from AllAfrica's site.

  But on this the day after World Press Freedom Day, here's an earlier one, from a local paper, here, including national staff members' complaints that "[a]t the instruction of UNMIL's management, troops of the Nepalese, Nigerian and Jordanian Formed Police Units who violently entered the compound and mercilessly beat, raped and bullied our colleagues who sustained severe wounds. National Staff members were manhandled, beaten, publicly raped and ill-treated by armed officers of the UNMIL Jordanian Formed Police Unit."

   What role did the UN play in the more recent article being taken down from AllAfrica's site?

On South Sudan, Inner City Press on April 30 asked:

Inner City Press: On South Sudan, I wanted to ask you about the Secretary-General’s statement yesterday on South Sudan where he said he urged President Kiir to intervene personally to stop a negative campaign against UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) and to issue a public statement to this end. What I wanted to know is one… I mean, can you say… to some it seems to… to say to a leader to… what does he mean by intervene personally beyond issuing a public statement? And number two, the issues that have arisen about UNMISS, for example, the truck of weapons that were going to the Ghanaian peacekeepers, has that report ever been issued publicly? Has the cluster bomb report?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I think the information on the weapons box was shared with the Government of South Sudan. I think you know, like in any mission, there are… it is normal that sometimes there are points of tension between the host country and the mission, but I think here in South Sudan we have seen issues of having to do with our ability to move around that is being hampered. Attacks on our compounds where we feel the Government has a responsibility to protect those compounds, so I think there are improvements to be made in the relationship between the Government and the Mission.

Inner City Press: the reason why I’m asking about the weapons, I still get e-mails from over there from people saying they haven’t seen the UN report. So, I wonder what is the UN’s own duty to sort of work, go to the public and say this is what happened here, understand what we did. It seems to me that that report has never been issued publicly. Maybe you gave it to the Government, but if people don’t know…

Spokesman Dujarric: I think we spoke about its conclusions from here but I will double check.

On May 2, still having no update, Inner City Press asked Dujarric and his deputy again. Watch this site.


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