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On CAR Rapes, Malcorra to Budget Comt'e & Their Response, Ladsous Should Resign

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 -- French soldiers in the Central African Republic allegedly sexually abused children, as exposed in a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report leaked to the French government by longtime OHCHR staffer Anders Kompass.

  The UN did not, however, give the report to the host country authorities in CAR. And according to UN documents, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous then urged that the whistleblower Kompass be made to resign. Ladsous curtly denied this to Inner City Press, video here, then again refused to answer questions -- as he has outright refused to answer Press questions on rapes in the DR Congo and Darfur.

  On the afternoon of May 18 some in the UN's Ban Ki-moon administration were summoned into the Fifth (Budget) Committee to answer questions. Inner City Press, staking out the meeting, spoke with Ban's chief of staff Susana Malcorra when she left the meeting. Here is a transcript, followed by an exclusive summary of what happened inside the closed meeting.

Inner City Press: How did it go in there? Are their questions answered?

CdC Malcorra: Well I hope, yes. Some of them still have questions that will be answered by my colleague. I think I’ve made a point of what it is that we’re discussing here. This investigation is a UN investigation. It was led by the UN in the field when they had allegations handed to them. It was the human rights cell in the mission that led this investigation. It looks like we were absent, but it was us...

And this investigation could, at least prima facie, there were places clear enough to further investigate by the member state. And as such, the information was provided to a member state. On a separate front, is how the information is provided. And we cannot accept the irresponsibility of the names of the victims, the witnesses and the investigators shared with the member states ... it’s inacceptable. It may look like a bureaucratic approach. It’s not a bureaucratic approach...

Inner City Press: What about not telling Central African Republic authorities?

CdC Malcora: They are discussing that now.

   After the meeting ended, and Inner City Press spoke with numerous attendees - a common refrain was that the UN leadership is "in denial" - we have pieced together this summary of the meeting, and the totally insufficient answer on UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous' role, a lack of recognition of his UNAMID mission's previous cover up of rapes in Tabit in Darfur, which the US and UK and other say they care about, and lack of follow up on whistleblowers.

Attendees' summary of Ban Ki-moon chief of staff Malcorra:

"Malcorra said she had no idea the session would go into the specifics of CAR, she thought it was to touch upon general Sexual Abuse and Exploitation policy (several attendees were dubious and angry about this approach.)

  Malcorra said that in the case of misconduct by UN staff the procedures were in place. In this case, even when it was not UN peacekeepers the human rights cell in Bangui was there and they were the ones that initiated the investigation. It is thanks to the UN that allegations were substantiated and it was enough to decide to proceed with a further investigation.

  The wrongdoing of the UN staffer Anders Kompass was to have shared the information without it being redacted putting the victims, witnesses and investigators lives in danger. She repeated many times this was a serious breach and that she disagreed with anyone that didn’t view this conduct wrong.

   According to Malcorra the UN investigation lasted three months which allowed them to substantiate the allegations.  When that finding was final it went to the two lines of command: The head of mission in CAR and the OHCHR.  But, several asked, why didn't either of these tell the CAR authorities?

Malcorra said she would have preferred this case hadn't surfaced in the media and that it is regrettable member states have had to learn matters from the press. But that, Malcorra said, member states have to be aware that the press manipulates everything. Several states talked about the UN image and credibility to which Malcorra said she was very sad with those comments because if not for the UN these troops could have gotten away with these disturbing acts. She also said this was a clear case of damned if you do damned if you don’t. But what about the cover up? What about Ladsous?

  Malcorra said that “no other element had been taken into account” for Kompass' firing. But member states were aware of Paragraph 9 of the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling reinstating Kompass. As noted, one Permanent Representatives (and several other diplomats) told Inner City Press that Ladsous should resign.

  Tellingly, the sources say, Malcorra claimed didn’t recall any UNAMID coverup allegations. Tabit?

