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On UN Rapes, ICP Asks Spox Of Code Blue Critiques, He Doesn't Agree With Any Of Them

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- Amid the latest in a series of allegations of child rapes against UN and French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, the UN General Assembly convened a meeting on April 5 in the UN's Trusteeship Council Chamber. But due to UN retaliation, Inner City Press was not able to cover it, at least not without a UN minder, see below.

 Now the US House of Representatives will hold a hearing on the topic on April 13, entitled "Peacekeepers: Allegations of Abuse and Absence of Accountability at the United Nations." Apparently as balance to three who will call for justice, there will be Jordie Hannum, Senior Director, Better World Campaign, saying that the UN's response is adequate.

But IS the UN's response adequate? On April 11, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric was dismissive of the detailed critiques of the UN's response, saying he doesn't agree with any of them.

  In an April 11 online press conference with Code Blue's Paula Donovan, and Yasmin Sooka of the UN panels of rapes and before that on Sri Lanka, held by the African Press Organization, Donovan slammed the UN for "grilling" the accusers. Sooka said French investigators went around CAR like "bulls in a china shop."

   Inner City Press submitted questions about UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladous linking rapes to R&R, and light punishment for Canadian police after sexual exploitation in Haiti. Then Inner City Press asked about Burundian troops, and Sri Lankan troops, and the upcoming April 13 House hearing. The way the questions were "managed" left a lot to be desired. Here's some of what Inner City Press asked:

To Paula Donovan: What do you think of Burundi, when troops repatriated from CAR for abuse, sending them out to AMISOM in Somalia?

What do you think of Canadian UN Police, after sexual exploitation in Haiti, suspended for only nine days?  Of DPKO chief Ladsous linking rapes to R&R?

To Yasmin Sooka: knowing what you do about Sri Lankan army, do you think they should be deployed by the UN as “peacekeepers”? Or would that be further UN negligence?

  At the April 11 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked  Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the critiques of the UN's response, video here,

UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: this morning, there was a press conference by Paula Donovan of Code Blue and Yasmin Sooka, who was on the panel to look at these things.  And they were highly critical of how the UN is going about it in CAR and elsewhere.  They were saying that the interviews that are taking place are inappropriate.  They describe them as essentially being… grilling victims to try to disprove their accounts.  They said there’s a conflict of interest for the UN to be doing the interviews; they should be done independently.  And they also called on the Secretary-General to turn over the cases of civilian staff members charged with sexual abuse in CAR to the authorities and going forward to take DNA samples of civilian UN staff when they fired them.  What’s your view?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Well, first of all, I would disagree respectfully with Ms. Donovan.  I think extreme care is being taken when interviewing victims of… alleged victims of sexual violence and abuse.  Our colleagues at UNICEF and other agencies who are dealing with this issue know how to do their job.  The last thing anyone wants to do is to victimize these young women, because they’re mostly women, and, unfortunately, a lot of them are minors a second time.  So, you know, Ms. Donovan can say… express her opinion.  That’s fine.  But I would strongly rebut that.  Second of all, I don’t think anyone… I think, if you look at the way we’ve come out with the information on this specific case, where I think every step of the way we’ve said we’re sending a team and so forth, I don’t think anyone is trying to bury these cases and trying to make them go away.  On the contrary, we’re just trying to seek out the truth.  On the issue of civilians, I’m not… I don’t completely understand what you’re saying, because, obviously, if there is a criminal case to be had with any UN civilian, that is… that may have acted improperly, those cases are turned over to their… usually to their native country, so…

Question:  She was saying to the CAR authorities.  But I guess what I’m saying…  [cut off by UN spokesperson]

Spokesman:  And I would add that the CAR authorities, the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister have all been kept… and the prosecutors have been kept very well aware and updated on all these developments.

Inner City Press:  Just overall she said, even, for example, the involvement of UNICEF, she said the UN as an entity that’s actually… stands accused of being… being part of the problem to be doing the investigation is a conflict.  She also pointed specifically… and I’d like to get your answer to this… on the Sangaris force, a recent French investigation into the… the allegations of bestiality being cleared so quickly, she said, is proof of the French authorities being… them saying we haven’t found evidence of it as proof of a desire to go in quickly and say none of it’s true.

