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HRW Paid for Anti M23 Testimony in Goma, UN Topics Secret, CAR Ignored?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 28 -- The disparity in focus on rebels in the Eastern Congo and now in Central African Republic is striking.

   The M23 mutineers have been the subject of numerous UN Group of Experts leaked reports by Steve Hege, of UN Security Council meetings, open and closed, and a resolution, and compensated testimony gathering by, along others, Human Rights Watch.

   The taking of ten towns in CAR garnered nowhere near this focus: two press statements and a single closed door meeting of the UNSC, none since embassies including of the USA in Bangui have closed. Some have asked, where is Human Rights Watch on the Central African Republic?

   For now, we return to a topic we reported on back on December 16: HRW admitting paying for travel for those who would testify to it.

Inner City Press asked HRW a number of questions, and received a canned statement from HRW's UN representative Philippe Bolopion:

"Human Rights Watch does not pay witnesses in exchange for information, in order to preserve the integrity of the interviews we conduct. Human Rights Watch occasionally compensates victims or witnesses for incidental costs they may incur when traveling specifically in order to meet with our researchers. As in any other conflict, Human Rights Watch documents abuses committed by all sides in the DRC and therefore seeks information from anyone with first-hand information to give."

   We ran the HRW statement on December 16; Liberation ran it as a "right of reply" on December 23, along with their reporter's damning sur-reply, that HRW's investigator began with the position that M23 was the primary perpetrator, and quoting a witness at Heal Africa that HRW was "looking for testimonies against M23."

  Frankly, while having an opinion is a good thing, it would not be surprising that an employee of HRW, seeing the Tweets of boss Ken Roth, would view his or her role in Goma as finding testimonies to prove the boss' already expressed opinion.

  But we remain interested in the questions twice posed to Human Rights Watch on December 16 and still not answered: what testimony was collected? What has been done with it?

   And since May 2011 have senior HRW staff met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; if so, what dates, and this is a request again to know the topics.

   Previously, 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."

   But doesn't HRW disclose at least the topics raised with the UN to their donors? Is that what one has to do to be informed? Watch this site.

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