After UN Discloses Rape Case in Mali, Inner City Press About Accountability, Cut Off, Guterres May 29

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After UN Discloses Rape Case in Mali, Inner City Press About Accountability, Cut Off, Guterres May 29

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video here, Vine here

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he has a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual harassment, and for retaliation. But when Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on March 15 about Michel Sidibé's reported threats of retaliatory investigations against those making and offering support to sexual harassment complaints at UNAIDS, Haq said this is entire a matter for UNAIDS. Earlier Inner City Press story here; exclusive publication of whistleblowers' international condemnation of retaliation and favoritism in Sidibe's UNAIDS, below. On May 22 at 5:30 pm, the UN disclosed a rape allegation against one of its civilian contractors in Mali, in the MINUSMA mission in 2018. The Office of Internal Oversight Services, whose director has declined Press requests to take questions about OIOS' procedures, is the one investigating it. But why isn't it a crime subject to real prosecution by Mali? Inner City Press asked Haq on May 25, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: an additional case of child rape by a civilian contractor of the UN in Mali, and unlike for military personnel, it doesn't disclose, one the nationality, and two it's a pretty serious charge, and the Secretary-General is obviously going there for the Day of the Peacekeepers, so I wanted to know what's the nationality of the contractor?  How did the UN become aware of this?  And what… in the serious instance of alleged child rape, what is the UN going to do about it?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have the nationality to share with you.  What I can say is that MINUSMA has received a report of sexual abuse involving a national civilian contractor, so this… I assume from that what the nationality is, but it says it involves a national civilian contractor.  The allegations refer to the rape of a female minor, resulting in her pregnancy.  The incident allegedly took place at an unspecified date in 2018.  Ensuring the provision of assistance to the victims is our priority.  The victim has been referred to UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and an NGO [non-governmental organization] partner for appropriate medical, psychosocial, and legal support.  The Mission also stands ready to provide additional assistance as needed and the allegation is currently being investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Inner City Press:  If, in fact, the contractor is Malian and the victim is Malian, why wouldn't… why would not this be a criminal matter for actual prosecution in Mali?  Is the person given immunity simply by being a UN contractor?  What is it… like, for example, what was this person doing for the UN…?

Deputy Spokesman:  You would have to ask the Malian authorities whether there's any criminal prosecution being followed up in that case.  That is a matter between the contractor and the Government of Mali.  I've given you the details on our side.

Inner City Press: But what was the contractor doing?  You say he's a contractor, just to understand a little bit better how someone could get immunity for child rape, what services were their performing for the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  I didn't say that any… first of all, there's not immunity for crimes that are committed.  Second of all, I didn't say that immunity was in play.

Inner City Press: Is it immunity from local prosecution?  [Inaudible]… rape by the UN…

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, you would have to ask… no, it's not by the UN.   Like I said, it's by a national contractor.  Second of all, you would have to check with the Malian authorities whether they are following up with criminal charges." The "inaudible" was a correspondent often used by the UN for this purpose trying to cut off the follow up on UN child rape with an unrelated question. We'll have more on this. 
On May 17 at 12:30 pm, just after the day's UN noon briefing ended (Inner City Press asked about UN sexual harassment in India, and about Vienna), the UN disclosed yet another case,
of sexual exploitation by a South African peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the November 2017 time frame, photo here. On May 4, the UN at 5:30 pm disclosed another case, of sexual exploitation by a South African peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, photo here. Minutes after the UN put that case online, Inner City Press asked three UN spokespeople, "on the new Sexual Exploitation case put on the UN website at 5:30 pm on Friday, can you explain why these cases, involving South African contingent in MONUSCO, were unknown or undisclosed so long?" Deputy Spokesman Farhaq Haq replied, "We received the new allegations yesterday and have asked for national investigation officers to be appointed within an expedited five day timeframe." This comes after on May 2, the UN after 6 pm disclosed yet another case, of alleged sexual exploitation in the DR Congo by a South African peacekeeper. And then another, of sexual assault by a South African Military Observer, in April 2018, here. Inner City Press is quoted here, that the UN is a joke on this, no one is held accountable. True to form, on May 2 Inner City Press was informed there is still no outcome from the loudly announced investigation of sexual exploitation by Ghana UN Police in Wau, South Sudan. On May 1, Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq read out a disclosure on sexual abuse and exploitation cases (distinguished by the UN from sexual harassment, the term they use whenever a UN staff member is the victim), and Inner City Press is near-immediately publishing it in full: "Today, I want to give you an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on these allegations.

"For the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, we have received 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.

"Out of the 54 allegations, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes. 21 allegations relate to implementing partners and 1 to a member of a non-UN international force.

"Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.
The allegations involve 66 victims – including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown.

"With regard to the status of the allegations, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.