Spokesman:  I think the French have to speak for themselves.  I think there is absolutely no desire… in fact, it’s quite the opposite… on the part of the United Nations, we want to get to the bottom of it, and we want to make sure those who suffered have their tormenters punished to the fullest extent of the law.  And Ms. … and no doubt Ms. Donovan will continue to have her opinions, but I don’t agree with any of them.

On April 8, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here

 UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about sexual abuse.  The report that came out that mentioned a peacekeeper in Haiti, who had fathered children in a condition of sexual exploitation, was suspended for nine days.  And now there's reports in Canada that are more specific, that say this was a Montreal police officer.  There were actually two of them.  One was only suspended for five days.  And there are calls in the Haitian community in Montreal that this is an outrage in terms of the lack of punishment.  I asked at the time, Mr. [Atul] Khare, I think it was, was nine days enough?  What does the UN think?  Given it was in the UN's report as one of the few cases in which a home country actually took action, is nine days enough?  And what is the UN going to do in terms of Canada's dealing with sexual exploitation in Haiti when the people come home?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, I think each… Member States are responsible for the prosecution of people who may have committed crimes.  We hope that those people are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  I'm not aware of the details of the case, and I… it's hard for me to say what is sufficient or not sufficient.

Inner City Press:  Should they pay child support?

Spokesman:  Obviously, people who father children have responsibilities.

Inner City Press:  But, does the UN… there was no criminal anything…

Spokesman:  No, and I also think, you know, there is… be this Trust Fund for support for the victims, but I have no more details on the case. 

  Well, the case is in the newspapers in Montreal, and should the UN be paying the child support of Canadian policemen?

Before the April 5 session, Inner City Press for two days asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson how, with its accreditation capriciously reduced, it could stakeout and cover the meeting without a UN minder. Amazingly, this proved to be impossible. But Inner City Press still covered it.

  First, Inner City Press was told by the guard at the turnstile at which Inner City Press' pass no longer work to “Go get MALU,” the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit. But MALU, when they came, said they were understaffed and did not even have the time to be Inner City Press' minder. So Inner City Press missed more than 15 minutes of the diplomats entering the meeting about rapes.

   (Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric had previously said that if Inner City Press couldn't get through the turnstile, “Don't tweet about it, go talk to MALU.” Inner City Press this time followed the advice - but MALU would not get it through the turnstile. So Inner City Press did then tweet about it.)

   Then MALU said they had time to be the minder of Inner City Press. This was done, at least for part of the time, along with a board member of the UN Correspondents Association. But even under this sinister watch, Inner City Press managed to speak to at least some Permanent Representatives, while others respectfully declined to speak, citing the minder.

   One said they weren't much impressed by Jane Holl Lute's excuse that the response had been slow because the site of the rapes was remote and dangerous.

Another said a major P5 country's “intervention” had been ill-informed and unprepared. But most with whom Inner City Press spoke said it was good the session happened, that if the UN doesn't “man up” as one Permanent Representative put it to Inner City Press, its reputation will be hurt for decades.

  Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Edmond Mulet, who spoke in the meeting, left and at least smiled at Inner City Press. He has received letters to give to Ban, from Burundi and elsewhere.

  Several diplomats, including one who for this reasons wouldn't not comment to Inner City Press about the meeting, commented that the requirement of a minder for the Press was absurd, wasteful and "beneath the UN." Another said, "But she's nice," referring to the minder. Inner City Press does not disagree, and is trying to be agreeable. But the restriction is not sustainable, is unjustified and must be reversed, shared office and Resident Correspondent accreditation restored.

   While Inner City Press spoke with a Permanent Representative it has long known, an UNCA board member - we are being diplomatic here - came up from behind and moved the Perm Rep's scart (it was a cold day), then hugged him.

   The Permanent Representative turned and asked, “Who are you?”

  This individual walked freely without minder, apparently not covering the meeting on UN rapes. We'll have more on this.

Footnote: while staking out the UN rapes meeting regarding which some Perm Reps wouldn't speak to the Press because of the minder, Inner City Press also covered as a bonus the election to some ECOSOC bodies. People emerged, some with swag bags, some saying they hadn't accepted the bag to not "be on Inner City Press."

On April 5 the Narcotics Board was completed; on April 6 it will continue on the indigenous and three other ECOSOC bodies. Watch this site - unless Inner City Press remains Banned from covering this.


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