   Malcorra didn’t even address the Otis report on whistleblowers - which Inner City Press has been asking Ban's spokesman about, repeatedly -- but assured member states that due protections are in place and that an adequate policy exists.

  Malcorra said she looks forward to working further on the UN convention in paragraph 57 of the SG report on SEA and agrees that there are systemic flaws, and therefore there will be a review of all the processes.

  According to sources in the meeting -- Inner City Press asked and was told to inquiry with member states -- the  Legal Counsel and head of OLA qualified as excellent the cooperation with the French Authorities and that the lifting of immunity so far hasn’t been necessary because at this stage its very general requests of information that the UN promptly has given to the French authorities. For the sake of efficiency hasn’t gone through the lifting of immunity process but if a trial or judge becomes involved they will do it quickly at a later stage. Several member states were dubious. The EU, Inner City ress is informed, said “accountability starts at the top.”

 Malcorra left unanswered why the host state, the CAR, was not involved. She is said to have ignored the specific question on the status of the OIOS investigation. She ignored the complaints about under-reporting saying that the trend of decrease was very clear and that the USG of DFS would go into details (what he did, genially, was repeat the Secretary General's report).

  An impartial investigation was called for, from both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere. There was a refrain afterward: Ladsous should resign."

  Herve Ladsous is conveniently out of town, on Mali over the weekend he chided Malians for not sufficiently thanking France for the French Operation Serval. Would he say the say in Bangui, about Operation Sangaris?

  A well-placed African Permanent Representative before the meeting told Inner City Press before the meeting that Ladsous should resign. But with him conveniently absent, would others be left holding the bag, trying to explain why he, Ladsous, appears in the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling as urging that the whistleblower resign?

  Back on May 8, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Samantha Power about both issues - the UN's failure to tell the CAR authorities, and Ladsous' "surprising" role, as High Commissioner Zeid put it earlier in the day. Video here and embedded below. Then Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, about the contradiction; for the first time, he gave a timeline. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: Iwant to ask you about these alleged rapes in the Central African Republic.  Prince Zeid [Ra’ad al-Hussein] held a press conference today.  Just as an aside, I would have liked to have seen it announced from here on this very topic.  And he said… he was asked directly about what I've been asking you about, the statement in the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling that the Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping asked the whistle-blower to resign.  And it was said, and this is why I want to ask you, because I know you said you don't agree with it, but this was a statement that was not contested at the time by the respondent.  So, this means that the UN… the people involved saw the claim and didn't have any problem with it.  I'm not saying that that means it's true.  When you say you don't agree with it, is that a personal position or a UN position?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't think I said I didn't agree with it.  I said you're taking it as fact.  It's his position.

Inner City Press:  Which the UN didn't disagree with.

Spokesman:  I'm just saying it's his position.

Inner City Press:  My question on this is, he said he'd like to say more, but would say it to some forthcoming, apparently, investigative commission.  Ambassador [Samantha] Power at the stakeout said the same thing, that all of this needs to be looked at independently.  So, what's the status of that?  Is the Secretariat having any role in that?

Spokesman Dujarric:  There's obviously the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] inquiry going on into Mr. [Andres] Kompass and into everything related to that.  You know, I think the aim right now is to ensure accountability for the victims of these alleged rapes and horrendous abuse [that] these young children suffered at the hands the soldiers.  That's… that should be everyone's aim.  Obviously, there will come a time I think when we will need to take a look at how this issue was handled, but I will also add that there is obviously an internal investigation through OIOS and looking at Mr. Kompass.  At this point, I don't have anything to add.

Inner City Press:  The other thing… something you said yesterday was about this, there was no harm to the French investigation by not lifting immunity because they were written questions that were answered.  There's an article in Le Monde today that says that, yeah, written answers were provided seven months after the questions were proffered and was provided on 29 April, which just happened to be the date on which the exposé was first published.  I'm wondering… you can read Le Monde.  I can read it to you.  But, that's what they are saying, basically.

