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Covering Up Rapes, UN Faux Highlights Answers Not Given, Sri Lanka, Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- That the UN often doesn't answer questions, and that its chief of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous outright refuses Press questions, is clear, including on video.

  But now the UN pretends it answered questions at its briefing, putting into its “Highlights” exchanges that never took place.

The online “Highlights” of the UN's March 28 noon briefing contain responses supposedly delivered at the briefing to questions Inner City Press had been asking all week.

 These were three questions about UN peackeepers' failure to protect internally displaced people in Darfur, about former ruler Bozize's fleeing from the Central African Republic, and the UN's hand-over of de-mining to the Sri Lankan military.

  The “Highlights” state that “the Spokesperson said.” But he didn't, at least not at the briefing. Inner City Press was able to ask only one question, and it concerned Ladsous' stonewalling on his long delayed action on 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, which he supports.

  The question Inner City Press actually asked, and Spokesman Martin Nesirky's actual response, were barely included in the “Highlights” -- in favor of responses that were not given in the briefing. This is the UN.

Here's from the UN's transcript of the March 28 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I asked you yesterday about the rapes in Minova and what DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] may have done. It is now reported that Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous delivered a third ultimatum to the Foreign Minister of the DRC. Is that accurate?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Not strictly, not strictly the case, but let me tell you. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has been following up with the Congolese authorities on the matter of rapes in Minova. The UN Mission continues to press for the need for those who committed these unacceptable acts to face justice. On 25 March, so on Monday, Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, met with the Vice Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence to hand over a final letter. The letter informed the Congolese Government of the termination of all MONUSCO support to the two battalions involved in the Minova rapes should no appropriate action be taken immediately, within seven days. So, in other words, the support would terminate within seven days if no appropriate action is taken immediately.

On various occasions, UN officials have also conveyed the UN’s view on this issue. And that was the case yesterday at a meeting here in New York, when Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, reiterated the same views to the Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Inner City Press: What are the two battalions?

Spokesperson: You know what the response is there, Matthew. We need to wait until we reach that deadline, but I think you have heard what I have had to say about the deadline that has been set. Masood? Last question. [Video here, from Minute 24:56.]

   But here's from the UN's “Highlights” of the same noon briefing, with nothing on which FARDC units did the rapes in Minova, but instead responses that were not given at the briefing:


Asked a few times this week whether the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) or the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) were involved in transporting Francois Bozizé or his family members from the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson said that the answer is no; neither were involved in transporting anyone from the Bozizé family.

Also asked about an incident in which internally displaced people (IDPs) were taken away by armed men in Darfur, and the role of the UN-African Union Mission, UNAMID, in that incident, the Spokesperson said that the matter is being investigated.

And asked about Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense taking over demining activities in northern Sri Lanka, Nesirky said that the handing over of mine action management and activities to the Ministry of Defense is not a recent initiative. It was planned last year and the handover has always been the ultimate objective.

  There are problems which each of these answers, also e-mailed out on Thursday afternoon, which we'll try to get into this week (Nesirky will be away for the week with Ban Ki-moon in Andorra, San Marino, etc.).

   But the biggest problem is: none of these answers in the “Highlights” of the briefing were actually GIVEN during the briefing. And a main question asked, on March 25 and 26, who the UN let into Inner City Press' office without notice or consent, who took photos and who they gave them to, has yet to be answered. Video here. This is today's UN. Watch this site.

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