By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- Amid a litany of rape charges against UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press exclusively obtained and on February 12 published UN emails showing another round of sexual abuse of minors in Ouaka prefecture in the Central African Republic by UN Peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Click here to view.
On March 4 at 11 am Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on "Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse" came out from under embargo and Inner City Press immediately published its review. And now Code Blue has chimed in, with data, below.
Ban's response is inadequate; tellingly, it is not the boss of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, who has on camera linked the rapes to R&R, who was presenting or pitching the response, but lower profile Atul Khare.
On March 8, AIDS Free World's project Code Blue issued this critique, and Inner City Press then asked Ban's spokesman about it (below)
The United Nations’ damage control team must be celebrating its close call last week: headlines about the UN’s peacekeeper sex abuse crisis were bad, but they could have been much, much worse. The tried-and-true tactic of waiting until midday , New York time, to release the Secretary-General’s annual progress report on “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse by UN personnel worked again. As predicted, most journalists only had time to skim the report before filing, and they relied heavily on the UN’s press release. That heat-and-serve lede went out nearly verbatim: “Total allegations rose to 69 in 2015 from 52 the year before.”
In fact, that was last year’s news. We looked at the more expansive UN data that is now posted online and found the devil in this year’s details. During January and February of 2016 alone, there have been 25 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. If that rate keeps up, last year’s allegations against peacekeeping personnel will more than double, to an annual total of 150 allegations in 2016.
Even that is a lowball estimate, since an “allegation” is a unique UN unit of measurement that doesn’t represent one perpetrator or one victim. The UN groups as many as ten sex crimes together and counts them as a single “allegation”—a statistical maneuver described in a New York press briefing by a top peacekeeping official last month as a "science and art.”
In straightforward language, the 25 allegations recorded in January and February of this year alone actually represent a minimum of 31 victims and 47 perpetrators. At this rate, 2016 will end with some 256 peacekeeping personnel accused of sexual offenses by at least 186 women and children; 18 women and girls will have been impregnated.
Another stunner in the newly released data went unnoticed. Last year, after the Code Bluecampaign exposed the UN’s callous mishandling and subsequent cover-up of peacekeeper rapes in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General took an unprecedented step: he called for the resignation of that country’s top UN official, on whose 11-month watch a total of 16 UN peacekeepers had been accused of sexual offenses against 16 victims. A new Special Representative of the Secretary-General was appointed. In the half-year since he took over last September, the numbers have skyrocketed: 46 perpetrators reported by 34 victims. No further resignations have been demanded. The Secretary-General’s “zero tolerance” for any leader who isn’t up to the job was short-lived.
You can’t end violence against women and girls with empty promises. On this International Women’s Day, the world’s women deserve more.Here, here. When Inner City Press, about the links above to the UN's own data, Dujarric repeated that the UN stands behind Khare's data; he did not respond on Ladsous. Vine here. From the UN's transcript:
Inner City Press: Code Blue, a group I'm sure you know, their critique of the report at least officially launched here on Friday by Atul Khare was that it radically understates the level of sexual abuse. They say that… that, in the first two months of this year, given that there have been 25 allegations, if you annualize that, the number would be 150, which would be a massive increase over 2015. And I just wonder… they also critique the UN's kind of spin of that report of withholding it, putting it out on a Friday, not… I'm going to add this. I'll say not having Mr. Ladsous here. So, what… I would assume you've seen this, and you've previously responded to Code Blue. What do you think of what they're saying?
Spokesman Dujarric: Look, you know, Code Blue, I think, does a very important advocacy work in fighting against sexual abuse. We are going by the numbers that we have, that are reported. It is important that people feel… that victims feel safe enough to report the crimes and the abuse. We have, as the Secretary-General has said, increased our outreach through local… local NGOs. We obviously stand by… stand by the numbers.
Inner City Press: They're going by the numbers actually on the website. They're saying that the numbers that were presented by Mr. Khare didn't take into account new numbers that the UN has…
Spokesman Dujarric: We're going by the numbers that were provided by peacekeeping.