Spokesman:  You know, I think that there are different timelines going on here.  The prosecutor in Paris has his own timeline.  What I can tell you is that on 10 October, the Permanent Mission of France of the UN sent a note verbale to the Secretary-General, to the Office of Legal Counsel with a request from the… from a French judicial authority, a vice-prosecutor, confirming they had a hard copy of the report, which obviously had gone from Mr. Kompass, requesting for us to waive the immunity of the investigator, the OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] investigator, who authored the report and allowed him to be interviewed.

Following consultations internally, which obviously involve the Mission in the Central African Republic, which involved OLA [Office of Legal Affairs], which involved UNICEF, which involved the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, we wrote back, saying that we will fully cooperate, that we are offering to send them a copy of the redacted report.  And again, here, I can't stress enough the importance of shielding the identities of the victims.  I mean, there are a number of countries in Europe, for example, where it is illegal to share the names of rape victims or of minors who have gone under child abuse, so I think that the issue of protecting the names of the witnesses and those who have been abused is primary.

We also told them that the chief investigator was right now serving in a post in Chile and will provide responses in writing to any questions put forward by French investigators.  We stressed that this cooperation was done on a voluntary basis without any prejudice to the issues of privileges and immunity. That was a letter that we wrote to the French authorities on 5 November.  On 6 February of 2015, we received a letter from the French mission transmitting, obviously, documents that had gone from their own judicial authorities, the written questionnaire and which was for the investigator and reiterating the request to lift the investigator's… the investigator's immunity.  That was on 6 February.

On 30 March, we reiterated our full cooperation to the French.  We provided them with a copy of the redacted report.  We transmitted to them the copies of her… the questions and answers, with the answers provided by the investigator.  We confirmed, yet again, that there was no need to lift immunity because this cooperation would be done on a voluntary basis without any prejudice to the investigation… to our immunities.  I think it serves to remind people… you know, the issue of immunity, I think, is one that is not always fully grasped by those that don't cover the UN on a regular basis.  The UN lifts the immunities of its staff members in a number of cases when they need to testify in front of judges, in front of courts.  We do that.  The immunity is not there to stand in the way of justice being served.  At this point, if there's no need to lift the immunity, it's not lifted.  If there is a need to lift the immunity to provide testimony before a judge or a court in a legal proceeding, it is studied.  It is very often done.

So, I think we're looking at different timelines.  I think different bureaucracies have different timelines.  I've given you ours.  The prosecutor clearly has his or her own; I don't know the gender of the prosecutor.  That's where we are.

Inner City Press:  Just one follow-up.  I appreciate that.  This will be the… there's one date you didn't mention there, which is 12 March 2015, in which the whistle-blower was summoned in and told to resign.  He said and was uncontested by High Commissioner of the Office of Human Rights at the request of the Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping.  So, my question is, what was the problem… I understand everything about protecting witnesses.  If the information presumably is provided to prosecutors, like there are rules against it, but it's not illegal for one investigative authority to share the information that could bring about a prosecution with that prosecuting authorities; what's the problem with that?

Spokesman:  I think, again, on Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, I think he spoke to it… he spoke to it at the stakeout.  I've said what I've had to say about Mr. Kompass's allegations.  I think the High Commissioner spoke at length and eloquently this morning, so I have nothing to add.  I think it is vital for the work of the human rights organs of this Organization that, when people give us testimony with the understanding that it will be kept confidential, that it is in fact kept confidential.  I think the High Commissioner said clearly that the investigative responsibility, the criminal investigative responsibility, is in this case with the French soldiers with the French authorities.  It is with national authorities.

The human rights mechanisms in this organization conduct a lot of commissions of inquiry.  We have ones going on on Syria, on the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], to name just two.  People give us testimonies with the understanding that we will be… we will guarantee that this… their names will be kept confidential.  I think that is exactly the issue here, is that when people give us testimony with the understanding that it be kept confidential, we have a responsibility to keep that confidential.  The handling of Mr. Kompass' case administratively, what was said, what was done is being reviewed internally.

