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UN Won't Answer on Rapes, Its AT&T Contracts, Ban's Bankers Speech

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 17 -- With the UN embroiled in rape scandals, exposed as playing host to spying for the UN National Security Agency while its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech to 150 bankers later deemed “private,” is this dysfunction a product of the press not wanting answers or the UN not wanting to give them?

  On August 17, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesperson for the day, Vannina Maestracci, about UN rapes in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo before it, about the spying for the NSA and about Ban's speech on August 14 to 150 people at the Buffalo headquarters of M&T Bank, subject to government charges on unfair lending and on money laundering. Video here.

   UN Associate Spokesperson Maestracci began by saying that the UN's contracts with AT&T, which turned over all information to the US, would not be made public. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: Would it be fair to assume that UN contractors paid by the UN are assumed not to be spying on people inside the UN?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I don't know what the procurement contract entails, and I don't like assuming as a general rule.  Oleg.

Inner City Press:  Can we get a copy of the contract?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I doubt it.  Oleg.

Inner City Press has since researched this and found a UN written policy militating for release of the contracts. Former UN Office of Internal Oversight Services chief Inga Britt Ahlenius, when she left, wrote to Ban that “I see no visible effort to deliver on your stated commitment to increased transparency.”

   Next on the UN rapes in CAR, on which Maestracci had read out a statement that UNICEF was providing the victim legal advice, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: You read out on UNICEF that they purport to be providing legal advice to the victim.  And I guess I just wonder, given that the… that the legal problem is caused by the UN system's own invocation of immunity, what advice are they giving, to sue those responsible or… it just seems like… isn't it kind of a conflict for the UN system to be the one providing, purporting to provide legal advice to a person victimized by the UN system who can't get justice because of UN immunity.  So, what's the advice, I guess I'm saying…?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'm not sure what the advice is because I'm here, not with UNICEF in the [Central African Republic], but I think they are showing all the possible avenues that she has and what she can do.  I mean, I think it's fairly… people might not know what these avenues are.  And it's important…

Inner City Press:  Can she sue UN?

Associate Spokesperson:  Can I speak?  And it's important for people to raise awareness and to make sure that they do know where to go.

Inner City Press: Where should she go?  I mean, I'm just saying it seems… it's a contradiction because if she tries to sue…
Associate Spokesperson:  And where…

Inner City Press:  …she's told that it's immune, that the UN is immune.

Associate Spokesperson:  That's not true.  There's an investigation going on.  And that, you know, it is going on.  Why don't we let it go on and see what it comes up with?

Inner City Press:  That's the second question I wanted to ask.
Associate Spokesperson:  You are so not interested in the answers.

Inner City Press: Yeah, I am interested. I wasn't getting an answer.  That's the problem.

Associate Spokesperson:  Erol, please.

  Vine here.

   So, for the second time Maestracci cut off the question, this time with the statement, “You're so not interested in the answers.” But even when Inner City Press emailed questions after the briefing to Maestracci and Ban's lead spokesman, no answers were received. This is today's UN.

  Further on the UN rapes, now in the DRC Congo, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Just for the record, the answer I was asking for is what legal advice UNICEF gave.  But, I hear… since you said to wait, I wanted to ask you this.  In 2012… I don't know if it was in this room or a previous UN briefing room… there was discussion of the rape of two girls in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] by three… they believe they're from Uruguay but three peacekeepers in the DRC.  This was alleged by Dr. Victoria Fontan of the UN University of Peace in Costa Rica.  It was said there would be an investigation, but nothing has ever been said of either the peacekeepers being held responsible or the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] of the Mission at the time or DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  So, I wanted to know… I'm asking you, I don't expect you necessarily to know from the podium, but this is an answer I'm extremely interested in — what happened?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know about the specific case obviously from 2012.  But, I think you've heard what the Secretary-General has been saying all of last week and what he's, what he's been pushing when it comes to both misconduct and… including… sorry, misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse.  I mean, he's been very strong.  He has shown his resolve to push this forward and to make sure that there is, you know, institutional accountability, responsibility, but also that Member States provide us with the information that we ask because, as you know, there is a limit, some things are up to Member States.  But, obviously, he's very determined to make progress in this, in this area for the victims of misconduct.

Inner City Press:  But, what happened in this case?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know.  I just said that.
Inner City Press: I'm asking, can you ask DPKO?  The two victims’ names were Gisele and Esperanz…

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.  Why don't you send me an e-mail rather than saying everything here.  Oleg.

  Second Vine here.

   Another cut off. And to the detailed email sent after the briefing, no answer at all. This is today's or Ban's UN.

Here was the final exchange of the day, about Ban Ki-moon's speech to bankers:

Inner City Press: there was an article in The Buffalo News saying that the Secretary-General had gone to Buffalo and given a speech in front of 150 people in the M&T Bank headquarters for a couple of reasons.  One… I'm interested because M&T Bank has a bank merger that's been stalled out for three years due to allegations of money-laundering and lending discrimination, but mostly I wanted to know, did he give such a speech?  Can we get the text of the speech?  Why wasn't it given in advance?  And did he raise these issues about lending fairness and money laundering in his discussions with the CEO of the bank?

Associate Spokesperson:  So this was mainly a private visit.  He went to visit Buffalo and Niagara Falls, actually, and he was invited by someone he's known for a long time to address this… this group of people that you've mentioned.  We didn't put it out, again, because it was mostly, mainly, largely, a private visit.  He was with his family over the weekend.

Inner City Press: Were the people there all employees of the bank?  Was…

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I think it was community leaders from all over Buffalo, if I understand correctly.

Inner City Press: Do you have the remarks?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'll check, but, again:  mainly private visit and I don't think we'd be sharing them.  Anything else?  Great.  Have a good afternoon.

   No answers. Video here. This is today's or Ban's UN, UNtransparent and worse - and the Free UN Coalition for Access opposes it. Watch this site.


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