Sunday, January 10, 2010

With Congo Gloating of UN Combat Copters, Doss and Ban Trash Human Rights Watch

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 5 -- With the UN faced last month with detailed criticism of human rights violations in its assistance to the Congolese Army's Kimia II operations, how did it respond?

The UN's scandal plagued top envoy to the Congo, Alan Doss, told the Security Council and the Press that Kimia II was being ended. Multiple wire services repeated the statement.

Now, the Congolese Army has announced another offensive, Amani Leo, and has said that the UN will be providing combat helicopter support.

Major Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the Congolese military in Nord-Kivu province, said the aim was to "completely eradicate" the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in a three-month campaign beginning in January. Ekenge said the UN mission, known as MONUC, which gave logistical support to the Congolese army last year, would be fighting alongside it in the upcoming offensive. In particular MONUC would be deploying combat helicopters against the rebels, he said. MONUC's military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, refused to comment Friday on Ekenge's statement.

Suddenly the UN is silent. Its spokesman in the Congo declined comment. Monday in New York, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky what the UN's role will be, and what safeguards are in place. Nesirky answered neither questions. Video here.

The UN and Doss are only selectively silent on the relation between UN decisions and civilians deaths in the Congo. On December 28, an opinion piece by Alan Doss was published in the Washington Times, calling Human Rights Watch "shortsighted... unjust [and] counterproductive."

UN's Doss and DRC's Joseph Kabila, Col. Zimulinda not shown

Back on December 29, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson's Office, in writing

Regarding Alan Doss' Dec. 28 op-ed in the Washington Times, "No weak-kneed peace-keeping," which UN News subsequently summarized

a) did Mr. Doss seek and obtain approval or consent from DPKO, DPI, DPA or the EOSG for the tone of the piece, which among other things attacks Human Rights Watch?

b) is this a view attributable to the UN? to MONUC? Only to Mr. Doss?

It was previously said that Alexander Downer's op-ed saying Barack Obama should not have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was only Downer's personal view. Is Doss' piece to be viewed the same way? How is its summary in UN News to be interpreted? Does it make it a UN view?

Likewise, does the Secretariat stand behind the comments of Mr. Ban's SRSG (and USG) Ameerah Haq that Copenhagen was a disappointment? Or was she speaking only "as a global citizen"?

Having received no response from the Spokesperson's Office, Inner City Press at the noon briefing on January 4 asked if Doss had sought UN approval before pushing his screed against Human Rights Watch, which many have characterized as his attempt to "shoot the messenger."

Mr. Nesirky responded that Inner City Press had been sent an answer. What was it, Inner City Press asked, since it never received any answer. Nesirky did not, on camera, provide any answer. Inner City Press made another request, along with a number of other questions left unanswered from the previous week.

Then, Mr. Nesirky's Office -- "do not reply" - provided this:

Subj: your question about alan doss op-ed in the WT -- resending as not received earlier

From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 1/4/2010 3:19:38 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Written as noted at the bottom of the op-ed as the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Apparently this means that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also finds Human Rights Watch "shortsighted... unjust [and] counterproductive." Perhaps it is a reaction to the quote, on which Inner City Press has twice fruitlessly sought a UN response, by HRW's director that

"Ban Ki-moon has been too eager to meet with officials without ensuring he gets something in return. When he went to Burma, he was so eager to meet with the junta he did not get anything promised before he went there. There was no surprise when he was given nothing—he had given up all of his leverage. Also, he has been reluctant to speak out. And so, he is fighting many of these battles with one hand tied behind his back and it is no surprise that he is losing."

To fail to speak out about human rights violations, particularly by the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council, is one thing. But when shown that the UN's own peacekeeping mission is assisting Army units who massacre civilians and rape women, to respond by attacking the messenger and in essence deceiving the press and public by loudly declaring the controversial operation over, when it is replaced two weeks later and will have UN support, is too much.

And see,