  Here is the video of Inner City Press questions to US Ambassador Power:

From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: One issue that has arisen that may not even need to wait for an investigation is that the Central African Republic says that they were never told of this, and given that these were their citizens, I wonder if you—does the U.S. think that when the UN system becomes aware of charges such as these, that the host country should be told? There’s also this issue, in the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling, that the Under Secretary General of Peacekeeping was reported, and the UN didn’t seem to dispute it, to have said that the whistleblower should resign or be suspended. And I wonder, this seems like a pretty serious charge. What do you think of that? Do you think that that is appropriate? What do you think of the treatment of the whistleblower who brought it to light?
Ambassador Power: "I think, on a lot of these issues, we’re all going to be better off if we allow an impartial investigation to take hold. And, I think, you raise a really, really important issue about host country involvement, and we’d want to, again, get the facts on that. Certainly, it is the case that the host country itself, of course, has the sovereign responsibility for the protection of its citizens, and so, looking at what role Central African Republic authorities played or didn’t play has to be part of this.
"And then, in terms of the individual who disclosed the allegations, who worked for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, again, it’s extremely important that any individual who comes into possession of allegations of this gravity acts swiftly. It is also extremely important that victim and witness safety be a very significant, a primary consideration as well. And so again, the impartial investigation will look at the handling and how both the issue of speed and the issue of victim and witness protection—how those issues were handled."

  It is an answer that may move things forward. Ladsous, it should be noted, just this week snubbed a Joe Biden-linked Hemispheric peacekeeping conference in Uruguay, wasting an $8,000 first class plane ticket and angering many troop contributing countries. He refuses to answer Press question, for example on rapes in Minova, DRC and Tabit in Darfur.

   As noted, on May 8, High Commissioner Zeid held a press conference, and twice refused to comment on why Ladsous was said to have pressured to fire or suspend the whistleblower.

  Inner City Press has covered Ladsous' role from the beginning, and highlighted his appearance in Paragraph 9 of the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling reinstating Kompass. On May 7, Ladsous told Inner City Press, "I deny that" - then refused to take questions.

 Zeid was asked, and first time said he should first give his view of the pressure to the investigator, not the media.

 The second time, he said he was surprised to read it -- his Office did not contest that part of the ruling, effectively admitting it -- and that the head of UN Peacekeeping should not have been intervening about a non-UN force.  Video here.

 Neither he nor the questioners in the room in Geneva said the obvious: Ladsous is a longtime French diplomat; it is not rocket science to read Paragraph 9 as him (inappropriately) still working for "his" country.

 Zeid said other things we'll report later; he alluded to the need for a Commission of Inquiry. Some ask, will Ladsous quit before then? Or after?

 For more than nine months, no action was taken -- no interviews of victims or alleged perpetrators were done -- other than the UN suspending Kompass for the leak, on which the UN Dispute Tribunal ruling recites that UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous requested Kompass' resignation. (See Paragraph 9, here.) Ladsous told Inner City Press he denies it - then refused questions.

  Early on May 8, UN system staff complained to Inner City Press that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid of Jordan, in a closed staff meeting on May 8, tried to downplay the scandal, going so far as to blame imams in Bangui for not playing their role.

  But it was OHCHR which didn't even give the report of the rape of CAR children to CAR authorities, only to the French.

  In places, Zeid appeared to try to use his record ten years ago on sexual abuse to shift the blame to imams.  Inner City Press has shown a failure by his Office to act on past leaking, to Morocco. We'll have more on this.

  On May 7, Inner City Press asked more questions about this - including to Herve Ladsous himself.

  After a long closed-door consultation meeting of the Security Council, Ladsous emerged. Inner City Press asked him, based on Paragraph 9 of the UNDT ruling, Why did you ask Kompass to resign?"

  Ladsous stopped and said, "I deny that." Inner City Press put the handheld video online, here.


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