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Refusing Rape Qs, Ladsous Has Mic Removed from Press as UNCA Watches

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous hit a new low on Tuesday, directing his spokesman to physically remove the microphone so that Press questions about the UN's knowledge of 126 rapes by Congolese forces in Minova could not be recorded. Video here and below.

  Afterward staff said in 13 years at the UN, they had never seen anything like it. Inner City Press was told that it, or the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, should file a complaint.

  The larger questions are why has Ladsous refused to answer questions about these rapes, by the Congolese army that the UN works with, on November 27, December 7 and now December 18?

  On November 27, Inner City Press asked about rapes at Minova, which the UN then downplayed as being 22. Ladsous refused to answer, then summoned favored correspondents, including one from Agence France-Presse who re-appeared on December 18, out into the hall for a private briefing. Video here.

  On December 7, after the UN had been forced by questions to up its estimate of the rapes to 70, Ladsous refused four times to answer a simple Inner City Press questions about Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, which would preclude Ladsous' MONUSCO mission from working with these Congolese Army units. Video here.

  Ladsous refused to answer. Since then, a profile of his stonewalling and abuse of UN Peacekeeping for the political interests of his native France has been published by Billet d'Afrique, here.

  On December 18, with the UN having just had to increase the count of rapes up to 126, it seemed inconceivable that Ladsous would not offer at least some answer.

  Two journalists were notified by Ladsous' office and appeared at the stakeout, including Tim Witcher of AFP who as an executive committee member of the UN Correspondents Association on May 25, 2012 signed a letter against Inner City Press, following a September 2011 a dispute about reporting on Ladsous.

   When Ladsous came out, these and Inner City Press went to the UN Television stakeout, where only the day before Inner City Press had asked another UN official, Valerie Amos, about the rapes in Minova. Since she does not run MONUSCO, she said she would have to look into it. Video here, from Minute 17:10.

But once at the microphone on December 18, Ladsous directed his spokesman Andre-Michel Essoungou to pick up the UNTV microphone and move it away from Inner City Press. The UNTV cameraman told him to put it back, that he had no right to touch it.

  Then Essoungou tried to use the boom microphone himself, even offering coaching on (non rape) questions that could be asked.

  Four times, when there was a lull, Inner City Press asked about the rapes in Minova, which FARDC units were involved. Ladsous never answered, finally walking away.

    Inner City Press was told it or FUNCA should file a complaint. Tim Witcher left - UNCA, which used to but no longer defends journalists' rights, is preparing a $250 a plane dinner-dance for December 19, honoring not a journalist but Arnold Schwartzenegger.

  It is worth nothing that it was only after the May 25, 2012 letter by five including Witcher, Lou Charbonneau of Reuters and Margaret Basheer of Voice of America -- these three went into the hall with Ladsous on November 27, video here -- did Ladsous decide he would no longer answer Inner City Press' questions.

  These questions have included his MINUSTAH mission's introduction of cholera into Haiti and why he has General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan Army, depicted in the UN's own report as engaged in war crimes, as an adviser, now also inspecting Ladsous' Lebanon mission UNIFIL.

  This same UNCA, back in September 2011, allowed Silva to screen a war crimes denial film in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium, the fallout from which was reported by the Sri Lanka Campaign here.

  In June 2012, Voice of America stating in writing it had the support of "colleagues" at Reuters and AFP asked the UN to "review" the accreditation of Inner City Press. Letter here.

    The two other May 25, 2012 signers and UNCA Executive Committee members are, notably, receiving UNCA monetary prizes on December 19.

Ladsous and UNCA deserve each other, and flock together, in the hall. Video here. But shouldn't the UN be at least a bit better than this? The Free UN Coalition for Access will be pursuing this. Watch this site.

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