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On Haiti, UN Won't Comment on Peacekeepers' Private Violence or Cholera Claim

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- General Debate week at the UN has been full of self-congratulation for many of the UN's missions "in the field."

  But in Haiti, for example, UN peacekeeper stand accused of "private violence" against civilians and more generally of introducing cholera to the Island. And the UN dodges comments on and accountability for both of these.

On September 27, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky two questions about Haiti. (A third question, about how a Rwandan UN police officer in Haiti was killed by a gunshot to the head, remains unanswered.) From the transcript:

Inner City Press: the UN peacekeepers from Uruguay that were charged with abusing a boy there have now been changed to something called private violence in Uruguay, and I am wondering, does the UN think that’s appropriate? Is that consistent with zero tolerance? Do they feel that the case is being handled in an appropriate way?

Spokesperson Nesirky: This is a matter for the authorities in Uruguay, for their justice system. And that is the case with all troop-contributing countries; that the responsibility rests with the contributing country when there have been allegations and when charges are placed. So I think we need to see how that plays out in full before any further comment.

  Apparently so: the UN's read-out of the next day's meeting between Ban Ki-moon and Luis Almagro, Uruguay's Minister for Foreign Affairs said

"They discussed a broad range of issues, including the implementation of the “Delivering as One" programme in Uruguay, the issue of drug control and regional developments, as well as Uruguay’s presidency of the Human Rights Council and its participation in UN peacekeeping operations."

What kind of participation? The UN has similarly been dodging comment on or response to a legal claim filed about introducing cholera into Haiti. Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: the Prime Minister, Mr. [Laurent] Lamothe, has said that the cholera outbreak is "under control," and that when he met with Ban Ki-moon, the topic of how the cholera came in didn’t come up. Is it the UN’s assessment that cholera is now under control and did the Secretary-General have any renewed thoughts, is there any progress on the claim that was filed with the [Office] of Legal Affairs here about how the cholera was introduced?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The readout that we provided on the meeting explains what was discussed, and the focus was precisely on helping to ensure that there is better sanitation, helping to ensure that those people who are still being afflicted and struck down with cholera get the assistance they require, and particularly looking further forward to vaccination programmes to help ensure that you can slow down and eventually, hopefully arrest the advance of cholera. So that was where the focus was, quite properly, in that meeting, and it is indeed the focus of the United Nations on the ground in Haiti. And I think as you’ve heard similarly for the Haitian authorities working very closely with the United Nations there. Other questions, please?

There are other questions, yes. But answers will continued to be pursued to these. Watch this site.

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