"With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization. But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world. For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018." After this read out, Inner City Press asked again from the UN "nomenclature" for child rape, which has still not been provided. On April 30 the Guardian's  Rebecca Ratcliffe reports that "Miriam Maluwa, who has worked for the UN for more than 25 years, was placed on administrative leave from her post as country director for UNAids in Ethiopia on 27 March." On April 30, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Maluwa and more about the Luiz Loures case, and WFP in Fiji. Video here. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  at UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS], one of the complainants against Luiz Loures has been suspended from heading the Ethiopia office of UNAIDS and told not to go back into the office.  Many people see it as exactly the retaliation that was promised in Mr. [Michel] Sidibé’s speech to staff, saying that he will investigate all accusers.  What does António Guterres think of this suspension?

Spokesman:  We're aware of the issue.  Our understanding is that this is completely unrelated, but questions should be directed at UNAIDS.

Inner City Press: And also, just, I guess, in terms of the… the extent of this problem within the UN system, over the weekend, it emerged and I'm wondering if you can… will confirm and have… if he has anything to say on it, that there are sexual harassment complaints about… in Fiji on… at UN World Food Programme (WFP).  And have the staff been suspended?  And does the Secretary-General believe that, in such cases, staff should be suspended?  And what's the timeline for an investigation?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that WFP's fully aware and is starting the procedures.  I think WFP, under the leadership of the new Executive Director, has been extremely forward-leaning on these issues.  They will handle them according to procedures.  I'm not going to get into detail, because I'm not aware of the details in the investigation.

Inner City Press: 
But is there a UN-wide policy under António Guterres of suspending… suspending pending investigation…?

Spokesman:  I think each case… I think cases vary.  One of the things that we're looking at the CEB is, obviously, some harmonization and understanding across the system.  But, obviously, each… especially when it comes to specialized agencies have their own governing body and their own rules and regulations... 

Inner City Press: just one more on UNAIDS, and then I have some other stuff, but I'm sure you've seen that… that Ms. [Cristina] Brostrom, the… the alleged victim in the Luiz Loures case has written to say that she entirely rejects the re-opening and has no confidence in it.  I'm just wondering, is there a UN response?  She's also said…

Spokesman:  Well, I think… go ahead.

Inner City Press: No, no.  She's said that a toothless UN investigation could impact her ability to pursue the case outside of the system, so she act… is actively requesting that this not take place and views it as a cover-up.  What's your response?

Spokesman:  Well, I think my response is in what I just read, which is — and I'll read it again — that the complainant called for an investigation to be conducted by an external independent investigation entity outside of the UN.  The General Assembly, as you know, has mandated OIOS to have operational independence to conduct investigations.  OIOS has been requested to conduct it and re-open the investigation by WHO.  They've agreed to do so.  I think we are all hoping that… we all want to see what comes out of this re-opened investigation." The UN is failing.
n April 16, mid growing requests for Sidibe to resign, Inner City Press asked Guterres' led spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who reiterated Guterres has full confidence in Sidibe. So much for zero tolerance. Video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you about UNAIDS.  As I'm sure you've seen, a number of… a number of groups have asked for an investigation, but the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which does work on AIDS in 39 countries, has reportedly written to António Guterres asking that Mr. [Michel] Sidibé step down in light of his alleged retaliation against staff, in light of a staff member having, in 2015, told him that Luiz Loures was a sexual predator.  And I'm wondering, what does the Secretary-General think now that… that… basically, it doesn't seem that Mr. Sidibé is going to self-resign.  What does he make of… of a member of the…?

Spokesman:  I think it’s always important to hear from our partners.  Mr. Sidibé continues to have the confidence of the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: And… and the investigation [inaudible] of Luiz Loures meets António Guterres' standards of zero tolerance…?

Spokesman:  I think we've spoken about the investigation."
On March 29
hen Inner City Press audibly asked Guterres, if he had even yet spoken to Sidibe, Guterres did not answer. Vine video here. Present was Guterres' Global Communicator Alison Smale, who orders UN staff to "speak with one voice" - hers - on allegations of sexual harassment. She has continued to restrict Inner City Press, declining for monthes to even answer what the rules are. Inner City Press has been receiving detailed complaints about mismanagement and harassment in UNAIDS, but the UN refuses to answer. So below are some more of the complaints. Tellingly, the day after Guterres refused Inner City Press' question about UNAIDS, here are Loures' victims speaking publicly, in their own names:  Martina Brostrom,
a policy advisor at UNAIDS, said of Loures at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand in 2015: "I was pleading with him, and I was just bracing with all that I could just to not leave the elevator."  Guterres? No answer - and no action. Where is Guterres on this? Where is Guterres? Malayah Harper, who used to run UNAIDS' programs in Uganda and Kenya, on Loures a year earlier, also at a hotel: "He got into the lift with me, and then kind of lunged forward to -- you could call it -- kiss me, but I thought a kiss had to be consensual." We'll have more on this, and on retaliation. Some more of the complaints exclusively published by Inner City Press: "Michel Sidibé has established this 'boys club' culture where qualified women are made to feel less worthy, are openly ridiculed by male colleagues except those women who are providing favors to him and his 'boys,' he continues to give perks to his boys who serve as his connectors to presidents, prime ministers etc by appointing them to important positions as well as even when they retired bridging them back on special assignments for them to make easy money. People such as Fritz Lherisson, Georges Shaw and more recently Abdoul Dieng." There are the Mali connections, beyond what Inner City Press reported about Burundi on March 23, here: "Ben Wahab - A Malian recently appointed as UNAIDS Country Director for Burundi with no country level and no management experience. He came in as a P4 Adviser and very quickly in 3 years he rose to his present position of UNAIDS Country Director.... Theresa Poirier, a Malian Canadian,  UNAIDS Country Director for Malawi .Also a relatively new comer to UNAIDS appointed by Michel as Director in Mali and now serving in Malawi as UNAIDS Country Director... Fode Simanga a Malian serving as senior adviser in Geneva but graded at Director level... Dado SY Kagnsssy a Malian before UNAIDS Country Director for Djibouti, very little experience,non articulative  and a fairly new comer to UNAIDS who was appointed to this position whilst many longer serving staff members are over looked and now posted to Guinea as UNAIDS Country Director.. Amakonde Sande (moved from consultant to P4 in short order to  P5 as UNAIDS Country Director in Malawi and then sent to Uganda  a D1 position where she stayed only for 3 months only to be appointed to China as UNAIDS Country Director... Bridgitte Quenum recently appointed as UNAIDS Country Director but she has no leadership, management experience and was appointed over other more senior  persons. It is reputed that her family is/was a great friend of Michel Sidibe and that is how she entered UNAIDS and now gained this distinguished position." But note - not only has Antonio Guterres bragged recently that now at the UN "we have some Portuguese things" - he also has his own hiring and traveling patterns.