At the 11:15 am March 4 press conference -- tellingly, the UN Correspondents Association wasn't present - Inner City Press asked Khare why it wasn't Ladsous presenting, why Ban Ki-moon noted without criticism a mere nine day suspension for sexual exploitation, why sexual abuse of a 14 year old was classified by the UN as "transactional"?
Khare did not explain Ladsous' absence, nor answer if Ladsous was the unnamed UN official who pre-spun Reuters and a few others.
He did not directly say that Reuters broke the embargo - he said to ask DPI about that , which is funny in that DPI threw Inner City Press out of the UN for trying to cover an event in this same UN Press Briefing Room, while collaborating with Reuters - but added he was surprised to see the advance story. Video here.
There is no accountability at the top - or in the field. The March 4 report in Paragraph 20 presents as legitimate a nine day suspension for sexual exploitation, and undefined "administrative sanctions" for sexual exploitation that led to a "Peacekeeper baby." This is shameful.
Zeid firing whistleblower Kompass was asking about by France 24 - but not Ladsous.
As to the Central African Republic, where the UN covered up French Sangaris troops child rapes and then fired the whistleblower -- not mentioned in the report -- the UN blamed the victims, saying the country is poor, women and girls are for sale: a more diplomatic entree into what Ladsous came out and said on September 11, 2015, linking rapes to R&R.
Combine this with an Inner City Press question Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric refused to answer - how could the UN log in sexual abuse of a 14 year old, statutory rape, as "transactional" sex -- and the scam of Ban's response becomes clear.
Perhaps because the product is so worthless, the attempt to sell and spin it was extensive.
Since December Inner City Press has asked at noon briefings when Ban Ki-moon's response to the Deschamps report would be released, including asking about member state dissatisfaction with the response, and Ladsous. "March," Ban's two spokesman said.
On Wednesday Inner City Press learned that not the official responsible for the rapes, Herve Ladsous, but lower profile Atul Khare had shot a UN TV "interview" about the response. Now, in similar propaganda fashion, an UNnamed UN official has poured the spin on Reuters and the old "small group of reporters" -- that is, those who never reported that Ladsous, on camera, linked the rapes to R&R. This is the UN Corruption Association.
Inner City Press on March 3 asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here.
But, even as to the report which the UN insisted was under embargo until 11 am on March 4, when Reuters nevertheless published a weak story about it on March 3, with no mention of Ladsous, the UN did nothing.
Given the UN's no due process move to on February 19 expel Inner City Press from the UN for merely trying to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, petition here, Inner City Press strictly complied with the embargo although obtaining the report through other channels was easy.
Reuters doesn't have to worry about the UN throwing it out - it does (some in) the UN's dirty work. We'll have more on this as well.
Even from within DPKO there is disgust at the response, as dodging or not implement many of the recommendations. More on that when the UN belatedly comes out from behind its self-pleasuring curtain of its own media, and insider scribes. One final note: the Reuters bureau chief at the March 1 press conference by Angola on its Program of work loudly cut off another reporter - not this one -- as if owning the UN.
After Inner City Press on February 15 asked about the email its had published - and Reuters' UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, notably,tried to dismiss and then stole the story - on February 16 UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq in the noon briefing read out a statement confirming nearly all of the email Inner City Press had published: that there were four new victims, minors, troops from DR Congo.
But Haq did not say that two of the victims had children from the statutory rape. So Inner City Press asked Haq to confirm that, and asked who would pay: the UN or the DRC soldiers? Haq said there are meetings in Ban's office to respond to just such issues, after December's Deschamps report. Video here.
And then Reuters, even while its editor Dan Grebler said the first theft was being looked into, just retyped and stole it again, this time by its UN correspondent Michelle Nichols, here.
It was this same Nichols who, at the UN Security Council stakeout on February 18 while Inner City Press was live-streaming after asking about a draft statement on Palestine, cut in loudly with "I see you Periscoping!" And? So what? UN missions and the UN itself are broadcasting inside the UN on Periscope. Why would one media try to censor others?
On February 15, Reuters first tried to claim these were "old" rapes, here -- then when shown otherwise, simply stole the story with no credit.This is apparently policy.
