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UN Shields DRC Rape Units, Its Logic is Secrecy, Its Scribes File Complaints

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- With the UN belatedly announcing, after Press questions for more than three months, that it has written to two units of the Congolese Army to prosecute for the 126 rapes at Minova in late November or face suspension of UN support -- why not identify the units?

  UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refused on camera to answer Inner City Press questions about the Minova rapes on November 27, December 7 and December 18, when he directed his spokesperson to seize the UNTV microphone to try to avoid the Inner City Press question.

  Then after Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Ladsous' and the UN's inaction on the rapes on March 5, suddenly DPKO on March 7 convened friendly scribes who had not asked about the rapes.

  DPKO told them of a letter to two unidentified Congolese Army units on February 4 -- more than a month before the briefing -- and of a deadline, which it would not specify. These refusals were not noted in the scribes' stories.

  On March 8 Inner City Press asked Ladsous - without answer - then Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky what the deadline is. There was no answer.

  At the next UN noon briefing on March 11, Inner City Press asked Nesirky WHY the UN will not disclose the identity of at least the army units:

Inner City Press: there is a follow-up I want to ask you about the rapes in Minova. I tried to figure out why at this point DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], if they have first privately briefed and then publicly announced that they have warned two units of the Congolese army to begin prosecutions or that support will be suspended, why they won’t identify the units.

I’ve asked you before whether it is the 802 and 1001 regiments, but what I am trying to understand is, it’s not about due process for an individual. It seems like these are units that they have written to, that either we’ll prosecute and that will be public, or they will suspend aid and I am assuming that will be public. And I would like you to confirm that if and when MONUSCO [United Nations Operation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] suspends aid to these two units, if they do it, will that be public, and if so, what’s the rationale for not identifying the units at this time? It seems to be a form of impunity or a grace period or three strikes and you are out. I just want to know, what’s the thinking behind it?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The thinking behind it is that there is a process under way. You have noted that there have been warnings that have been sent to the relevant authorities, and there is a deadline there, and after that point, if the Department of Peacekeeping Operations deems it to be necessary, they will then do as they have said and they would limit or stop or suspend support to those units. However, at this point, this is something that is still in train, there is still a process under way, and that’s the simple logic behind it.

Inner City Press: in thinking it through, it seems like if they prosecute, that would be public, it seems to me. Even from the UN’s point of view, there probably needs to be closure to the story. So, one way or another, either they will say, these are the two units and they did prosecute, and that’s great, or they will say, these are the two units they didn’t prosecute, and they are out. But it seems like either way, the units are going to have to be made public, so why keep them back in a way that makes the policy look less than meaningful... to some?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I am glad you added that bit at the end.

Inner City Press: Sure.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think that you have explained the logic yourself. You might not agree with it, but you have explained the logic, and I don’t really have anything further to add on that.

  But what is the logic? Is the UN planning to try to keep it secret, either prosecution or suspension of support? What kind of “Human Rights Due Diligence Policy” is this?

  Click here to see short video, third in #LADSOUS2013 series.

  Meanwhile as partially recounted above, after Ladsous' DPKO on March 7 sought out friendly journalists to spin about the February 4 letter, Inner City Press on March 8 asked Ladsous, which two units and what's the deadline?

  Ladsous refused to answer, and another journalist at the UN Security Council stakeout asked Inner City Press about it. Inner City Press answered, and AFP's Tim Witcher hissed, “lies and distortions.” Inner City Press replied, as it already had in writing, “lapdog.”

  But on March 11 Inner City Press was informed by UN Security that Witcher and the Reuters' correspondent had converted this verbal interchange into a security complaint.

   Inner City Press has asked to see a copy of the complaint, and has asked what rules apply, and if there are any rules about frivolous or pretextual complaints. Only at the UN. Watch this site.

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