Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On UN Bringing Cholera to Haiti, Paying Not a Cent, Ban's Deputy Spox Haq Says UN Didn't Do It

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 5 --  When the UN of Ban Ki-moon is asked about bringing cholera to Haiti, the answer is usually, “Our position remains unchanged” -- that is, immunity. 
 But when UN OCHA official John Ging mentioned Haiti and cholera in a February 18 briefing and Inner City Press asked more about it, and what the UN is doing to people expelled from the Dominican Republic to Haiti where the UN introduced cholera? Video here.
  Ging to his credit did not say “our position remains the same,” instead he reviewed the waning support from donors, after citing 105 families in a camp on the border with only two toilets. What are the UN's responsibilities? How can the UN shirk them so badly? On April 5, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: One of the points to me of this report is the dating of it.  How did the UN go forward after having this internal report and continue to deny any responsibility or nexus between its practices and the disease?  And what is your response to the Médecins Sans Frontières finding in the magazine Emerging Infectious Diseases that the count of 9,000 killed by cholera is a gross understatement?  And what is being done, not about future water in Haiti, but for the families of the people that were killed in the sense of recompense to the people who lost their homes, can't send their kids to school?  I guess, in terms of accountability to those who were injured by the UN's practices, what has the UN done?

Deputy Spokesman:  The UN has tried to do what it can to work with the Government, as I told your Al Jazeera colleague, in terms of bringing down the cholera epidemic.  We have worked with them.  We have… as you know, the Government has an action plan on the rehabilitation of its own infrastructure, and we've tried to support that.  We're continuing to work with them and hope that ultimately we can bring this crisis to an end.

Inner City Press:  But what about the… I guess, the victims.  It seems like in the context of sexual abuse there's a recognition by the Secretariat that the people that were injured need to be compensated.  Here there are more than 9,000 families injured by what the UN did.  Has a single penny been paid to them?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, that's not a foregone conclusion and we've told you the position on that.

Inner City Press:  Because you don't go to court and so…

Deputy Spokesman:  We've told you what the position is which has not changed. 
 On February 25 Inner City Press was first to report that the appeal in a case seeking to hold the UN accountable Georges v. UN had been scheduled for oral argument on March 1 at the Thurgood Marshall courthouse in Lower Manhattan. On March 2, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: yesterday, there was an… a court argument on the appeal in the case about the UN bringing cholera to Haiti.  And a lot of argument turned on the UN's continuing failure to have set up any kind of a claims assessment mechanism to pay the survivors of people that were killed by the cholera.  And the US said that it could… this could go to the ICJ [International Court of Justice].  But, what I really wanted to just ask you directly is, given the prominence of the case, given what was said in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, can you explain why the UN never set up the… a… a mechanism to assess claims and paid any compensation to the victims of cholera that was brought… were… was presumptively brought by the Nepalese battalion?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, first of all, I challenge your presumptions, which are not something that has been accepted as fact.  But, beyond that, all I really have to say is that I can confirm that there was a hearing yesterday, 1 March, in the case between the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  In light of its immunity, the United Nations did not appear in court.  The US Government attended the hearing and asserted the position that the Organization and its officials are immune from the lawsuit.  At the end of the hearing, the panel of three judges reserved their decision, which we understand will be delivered at a later date.  Consequently, I wouldn't have any further comment.

Inner City Press:  Given that the UN always speaks against impunity and talks about accountability, I just want to square this position that what was being discussed there, many of the judges seemed sympathetic to the people that died getting no compensation… having had no compensation.  How is the Secretariat and Ban Ki-moon comfortable with asserting unlimited, unqualified immunity in a case of people killed by… by… you know, you're saying it's not… most people accept it, but…?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, that's not the case.
Inner City Press:  Is that the reason… if you thought that the UN had done it, would Ban Ki-moon pay compensation?

Deputy Spokesman:  The… for us, the bottom point on immunities is one that applies to a number of cases across the system.  I'm not really talking about this in particular, but this is a part of the framework of how the United Nations was set up.  Regarding this particular problem, the problem of cholera in Haiti — that, we care about very much.  The Secretary-General has spoken about it.  As you know, he's visited Haiti.  He's made clear his own feelings of regret for the way cholera has spread and has affected the people of Haiti.  And we have tried to make sure that Haiti gets the funding it needs so that it can deal with the cholera outbreak, so it has the medical expertise that it needs, and most crucially, so that it can repair its infrastructure, its sanitation… its water and sanitation infrastructure, so that it can actually deal with the sort of health crisis that's been prepared by the spread of cholera.  We've been trying to do our part, and we continue to implore concerned nations to support Haiti and the Haitian people in their time of need.

