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Amid Children & Armed Conflict Speeches, Haiti Coercion & Congo Abuse Not Addressed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 11 -- Children and armed conflict was the topic at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday morning, and by the speeches, everyone's hand were clean.

  Uruguay, from which four "peacekeepers" serving in Haiti are charged with sexual abuse or "coercion" of a young man, did not mention that case, but rather requested more information about Syria from the incoming UN expert on CAAC, Leila Zerrougui.

   Zerrougui was most recently the deputy to the UN envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, and in that capacity provided a defense, some say obfuscation, of peacekeepers' inaction during the mass rapes in Walikale in the DRC.

  Her defense of UN negligence, tellingly, didn't stop Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from giving Zerrougi this new job.

   Some of Tuesday morning's speakers did bristle at Zerrougui or the mandate. Pakistan, for example, alleged the mis-use or mis-filing of this special mandate holder's stand-alone report as part of the country's Universal Periodic Review.

  Thailand on the other hand smiled and spoke of the protocols it has joined, and said how much it looks forward to working with Zerrougui.

   It was hard not to note that Thailand, like Pakistan, India, Colombia and others has at the UN in New York sharply questioned the CAAC mandate, at least under former envoy Radhika Coomaraswamy.

   Might Zerrougui be weaker on the issue than Coomaraswamy? Time -- but not this debate -- will tell. Watch this site.

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