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On DRC, Ladsous Refuses to Answer on Rapes in Minova, His MONUSCO's Failure

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 27, updated with video -- Under the $1.4 billion watch of the UN Peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, at least 21 women were recently raped in Minova, presumably by the Congolese Army, which MONUSCO supports.

  Inner City Press pursued the story through questions to the UN in Geneva and at the UN's noon briefing, here. Transcript below.

  When UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous emerged from a closed door briefing of the Security Council on Tuesday evening, he indicated that he would answer questions from the media. But once at the UN Television stakeout, he and his spokesman would take only pre-selected questioners.

  Inner City Press waited while favored media got their question, then asked, What about Minova? Beyond the rapes, there are reports of renewed fighting between the M23 mutineers and the FARDC. But Ladsous refused to answer, searching for any other questioner.

  So Inner City Press asked, what about the rapes in Minova? What was MONUSCO doing? Ladsous ended the stakeout session -- and then summoned the favored media away from the stakeout to a basement hallway of the UN. To not interrupt this transmission, Inner City Press remained at the stakeout, filming as is its right.

  As Ladsous left the Council minutes later, along with UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham, Inner City Press asked the question again, and called the lack of response shameful.

  Among other things, Ladsous and his DPKO's refusal to answer about Minova makes it impossible to meaningfully apply the UN's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, as it was explained to Inner City Press on November 26 by Rupert Colville, spokesman for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, here.

  It was said to Inner City Press -- not by those two -- that somehow DPKO spokesman Kieran Dwyer "has explained this to you." But he has not, beyond a vague reference months ago to "personal attacks."

  Inner City Press has not written about Ladsous' family or anything personal -- only the job he is doing, and jobs he has done in the past. This is the subject matter of journalism, and it is not for the UN to try to dictate the content.

  Ironically, the next question Inner City Press wanted to ask, beyond the drones question on which Ladsous stopped answering Press questions, was what MONUSCO might do in response to recent threats against journalists in Bukavu and elsewhere in Eastern Congo.

   But with Ladsous' approach, which began in late May stoked by other anti-press moves in the UN, it is difficult to see him, or his DPKO, as any defender of the press. Quite the opposite.

  Likewise, as described above it is difficult to take seriously the UN's claim to have a Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, if DPKO refuses not only in person but also in writing to say which FARDC units were in Minova.

  In just the past week, Ladsous has refused to answer about abuse of civilians in Pinga and "would MONUSCO defend Bukavu?"

   In September at a Sudan stakeout where despite prompting no other journalist had any question, Ladsous refused to answer "what is the UN's role in Abyei?"

  That one, like this, Inner City Press filmed. Ladsous, it emerges, has had his staff ask UNTV to edit out questions from the webcast archives.

  During Ladsous' closed door briefing, Inner City Press heard from sources and freely published that Ladsous was showing photographs that the M23 have equipment "not from the FARDC."

   Afterward an attendee of Ladsous' briefing said it was full of a scatalogical material -- we engage in circulocution to not provide any pretext to use, as Ladsous' Dwyer and DPKO have, "personal attacks" as a pretext for censorship, or the conditioning of access on receiving positive coverage. Watch this site.

From the UN's November 27, 2012 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Yesterday the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights explained a little bit more about how this human rights due diligence process works and it all seems to hinge on identifying which units of the army, in this case the FARDC, Congolese army, are engaged in violations. So, with reference to Minova, I have been asking about it for a few days, there is now fighting, but the reports were that the army went in, retreated from Sake, burned houses, raped women and looted. My question is which unit of the Congolese army is there and is the UN going to state the unit that did these things and that is why we are not working with them? Or is it all somehow caught in vagueness?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: What I have for you, the General Reference Hospital in Minova has reported 21 cases of rape and UNICEF is delivering 200 doses of post-exposure treatment to the hospital. UNICEF and partners’ response to the response to sexual and gender-based violence includes medical, psychosocial, legal and socio-economic support. Care International has conducted sexual and gender-based violence evaluations in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps and spontaneous sites. That’s all I have for you on that.

Inner City Press. Sure. I just want to put this in with you, is it possible to know which unit?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know if it is possible, if we get it, we will let you know.

Inner City Press: Can I ask one other thing on this topic, which is drones? Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General, proposed it in March to the Committee of 34, didn’t get any approval and there was some push back. Now, it is said again that it is something that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is thinking of doing. I just wanted to know, is it their understanding that they would need General Assembly through the Forth Committee or otherwise approval, or could they begin, in their understanding, using drones tomorrow despite some opposition voiced by even some Security Council members?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we have addressed that situation here before and our comments haven’t changed.

Inner City Press? Meaning what? I don’t understand, because the more recent comments said that MONUSCO was considering using them. So, I just wanted to know, do you need approval? That seems like a key question that wasn’t asked or at least wasn’t answered.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I have to find out whether we need approval or not; I don’t have that information with me. We’ll find out for you.

  Then for seven hours no information was provided, so Inner City Press naturally put the question, just of Minova, to Herve Ladsous. But he refused entirely to answer; nor did the staff he commands. Watch this site.

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