Inner City Press:  Will there be a new [Pedro] Medrano?  Will [there be] a replacement for Mr. Medrano?  Because Mr. [John] Ging said that the money is not being raised and that the rate of donations is going down, so what does the Secretary-General intend to do to do all of the things you just said?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, his functions have been taken over by other officials, including through the UN Mission there, MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti].  His time with the UN is done.   We do continue to implore countries to give Haiti both the funding and the services, the sort of help that it desperately needs.  And if further measures are needed down the line, we'll explore that.  But, at this stage, Mr. Medrano's post has ended.  Yes? 
   On a daily basis across from the UN's 43rd Street entrance stands a Haitian journalist; Inner City Press' requests to the UN including former spokesperson Michele Montas to get him re-admitted fell on the UN's deaf ears. Now he wants to know the prospective Haitian military force's size.
On February 22 through 25, Inner City Press when ousted from the UN without any due process (see here) spent hours with this figure in the park, including interviewing him about Haiti, and the UN bringing cholera there. We'll have more on this.

When Inner City Press on January 28 asked about a new study that inexpensive precautions could have saved Haitian lives, and could still save lives elsewhere, the UN replied with... a link to a report, Appendix 12 no less. Video here.  Transcript.
On June 18, Inner City Press again asked the UN about the deportation threat, and if the UN might follow Jose Ramos Horta's advise that it compensate victims of the cholera it brought to Haiti:
Inner City Press: On Haiti I think it's, I guess, on Tuesday, I'd asked you about this planned repatriation from the Dominican Republic.  And now that a variety of… the Mayor of the City of New York has spoken on it and most poignantly the President of Haiti, Mr. [Michel] Martelly, had said they won’t accept individuals that were not born in Haiti, which would stand to leave a lot of people stateless; meaning, Haitians… “Haitians that were born in Santa Domingo”.  And I've also read that UN was attending meetings planning for what was to happen, so what is the UN's position on this?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  What I can say on that is the Dominican Government has given assurances that it will apply due process standards on an individual basis and will protect individuals against unlawful deportation.  The United Nations urges respect for international law and humanitarian principles.  In the event of an increase in the scale of deportations, the United Nations calls for close coordination between the Haitian and Dominican Governments to ensure an orderly and transparent process open to observation by the UN and the international community.  The United Nations remains commits to resolve the problems of the people who are deprived of nationality as a result of the 2013 ruling of the Dominican Constitutional Court.

Inner City Press:  Thanks.  Also on Haiti, I wanted… I meant to ask you this yesterday, but I'll ask today, José Ramos-Horta of the panel in this room on Tuesday, on cholera in Haiti, said that he said he would believe, you know, I'm going to paraphrase here, that the UN should have paid compensation and he brought up as two examples peacekeepers in Timor-Leste, upon knowing that death had been caused inadvertently, they just offered to pay one individual, paid his salary over his remaining deployment there.  I wanted to know, given he is a highly respected person to be the head of the panel, you know, not as a “gotcha”, but is there some response to the approach, the way that he laid it out, that making victims whole comes before any kind of legal argumentation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Basically, of course, as you're aware well aware, he is essentially expressing his personal opinion on this.  His panel's work was not on the question of Haiti.  We have heard, as you know, a wide range of opinions over the years and have respected a wide range of views on this.  The Secretary-General has tried as hard as he can to make sure that the situation of cholera in Haiti is resolved.  As you have seen from the efforts of Pedro Medrano, what we are trying to do is coordinate efforts with the Government of Haiti and the international community to see what can be done to bring this cholera epidemic to an end.  And so, we will continue with those efforts and we respect the views of people around.  On the legal question, our position remains as it was.
What is wrong with this picture?
UN official Herve Ladsous, who has openly refused to answer Inner City Press question and was abetted in this by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson in his last press conference, used that to brag about ostensibly declining numbers of sexual exploitation and abuse complaints against his UN Peacekeeping: 51 worldwide for a whole year.
  But now it emerges that in Haiti alone, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services documented 225 women sexual exploited by Ladsous' peacekeepers. This is a cover up; Ladsous should answer or go. On June 10, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric,video heretranscript here:
Inner City Press: I want to ask about sexual abuse. I'm sure you've seen AP's report on the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report on sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly in MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission] in Haiti, saying 225 women testified that they were exchange — you know, asked by peacekeepers to exchange sex for money or food or whatever.  So how do you square this with the report made here by the Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous that only 51 cases of sexual exploitation or abuse were alleged worldwide, 51 as opposed to 225 in one country?  And what's going to be done to square what seems to be a dramatic underreporting by the UN?
Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the — first of all, the report that you referred to in the Associated Press filing, as far as my understanding is concerned, it's still a draft report.  There's still comments going back and forth, as usually there are between the concerned department and OIOS.  So I'm not going to go into what's said in the report.
Obviously, the issue of underreporting is of concern.  Every case needs to be looked into.  Every case of sexual abuse needs to be looked into.  The Secretary-General is determined to continue on the zero-tolerance policy.  I think if you look at the special measures report that was issued earlier this year, I think it outlines a number of steps that were taken.  And obviously, you know, all sorts of things are looked at in terms of prohibited conduct, discouraged conduct and others.  So, you know, the report's still in draft form.  I don't have any information on the specific cases you mentioned.
Inner City Press:  Maybe the number will somehow be reduced, but what I did want to ask you is, can you say from this podium that peacekeepers requesting sex in exchange for money or food does constitute sexual exploitation and abuse, for the purposes of this 51 figure that was thrown out in this room?
Spokesman Dujarric:  Again, I'm not go into that.  I think if you look at the Secretary-General's special measures report, I think it outlines those things and it answers your question
 This resistance to saying that eacekeepers requesting sex in exchange for money or food does constitute sexual exploitation and abuse is part of the problem. We'll have more on this.

