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UN Does Not Tell M23 of Flights, Threatens with ICC for Being Shot At

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 2 -- After the UN complained its helicopters were shot at over territory in Eastern Congo controlled by the M23 rebels, Inner City Press twice asked the UN if it informs the M23 when it is flying above the territory M23 controls.

  The UN has now told Inner City Press that its mission "MONUSCO has a Status of Forces Agreement with the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and... informs DRC authorities of peacekeeping flights. MONUSCO does not formally communicate with the M23 in this way."

  To some this seems strange, since under the Kampala agreements M23 was to pull out to territory outside of Goma, and even co-manage the Goma airport.

  If the Kampala agreement recognizes that M23 controls territory, some ask, is it responsible for the UN to fly over it without informing M23 in some way?

   Inner City Press asked the UN to "please respond to the following statement by M23 spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama:

'We never attacked MONUSCO, we fired at helicopters from the FARDC, who were flying reconnaissance over M23 zones. If MONUSCO wants to fly reconnaissance over our territory, they must do so by day and they must warn us. At night, we can't make out the UN symbol.'"

   But the UN told Inner City Press, "We will not comment on quotes attributed by media to an M23 spokesperson."

   In this context it's worth noting that since Facebook has several times taken down M23's page -- the legal authority is not clear -- it is difficult to get the group's statements first hand.

  The question remains: given the situation between the M23 and the Congolese Army FARDC, should the UN be surprised if its helicopters flying at night without notice over M23 territory get fired on? Is this responsible?

   Is it responsible for MONUSCO to continue working with FARDC units that were in Minova during the 126 rapes in late November, and for top Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous to refuse Press questions about it, despite the UN's claimed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy?

   As noted, and twice asked about, UN Peacekeeping in South Sudan has not issued any threat referring to prosecution for war crimes even after South Sudan shot down a UN helicopter in December and killed all four crew aboard.

   But the UN has threatened war crimes prosecution for these errant shots in the night over M23 territory. What explains the disparity or double standard? Inner City Press asked again at the January 2 noon briefing. We are still waiting. Watch this site.

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