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US Trained 391 Battalion Comes Up at UN, US Comment, HRW Silence

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- The Congolese Army's 391st Battalion, implicated in 135 rapes in Minova in November and the desecration of corpses this month, all with UN support, came in on closed door consultations of the UN Security Council on Monday, three days before a US-sponsored debate on the Great Lakes which will feature Secretary of State John Kerry.

The 391st Commando Battalion, which was trained by the United States in 2010, committed its rapes last November after retreating from the M23 rebels taking of Goma.

 After only two arrests for the rapes, and the "suspension" of 12 officers, UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous decided to continue UN support to the Battalion. Now, the Battalion is implicated in the desecration of corpses.

When Inner City Press first made the connection over the weekend, based on the Battalion affiliation of the officer arrested for the desecration, it asked the US Mission to the UN for comment, and "should the UN have continued to support the Battalion after the 135 rapes in Minova? Should the UN now cease support to the 391st Battalion, under the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy which is cited in applicable UNSC resolutions?"

  As the Council held its consultations Monday afternoon on the DRC Group of Experts report, the full text of which Inner City Press exclusively put online in June, US Mission spokesman Payton Knopf responded that

"The United States is aware of and takes very seriously reports that Congolese armed forces engaged in mass rapes and other human rights abuses in and around Minova in eastern DRC following the fall of Goma in November 2012. We condemn these crimes unequivocally and call for a full and credible investigation. The United States has called on the DRC government to thoroughly investigate and calls on the DRC to prosecute alleged perpetrators without delay. Holding perpetrators to account is essential to ending the cycle of impunity, and we urge President Kabila and all Congolese authorities to actively and robustly enforce his zero tolerance policy for human rights violations by the DRC armed forces."

  Inner City Press is informed that in the closed door consultations, Permanent Representative Gerard Araud of France -- which Ladsous used to serve as Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, including durin the 1994 Rwanda genocide -- also raised Minova, the desecration, and the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

  Surprisingly, a Human Rights Watch press release e-mailed out through the consultations focused almost exclusively on the M23, and did not even MENTION the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. Some surmise that HRW has gotten entirely one-sided on this Great Lakes issue, as well as being generally soft on the UN.

  HRW has said very little about the UN's dismissal of claims for bringing cholera to Haiti; it refused to provide even a summary of issues that Ken Roth raised to Ban Ki-moon, saying to do that might undermine its access. In this case, access for what? Watch this site.

Footnote: the recent upsurge in fighting in Eastern Congo came up in the US State Department's Monday briefing, with spokesperson Jen Psaki saying she would provide a comment on the fighting after the briefing, which ranges from Syria through Egypt to Snowden and Venezuela. We'll wait for Thursday and John Kerry - but will new Great Lakes envoy Russ Feingold be here? We'll see.


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