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UN Official, "Elated" by Rapes, Says Corruption Watching is Up to Haiti's Preval

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24, updated -- "Three rapes? That almost elates me," the UN's second in command in Haiti Tony Banbury told the Press on Wednesday. "There are rapes in New York, in any refugee camp in the world." Video here, from Minute 34:17.

Some were surprised at this UN official's statement. While he may say that the quote -- caught on film -- is out of context, Inner City Press would counter that the quote was created by, and reflects, the context.

  Banbury's presentation, billed as a description of the situation in Haiti, was in fact a defense of the UN's performance. Banbury said the earthquake in Haiti was harder to deal with than the tsunami or Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, in which he was involved.

  Inner City Press asked Banbury how the UN, which has made appeals for over $1 billion, will ensure that rubble removal contractors are transparently selected based on merit, and that the landowning elite in Haiti doesn't gain super-profits from the move to acquire land for new housing.

  Banbury said that both of these are up to the sovereign Haitian government. He derided procurement rules as causing delay. But US-based companies like Ashbritt, under fire for post-Hurricane Katrina profiteering, have already held private meetings with President Rene Preval.

UN's Banbury on Feb. 24, 2010: elated?

  To be fair, Inner City Press reiterated the question: was Banbury saying the UN would do nothing to try to ensure that money donated to help poor Haitians wasn't grabbed by profiteers? Yes, Banbury said, we have an interest in that, and the UN will pursue it "on a political level... with the World Bank." But by leading with the UN's deference to sovereign Haitian decisions, a message is sent.

  In fact, Banbury's involvement in the UN's and World Food Program's response to Cyclone Nargis involved knowing, but keeping quiet, about currency exchange losses of up to 25% to the Than Shwe military government of Myanmar.

  What correspondents were and are looking for is facts, not UN spin. And if one is the UN's spinmeister, it might be better not to say, "Three rapes? That almost elates me." What happens next? Watch this site.

Update: two days after Banbury's comments and the article above, and one day after the UN was asked about the comments, and promised an update, the following came in:

On Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM, UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <> wrote:

At the noon press briefing on February 24, Assistant Secretary-General Banbury was asked about a report by Human Rights Watch on security and protection conditions in IDP camps in Haiti, including a report that there had been three cases of women being raped.

ASG Banbury adds the following comment: “My remarks make clear my strong commitment to human rights protection issues, and my conviction that three rapes is "far too many". I said that reports of only three rapes "almost elates me" because of deep concern--by myself and human rights protection experts--that the large numbers of people who are living in cramped and onerous conditions in displaced persons camps could lead to serious protection issues, especially with regard to sexual violence against women and children. If the total number of rape cases is indeed three, while "far too many", it would show that efforts by the UN and our partners to enhance protection measures for women and children in the camps were working to a large extent, and our worst fears were not materializing. This would be a source of encouragement. I have dedicated many years to protecting the human rights of vulnerable populations, and my career to public service. Far from belittling the crime of rape, my clear intention was to convey a sense of UN commitment and concern about human rights protection.”

  Media outlets which heard but never wrote about Banbury's comment about being "almost elated" at three rapes were quickly to publish his subsequent statement.
* * *

In Haiti, UN Force Commander Silent on Killings, Clinton Skips Press, Contracts

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- In Haiti, the UN's Force Commander Major General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, has been aware of "incidents" in which the Haitian National Police have killed civilians. Inner City Press asked him about it on Thursday. Video here, from Minute 13:56.

He said, "those were crucial and critical moments, the HNP needed to use that kind of force." Video here, from Minute 15:56.

It is reported that President Rene Preval, his prime and other minister met in January and authorized the summary execution of "criminals." The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, which has a stated and implicit duty to protect civilians, has confirmed it has been aware of killings.

  Inner City Press asked the Major General what his troops do about this. "I do not command the police," he said. "I do not speak on this."

  This seems to be a major problem. Even those the UN peacekeepers are changed, according to the force commander, with security and not criminal justice, if they witnessed one civilians killing another they would act. But if Haitian National Police kill someone, even as a summary execution, the UN says and does nothing?

Clinton, Ban, Holmes and Haitian Ambassador, HNP killings not shown

Later on Thursday, Bill Clinton was scheduled to join a press stakeout with Ban Ki-moon, John Holmes and Haiti's Ambassador. But Clinton was delayed, due in part to an anthrax scare at the UN -- click here for Inner City Press' first and second stories -- so he skipped the stake out. Mr. Ban took only one question before leaving.

Inner City Press asked Haiti's Ambassador about a meeting between President Rene Preval and US contractor Ashbritt, to gain rubble removal contracts. He replied no contract has yet be let, and whoever wins must create jobs. Afterwards, he thanked Inner City Press for not asking about the HNP's alleged executions.

John Holmes dodged questions, first about his leaked email about Haiti, then about restrictions on UN aid in Somalia being imposed by the US. We'll have more on this.

* * *

Killings by Haitian National Police Ascribed to Imposters by UN, No Anti-Corruption Role, UN's Pro-Government Focus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- The UN says it is investigating reports of summary executions by the Haitian National Police. Video here, from Minute 57:52.

Inner City Press for the second time in ten days asked acting UN chief in Haiti Edmund Mulet about the killing of alleged thieves, this time citing Haitian religious leader Max Beauvoir's account of a January 16 meeting of President Rene Preval, the Prime Minister and police chief at which "we decided we had to deal with them in an emergency way... capital punishment, automatically, for all bandits."

Mulet stammered that "we are aware of some incidents of shooting [by] private security guards... perhaps Haitian National Police members involved." But even this, he tried to convert into imposters, who stole the HNP uniforms.

  On February 1, when Inner City Press asked, Mulet said that the UN Mission MINUSTAH was "investigating" such claims. Ten days later, there are no "conclusions," he said.

  Top UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy began the February 11 presentation by praising Mulet for maintaining such good relations with the Haitian government.

   How can Mulet credibly investigate and speak out against Haitian National Police killings, which Max Beauvoir said were decided on at a meeting including Rene Preval and the Prime Minister, if he is also tasked with "getting along well" with these officials?

The UN has at least two conflicting goals: to get along with the government, and to ensure that at least basic human rights are being respected. Right now the UN in Haiti appears to be paying only lip service to the second, human rights goal.

The UN need to be (made to be) much more clear about its role in Haiti. The UN has some hard working international and national civil servants in Haiti, but only if the UN admits what it cannot or will not meaningfully do will the need for others to do it become clear. Lack of clarify ill-serves the Haitian people.

UN's Ban and Mulet with Rene Preval, HNP not shown

  Inner City Press also asked about another ostensible UN role: to try to minimize corruption, so that needed donations will be made. Inner City Press asked about documented meetings with President Preval by a Florida-based business, AshBritt, which is under fire for how it got Hurricane Katrina contracts -- with Haley Barbour as a lobbyist -- and how it performed under other contracts.

  Of the meeting in which AshBritt pitched for major contracts in Haiti, Mulet said "we have nothing to do with that." Video here, from Minute 58:49. So much for an anti-corruption monitoring role for the UN. But if the UN is not going to do it, who is? Watch this site.

Footnote: Mulet also said he had no information about Haitian land owners seeking payment, now or in the future, for land used for housing, temporary and later permanent. Since aid funds are involved in this re-housing process, and the question was squarely raised to Mulet's deputy Kim Bolduc on February 8, it seemed strange that Mulet had no information three days later.  We will continue to pursue this.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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