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On 135 DRC Rapes, Vallaud-Belkacem Admits Not Enough Arrests

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- After a morning of UN Security Council speeches about accountability for sexual violence in conflict, France's Minister of Women's Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem emerged and took question on the topic.

  Inner City Press asked her about the 135 rapes in Minova by two units of the Congolese Army which the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations continues nevertheless to support.

  Since the head of DPKO, Herve Ladsous, is the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the position, what will Vallaud-Belkacem and now France do about this specific case of mass rape?

Vallaud-Belkacem's first answer was that DPKO is now sending an “Intervention Brigade” to Eastern Congo. But that Brigade will go after non-governmental groups, while the 135 Minova rapes were committed by the the 41st and 391st Battalions of the official DRC Army, which DPKO continues to support.

After Inner City Press' follow up question, Vallaud-Belkacem acknowledged that there have not been enough arrests.

  This is to her credit -- the UK's William Hague, despite holding a media stakeout ostensibly on the topic took only questions about Syria -- but still does not answer: why has France's Ladsous continued to support the rapist battalions? How is that accountability? And what has Vallaud-Belkacem done about the Minova rapes, including through France's Ladsous, since Inner City Press asked her about it on March 5, here?

  Afterward a member of the French delegation emphasized to Inner City Press that there have also been some suspensions of Congolese officers. Is that enough, for 135 rapes? Watch this site.

Footnote: before Vallaud-Belkacem's press conference, it was arranged for the first question to be given to the old UN Correspondents' Association about, what else, Syria. (In the media stakeout by the UK's William Hague, UNCA 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS didn't even pay lip service to sexual violence, asking instead another stale question about Syria and chemical weapons.)

  Later in the press conference there was ANOTHER statement, welcoming Vallaud-Belkacem “to” UNCA. No, it's the UN's briefing room. So Inner City Press thanked her for at least taking questions, on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access. FUNCA, including through FUNCA_info, is pursuing the lack of transparency and consistency by DPKO and its missions, run by France's Herve Ladsous. Watch this site.

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