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On Central African Republic, As UN Disputes Age of Rape Victim With ICP, Smale Spin Litmus Test

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 – Despite UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres talk of “zero tolerance” for sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers abuses continue, for example the alleged drugging and raping of a 19 (or the UN says, 16) year old girl by Mauritanian forces in Bambari in the Central African Republic. Inner City Press asked Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about the alleged rape on October 12; he disputed the age but confirmed that the “relevant country” is Mauritania. Video here; transcript here and below. Meanwhile Guterres' head of Global Communications Alison Smale, who has not responded for five weeks to detailed Press petitions about unnecessary and unjustifiable restrictions and targeting for investigative reporting, told her staff on October 3 that creating good news from Guterres' trip to the Central African Republic later this month will be a litmus test for the UN. She said Guterres and she have discussed bringing in outside consultants -- that is, spending yet more public money -- and said she would keep her staff informed. She told them, My office door is open, sometimes an e-mail door. But she does not answer detailed e-mail. That, is a litmus test. We'll have more on this.

From the UN's October 12 transcript: Inner City Press: a 19-year-old woman who says that she was both drugged and then raped by UN peacekeepers in Bambari in [the Central African Republic].  And it's a very detailed account.  She was on her way to a funeral.  She was offered tea.  She woke up naked and having been raped.  And I'm just wondering, what steps has the UN taken with regard to the peacekeeper at issue or other peacekeepers in this case? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, yes, we were provided with information that members of one contingent sexually abused a 16-year-old girl on… not a 19-year-old girl, by the way.  The information we have is that she's 16… on 30 September.  As of 10 October, which is Tuesday, the [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] (MINUSCA) informed the relevant country through official channels from the Department of Field Support for further investigation and action.  And what we're expecting is we've requested that… normally, a Member State has up to 10 working days to respond to the UN about whether it will investigate the matter through the appointment of a national investigation officer, and we've requested that this be expedited to five days.  So, we're awaiting a reply. Inner City Press: And is the Member State at issue Mauritania? Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, yes, it is.


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