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Has HRW Lost Its Way in DRC, Silent As UN Stonewalls on 126 Rapes, Rights Policy?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 29 -- After the UN belatedly admitted that its partner the Congolese Army committed at least 126 rapes in Minova in late November, and top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous openly refused to answer questions about the rapes, among the notably silent has been Human Rights Watch.

  HRW has historically been focused on Eastern Congo, particular though now deceased Alison Des Forges. But of late, HRW director Ken Roth has only one line on the Congo: the M23 mutineers are bad; Rwanda supports them; so Rwanda is bad and should not be in the UN Security Council.

  It's an advocacy line, but Human Rights Watch usually pretends to be objective at least while it is collecting facts. This model would be, compile a multi-sided depiction of a zone of conflict, name the bad actors on all sides, and then advocate.

  Here, HRW has made its position clear and now pays -- at least "travel costs" -- for evidence to support its position, as Liberation has reiterated with reporting from Project Heal in Goma.

  But HRW being "all in" against M23 means it has failed with regard to not only the Congolese Army, whose Regiments including 802 and 1001 were in Minova during the mass rapes, but also with regard to the UN.

  The UN claims to have a Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, that it will not support or work with army units engaged in abuses. But on November 27, December 7 and December 18, the UN's Herve Ladsous openly refused to answer any Press questions about which units were in Minova.

  Even asking at the UN noon briefing and repeatedly in writing, the UN won't list which FARDC units it works with.

  This would seem to be a HRW issue -- "Human Rights" and all -- but HRW is nowhere to be seen. Its UN "director" Philippe Bolopion, formerly of Le Monde and France 24, has penned an anti M23 and anti Rwanda post in the Herald Tribune.

   From the view in front of the UNSC, Bolopion's references to the "lifesaving work of the Security Council" and claim that "few countries dare challenge the Security Council the way Rwanda does" ring false.

  Earlier Bolopion refused to answer Inner City Press on even the topics Roth met with the UN about.  Bolopion for HRW told Inner City Press, "To preserve our ability to have frank discussions with UN officials and advance our advocacy goals, we don't typically communicate on the content of discussions we have with them." 

  When Inner City Press asked the questions again on December 16, Bolopion did not answer it. Again we ask, are only HRW donors told about HRW's meetings with the UN?

  More to this point, did Roth meet with Ladsous? What is HRW's position on Ladsous' refusal to answer basic questions about the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy?

   The question has been posed, to Ken Roth and two other HRW staffers. Watch this site/

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