So Inner City Press raised the issue of theft of exclusives (and lack of objectivity, at least at the UN) to Reuters itself. For now, we've received this, cc-ed also not only to the (repeat) offender but also to Reuters' genial seeming Brian Moss and Clive McKeef:
"Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. The appropriate Reuters staff will look into it and get back to you as soon as feasible.
Desk Editor, Americas Desk"
But but February 18, still no response. It's not that complicated. Or was the Reuters correspondent's "intervention" the response? We'll have more on this too.
The underlying emails, dated February 11, 2016, describe at least four underage victims, two of whom were impregnated by the rapist UN peacekeepers -- "in the locality Ngakobo in the Ouaka prefecture."
On February 15, after emailing questions for two days to UN spokespeople in CAR and New York, Inner City Press at the UN's noon briefing asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about the rapes, and the email it published on February 12. Haq answered, dodging on part of the email but not denying it. Video here.
Then Associated Press asked, what about these new allegations? Video here. Haq answered - and from that, AP wrote its own derivative and belated story -- without credit, and without any mention of the critique of the UN in the emails. This is how it works, or doesn't.
This too - Reuters UN "bureau chief" on Monday evening first reflexively came to the UN's defense saying that "Alleged Central African Republic rapes UN spox talked about today are same ones UN CAR said Feb 4 it was probing," citing (what else) a Reuters story of February 4 -- about a Human Rights Watch report about rapes in Bambari. But read the February 11 emails Inner City Press exclusively published, here:
“Herewith sharing with you a report I have just received from UNICEF indicating four minor girls aged between 16 and 17 years were victims of sexual exploitation and abuse allegedly committed by members of the DRC battalion in the locality Ngakobo in the Ouaka prefecture.”
Up the email chain, Mercedes Gervilla in UN headquarters writes that “it would seem that many among the troops concerned, including Commanding officers were well aware of the abuse to which these children were being subjected. I also regret to inform you that in addition to these new 4 cases, there will likely be two more...”. [We'll have more on this.]
This is called... spinning for the UN. This is a trend at Reuters, even last week, here.
And there is a history: this same Reuters UN Bureau Chief Lou Charbonneau, when challenged, wrote to Stephane Dujarric, UN Spokesman, trying to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, here.
When this was exposed, Charbonneau cited Reuters to get his email to the UN taken out of Google's search, saying he never meant for it to be public and it was somehow copyrighted. (See his filing here, made public by EFF's ChillingEffects.org). That's censorship... by Reuters.
This this case, after being shown this reflexive defense of the UN was wrong, Reuters simply re-wrote the story and stole it, with no credit.
And now we must go back: Charbonneau announced a policy of not crediting Inner City Press, see here.
This was raised at the time to Reuters, including to Stephen J. Adler. What kind of company is this?
(Inner City Press previously asked the decaying UN Correspondents Association, while it tried to censor Press coverage of its boss, to promulgate a best practice for media at the UN to credit others' exclusives; it never happened. AP at the UN speaks for this UNCA, and apparently it for AP.)
In the email chain Inner City Press exclusively published, middle management at the UN noted that the majority of sexual abuse in CAR has been committed by the battalions from the DRC and the Republic of Congo. And so Inner City Press posed these questions to UN spokespeople in both New York and the CAR:
"This is a request for your comment on, and any update on, the sexual abuse and exploitation cases in the Feb 11, 2016 emails now here
Also, what will be done with the Republic of Congo and DR Congo contingents? We are interested in if the UN and DPKO can, as currently be configured, be reformed.What is the status of the sexual abuse and exploitation cases that have been listed, including in the UN Press Briefing Room?"
The response received by Inner City Press on Saturday afternoon in New York was from Bangui-based MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro:
"Regarding your questions on DRC and Congo, here is Minusca's position:
"On DRC contingent, a decision to repatriate them has already been taken. It will be completed without delay by the end of the month. It is just a matter of planning it properly.
"On the 120 troops from Congo, they have been cantoned in Berberati to permit investigations by national investigators before their repatriation to their country which will occur on 20 February 2016. For further details on this matter please contact HQ."
