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At UN, UK Says "End Sexual Violence," But Aid to Minova Rapists Continues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 3, 2014 -- When the UK held an event on "Ending Sexual Violence" in the UN's Delegates Lounge on June 3, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech and made a 15 second video on the topic. He mentioned a rape clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but there was an elephant in the room, or more than one. Photo here.

   After 130 rapes in Minova by the DRC Army, Ban's UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous still has not suspended support to the 41st and 39st Battalions implicated in the rapes for which only two soldiers have been convicted.

  It is precisely in such situations and abuse and impunity that Ban's "Human Rights Due Diligence" Policy is supposed to kick in. But it has not been implemented by Ladsous. On May 29, Inner City Press asked Ladsous to explain, in a UN press conference. Ladsous said, "You know I do not respond to you, Mister." Video here. And Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric did not afterward explain.

  Another elephant in the room was Sri Lanka's Ambassador Palitha Kohona. The Sri Lankan Army has been accused in detail of rapes of Tamils, in a report by Yasmin Sooka on Ban's own Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. But Ban greeted Rajapaksa recently; the UN has had no comment on censorship there (as well as, related to Sri Lanka, inside  the UN itself, here).

   So -- "End Sexual Violence"? Sure. But doesn't charity begin at home? Shouldn't the UN at a minimum not support rapist army units - or explain when asked why it continues support?

Background: For months, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous dodged and refused questions about rapes by the Congolese Army FARDC in Minova. Video compilation here.

   Then after other UN officials emphasized that some Congolese soldiers were belatedly being prosecuted, on May 5 the verdicts declared not guilty three dozen of the 39 charged, convicting of rape only two of the soldiers, for more than 130 rapes.

  On May 8 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq who will decide on implementing Ban's stated human rights due diligence policy of suspending support to units engaged in abuse, and which are not held accountable and are given impunity. Video here from 20:33.

  Haq replied, "I wouldn't say pretty much impunity - there was a trial - that in itself is a step. We are disappointed, we have to evaluate what happened.

  Inner City Press asked, who makes the decision? Mister Ladsous? 

   Haq said, we were pressing for a trial, it's not my place to comment on the workings of the judicial system of the DRC. Accountability meant getting the trials.
   But only two convictions for 130 rapes?

  The day before on May 6 at the UN Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesperson Vannina Maestracci would would now happen, under the UN's and Ladsous' claimed "Human Rights Due Diligence" Policy. Video here.

    Maestracci insisted, "We said we were disappointed." But is that enough? Is that the due diligence policy? Maestracci said others will be "analyzing" the two convictions.  Inner City Press asked, who will be analyzing, and who would decide on suspending support to the 41st and 391st Battalions?

    "You got my answer," Maestracci said.

   On May 5 Inner City Press asked deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if the UN views this low level of conviction "accountability" for the rapes for purposes of continuing Ladsous' support of the 41st and 391st Battalions of the Congolese Army, or views the verdict as an outrage. Video on Inner City Press YouTube channel here and embedded below, followed by weak MONUSCO statement.

  Haq at noon on May 5 had no comment on the verdict, saying that "the mission," MONUSCO under Martin Kobler, will "prepare our response."  But Ban and Ladsous have made much of their supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, under which they said UN support would be suspended for abuses, or for a lack of accountability for abuses.  This, is an abuse.

    And this may be worse: MONUSCO's weak statement taking note of two convictions for rape after 130 rapes. Human rights due diligence? Hardly.

   Back on April 9, Ladsous appeared for a press conference with High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Ladsous presented the Minova cases -- no convictions -- as a success for the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

  Inner City Press asked Navi Pillay if she thought sixteen months and counting was too long, given that Ladsous' MONUSCO is still working with the implicated FARDC units, the 41st and 391st Battalion.

  Then Inner City Press specifically asked Ladsous about charges of gang rape against peacekeepers in his Mali mission MINUSMA. Have those charged been cleared?

   Pillay said she hadn't presented Minova as a success, and that she is concerned about the delay. Then Ladsous sat silent. The Department of Public Information moderator said, "Mr. Lee, I said this was about the DRC." Video here and embedded below.

  So rapes ascribed to UN Peacekeepers in Mali go UNanswered? There is a pattern:

   On April 7 it was a simple question to Ladsous, which he refused: when will UN Peacekeeping go after or neutralize the Hutu FDLR militia? It was asked by Inner City Press on April 7, the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in which the FDLR were perpetrators.

But UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous replied, "To you, Mister, you know I never answer your questions, and you know very well why." Video here, and embedded below.

Why, then? Ladsous was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, and he argued for French policies including the escape of the genocidaires into Eastern Congo. See sample memo, here.

It is one thing for France to so deny this history that it decided its Justice Minister would not attend the genocide commemoration in Kigali. But for a French UN official to openly refuse to answer a question about his responsibility, to neutralize the Hutu FDLR militia in Eastern Congo?

This happened at the International Peace Institute on First Avenue across from the UN Headquarters. On the panel with Ladsous as he said this were IPI's Francesco Mancini, Italy's Permanent Representative Sebastiano Cardi, Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative Khan and Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for the UN Department of Field Support. The audience, witnesses, were a range of diplomats and UN officials.

  Ladsous, ever since Inner City Press asked him about his history, has resisted questions inside the UN, see video compilation here, UK coverage in the New Statesman here.

But previously Ladsous did answer an Inner City Press question at IPI, and UN officials made much of it to Inner City Press, as if to say, Ladsous is reasonable, he is not engaged in censorship.

But he is. Another example: while UN Peacekeeping spends a lot of money promoting itself on social media, Inner City Press has asked why for example its MINURSO mission in Western Sahara, in which Morocco and France oppose a human rights monitoring mandate, has no social media presence.

The answer given at IPI -- not by Ladsous, who refuses Inner City Press questions -- is that for some missions, countries do no give permission for certain equipment or, apparently, Twitter accounts. But who could it be, banning MINURSO in Western Sahara from social media?

  Ladsous tries to spoonfeed information to friendly scribes; in his favor first the UN Correspondents Association (requested by Agence France Presse) then the current spokesperson of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have made threats to discourage coverage. There's more on this - but this is today's video, here; this is today's UN. Watch this site.


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