As to UNAIDS and Sidibe, there is talk of mining business; there are harassment complaints and findings that Sidibé refuses to act on.  Of Girmay Haile, the current UNAIDS country director in Zimbabwe, whistleblowers tell Inner City Press that a recent internal investigation came unanimously to the conclusion of severe bullying and intimidation just two weeks ago - but Sidibé has refused to move him. This followed a previous investigation against Girmay Haile Girmay HaileGirmay HaileGirmay Hailein Kenya; Sidibe refused the recommendation of the internal team and promoted him to country director Ghana. Girmay Haile has reportedly said he knows too much and if he falls they all fall. We shall see.

  Back on March 15 when Inner City Press asked about the UN Secretariat's own investigation of whistleblowers, for the second day in a row, Haq again defended it, as somehow benefiting member states. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen the article in The Guardian quoting Michel Sibidé [sic] of UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS].  What I wanted to ask you is, he seems to be attacking those who came forward in the sexual harassment case against Luiz Loures.  He's attacked them.  He's said that Loures is a… is… made a courageous decision.  And, of his detractors, he says, we know these people are taking their golden shan… handshakes from us here and knowing they have a job and then attacking us.  We know all about that.  We know every single thing.  Time will come for everything.  When I hear anything about abuse of our assets, I ask for an investigation.  Maybe these investigations are going on.  And so, many staff and many people in the… in the “#MeToo” movement see this as a direct threat against those who came forward.  And I wonder, what does António Guterres… who I'm… I… I would assume is a reader of The Guardian, what does he think of these comments?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're aware of this article.  Obviously, it's for UNAIDS and Mr.  Sidibé to explain what the comments attributed to him are. 

At UNESCO in Paris there are cover-ups and retaliation in the wake of the two-step firing of Assistant Director General Frank La Rue for sexual harassment.

But when Inner City Press on March 20 asked Guy Berger, the grandly titled Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, if he thought reporting on l'affaire La Rue, which has included Inner City Press' exclusive report that after his suspension he was still getting paid and now questions about UNESCO Ethics Adviser Rebecca Trott, Berger said he was unaware of the specifics of the case and to ask UNESCO's press officer.

  Since Inner City Press published the video of the Q&A, it has heard from UNESCO staff in New York that Berger "lied - he was among the best friends of La Rue, defended him at every turn, while also trying to take his job." This is how the UN works - work with collaborators like Berger's former student, to cover up abuse, while seeking mutual advancement. It is disgusting. So too on Rebecca Trott, UNESCO's "Ethics" adviser. As question mount about cover up, it will be interesting to know who is still protecting her within the organization. We'll have more on this.

Likewise, after Berger has spoken and joked with a former student (given the first question) about the importance of independent media and even holding power in check, when Inner City Press asked about the UN's FAO and WIPO going after the press, he said he was unaware but implied it might be justified.

When Inner City Press asked about the UN Department of Public Information's continuing lack of content neutral media access rules, despite Inner City Press' repeated requests to DPI boss Alison Smale, both his student and the UN moderate looked surprised, as if they didn't understand.

OK: Inner City Press was evicted from its UN work space for pursuing the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case in the UN Press Briefing Room - an event of the group headed by Berger's student - and has been a non-resident correspondent requiring DPI “minders” to cover the UN General Assembly and its President. Meanwhile its office was given to a no-show Egyptian state media, Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef, who has not ask the UN a question in ten years.

Media that rarely come in and ask anything have arrived since Inner City Press' eviction and have been given UN office space. Inner City Press has been told it is not even on the list, and Smale has not answer a single email. No rules. We'll have more on this (charade) - and on UNESCO. Watch this site.


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