But of course Inner City Press has already contacted "HQ" or UN Headquarters, including for example Ismini Palla of Ladsous' DPKO, who gave Agence France Presse the response to questions Inner City Press has publicly posed to UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, to the DPKO spokesman Nick Birnback, also cc-ed.
So where ARE the updates on the cases the UN's Diane Corner listed in the UN Briefing Room? Why was it reported in early January that the DRC contingent had "been dismissed" when, in mid February, they are still in place? What is the status of the Burundian contingent in CAR? Follow up questions have been submitted to UN officials and spokespeople in CAR and headquarters in New York.
Well placed sources tell Inner City Press these two countries' soldiers have been in the UN MINUSCA mission nearly entirely due to Ladsous and, more outrageously, the / his French government due to its political relations with the Republic of Congo and DRC.
Ladsous, as Inner City Press has reported, told Burundi's Vice President that he is "pragmatic" about human rights; even on camera, Ladsous linked the rapes to "R&R," click here for video.
While Ladsous' DPKO and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson announced that the DRC contingent would be pulled out of Bambari and CAR in late Janaury, Inner City Press is informed this never happened: they are still there.
Ladsous' DPKO, and now the UN Spokesperson's Office, are engaged in misleading the press and public, and doling out what information they provide to only the friendliest media.
For recent example, Inner City Press for week has reported on and asked about the repatriation from CAR of Burundian troops charged with abuse during the crackdown on opponents of Pierre Nkurunziza's third term. Even after Inner City Press obtained and published on February 9 proof of three repatriations, all UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press is that he would seek an update.
Simarily, Ladsous' lead spokesman Nick Birnback told Inner City Press DPKO would have something to say about the particular Burundian officers in CAR Inner City Press asked him about.
Then Ladsous' spokespeople including Ismini Palla gave their limited confirmations to Reuters and Agence France Presse, who published it without credit or context. (Neither media reported on Ladsous linking rape to R&R - nor did AP.)
In a February email by UN official Anthony Banbury, soon to leave the UN after some heartfelt tears of outrage at peacekeepers' rapes, it is said:
"We have a pack of predatory criminals and rapists, preying on young girls,
under the banner of the United Nations. How can we stand by? In my view that battalion should be ordered to cease operations today, same with the RoC battalion, and be confined to camp and guarded full time so they cannot continue to abuse children. While we would pay a short-term price in terms of operations, we would gain so much in terms of the integrity and reputation of the UN, in the CAR and internationally, and we would almost certainly prevent more rapes of minor girls. We simply cannot sustain the argument that the benefit these troops are bringing to the UN and PoC is greater than the harm they are doing."
What will the UN do? What will France, with new foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault, do? How long can Ladsous - and the Congolese contingents - remain in place?
Having been told by sources of more rapes by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, Inner City Press on January 26 reported them and on January 27 asked the UN's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric to confirm them - but he wouldn't. UN transcript here. Video here.
So what is the protocol of UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, who linked the rapes to "R&R," here? How many more do they know about?
The UN report on rapes in the Central African Republic, released on December 17, found that UN Peacekeeping's Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous “illustrate[s] the UN's failure to respond to allegations of serious human rights violations in the meaningful way.”
Ladsous has yet to take any questions about the report...
When the Panel's three members held their December press conference, Inner City Press asked about Ladsous' failure to vet and his linking of rapes to “R&R.” Video here. Marie Deschamps said pointedly she wouldn't comment on Ladsous' remarks; Yasmin Sooka said these are crimes for punishment, not recreation.
As the last question, Inner City Press asked what it had wanted to ask Ban, and tried to ask Dujarric: what does this say about Ban's management? Video of Q&A here. Didn't Ban's chief of staff Malcorra, criticized in the report, do it for Ban? Didn't the “senior official” who ostensibly let the rape information die on the vine in the 38th floor work in an atmosphere created by Ban's nine years? We will pursue this.
In December 2015, Ban allowed those who cover him, at least the UN Correspondents Association, to sell seats with him for $6,000. And it is these same who have airbrushed out Ladsous and others. We'll have more on this.