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UN Won't Answer on Drones, Only Vague Talking Points, HRW Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, January 9 -- The morning after at least five countries on the UN Security Council raised questions about the drones proposal of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press asks Ban's office in writing:

"What is the UN's response to concerns raised about DPKO's drone / UAV proposal, on issues of who would get the information, how providers would be selected, and compliance with ICAO?"

  These basic questions, by 4:45 pm on Wednesday, had not been answered. Rather, at the day's noon briefing in New York a reporter from Agence France-Presse, on one of the boards of which Ladsous used to serve, asked not about any safeguards but only how soon can drones start to be used? Video here, from Minute 12:35.

  This seems to totally ignore, as Ladsous does, that given the opposition not only in the C-34 but now in the Security Council, the UN cannot start using drones.

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky consulted his notes and referring to the cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and member states assistance in providing equipment. (Some started picturing which drones would be used.)

  Nesirky also referred to "consulting legislative bodies," but did not specify which ones. Inner City Press has repeated asked Nesirky's office which bodies, since Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions about the Congo, rape, cholera or his accepting as an adviser Shavendra Silva, an official of the Sri Lanka Army, depicted in the UN's own reports as engaged in war crimes.

  But Ladsous, and Ban's spokeperson's office, won't say which approvals they acknowledge needing. Will we just, as Ladsous and AFP seem to want, discover one day or night that Ladsous is using drones?

  Also Wednesday morning Inner City Press put the question to Human Rights Watch, which brags of but conceals the specifics of its access to Ban Ki-moon, for its position: "this is a request for HRW's position on the proposed used of drones or UAVs, in MONUSCO and/or elsewhere."

  The request was sent early Wednesday morning to HRW's UN "director," to HRW's press office, and to HRW director Ken Roth. But by 4:45 pm, no response at all was received. It would seem that HRW should have a position on the UN using drones - or has HRW lost its way in the DRC? We'll see.

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