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UN Peacekeepers Inaction on IDP Killings in Cote d'Ivoire Due to DPKO Rules?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24, updated -- In July after UN peacekeepers stood by -- or reportedly helped -- as seven internally displaced people were killed in the Niably IDP camp in Cote d'Ivoire, when Inner City Press asked it was told there would be an investigation.

  But two days later, UN Peacekeeping's top envoy to Cote d'Ivoire Bert Koenders "dismissed allegations that peacekeepers failed in their mandate to protect civilians."

  Inner City Press has continued to ask about it, but UN Peacekeeping chief now refuses to answer any Press questions, saying it is in response to "insulting insinuations." Such as a failure to protect civilians, or to honestly investigate failures?

  On October 24, Inner City Press put the question to the UN's Special Rapporteur on IDPs Mr. Chaloka Beyani, who had visited Cote d'Ivoire, two days before the killings at Niambly as it turns out.

Beyani recounted that "the Moroccan peacekeepers were there... By seven AM the camp was surrounded... Youths in their thousands overran the camp, n the presence of the peacekeepers."

  In conducting his own inquiry, Beyani said, "I asked the peacekeepers why they didn't act. They said that they have to take a balance, whether acting would cause more harm. They felt more would have been killed if they had acted with force."

  He continued, "Second, they were manning the entry, they would have been overrun. The commander to make sure preserve lives of men to continue to provide protection."

   So far, it was sounding like something of an Ivorian Srebrenica, at least to some. But then the real reason became clear. Beyani said that the "rules of engagement of UN peacekeeping forces do not allow them open fire civilians if civilians are attacking other civilians."

  These "civilians" killed seven people, but the UN peacekeepers "wouldn't get involved." Beyani said he has heard the same from UN missions in Afghanistan and South Sudan.

  This seems like a major problem, calling into question Koenders "dismiss[ing] allegations that peacekeepers failed in their mandate to protect civilians" and Ladsous' refusing to answer questions.

  Inner City Press went to the October 24 noon briefing and asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: at 11 a.m., there was a press conference here by UN Special Rapporteur on IDPs Chaloka Beyani, and I asked him about this incident that happened in Côte d'Ivoire in July in which an IDP camp was burned down and at least seven of its residents were killed. Mr. Beyani said that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], not only in Côte d'Ivoire, but elsewhere, has rules of engagement for its peacekeepers that they can’t fire upon civilians, even if civilians are killing other civilians. So I wanted a response, from the UN, if that’s true, and also, he said that there is a UN investigation ongoing which, given Mr. Koenders’ statement dismissing the allegation seems strange, but is there an investigation ongoing, and is it a correct statement of DPKO policy that was given here this morning?

Spokesperson: I’ll check, Matthew.

   Six hours later, no answer had yet been given. Is it appropriate for the head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, to openly refuse to answer Press questions like this? Is the stated policy in place, and is it responsible? Watch this site?

Update of October 25: at the following day's noon briefing the UN spokesman read out a statement including that there IS an ongoing investigation of the July events -- will it be made public? -- and denying what the Special Rapporteur said about UN Peacekeeping's rules of engagement. We'd expect to have more on this. In the same noon briefing, it was emphasized that UN Special Rapporteurs are NOT "UN officials."

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