 On June 8, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric first about the French forces' non-inclusion in Ban's Children and Armed Conflict list, then about the whistleblowers, video heretranscript here:
Inner City Press: it seems like the abuse the UN was aware of in the Central African Republic by the French Sangaris forces, was there any consideration of including them and if so, why not?

Spokesman Dujarric:  On the CAR [Central African Republic], the situation in the CAR, part of the CAR was drafted with the information available at the time of the writing of the report.  As you know, the… we do hope to announce soon the external independent inquiry which will shed light on the process.

Inner City Press: I'm sorry to reiterate this.  I'd sent you these questions but wanted to ask you.  I asked the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights who said that Mr. Kompass is going to be extended, although he also said it's not Geneva's decision; it's up to New York.  And there are several Member State who believe he's not being extended--

Spokesman:  No, I have no indication whatsoever that his contract will not be renewed.

Inner City Press:  It does apparently expire in one month.

Spokesman:  Right.  No, as I said, I have no indication whatsoever that his contract will not be renewed.

Inner City Press: ]OHCHR] had said something about contracts being automatically extended if a person is under investigation.  Is that your understanding?

Spokesman:  I think that is very likely a policy but as I said, for Mr. Kompass, I have no indication that his…

Inner City Press: The other thing I asked you is about Miranda Brown who was an… worked with Mr. Kompass and has since been terminated.  I know that she wrote a letter to the Secretary-General dated 23 May saying she's willing to participate, but not if she's fired by the UN and has no immunity.  Has the Secretary-General’s responded to the letter?

Spokesman:  I don't believe there has been a response.  I don't know if it was received.  I don't believe she was terminated, I think her fixed-term contract was not renewed.

Inner City Press: What would you say to those who say if you actually want to know… this was a person who was number two to Kompass at the time involved.  What arrangements were being made to try to get her evidence?

Spokesman:  I think we would have to leave that to the panel once it's named.

 As Inner City Press analyzed below, there is a history of UN panels being used to cover up.

Now Code Blue has these three recommendations:

"First, this must be a truly external and independent inquiry.  No member of existing UN staff should be appointed to investigate nor to act as the investigators’ secretariat.

"Second, it must be understood that top members of the Secretary-General’s own staff will have to be subject to investigation. This must go right up to the level of Under-Secretaries General. No one can be excluded, whether the Director of the Ethics Office or the USG of the Office of Internal Oversight Services or the Secretary-General’s own Chef de Cabinet. It would appear that all of them and more acted inappropriately in response to the dreadful events in CAR.

"Third, the reference in the Secretary-General’s announcement of a review to ‘the broad range of systemic issues’ is crucial to the inquiry. What happened in the Central African Republic was an atrocity, but the fact that the UN stood silent for nearly a year after its own discovery of widespread peacekeeper sexual abuse (even if by non-UN troops) is itself a bitter commentary on the Secretary-General’s declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’."

  Inner City Press would add, past UN staff and offiicals as well. Consider these past panels, as put together and at the end analyzed by Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access:

The "Ahtissari Panel" (2003) --

On 22 September 2003, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, to chair an Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of UN Personnel in Iraq.

The "Walzer Panel" (2004)

Panel finds senior officials lax in ensuring UN’s safe return to Iraq

The Volcker Panel (2004)

The priority of the Independent Panel’s investigation of the “oil-for-food” programme was to “get after” allegations of corruption and misconduct within the United Nations itself and, more broadly, the question of the maladministration of the “oil-for-food” programme, stated Paul A. Volcker, Chairman of the Independent Panel, in a press conference at UNHQ.

The Munoz Panel (2009)

The UN Commission of Inquiry, appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the request of the Pakistani Government, reached no conclusion as to the organizers and sponsors behind the attack in which a 15-year-old suicide bomber blew up Ms. Bhutto’s vehicle in the city of Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007.  The three-member panel, which was headed by Chilean Ambassador to UN Heraldo Muñoz and included Marzuki Darusman, former attorney-general of Indonesia, and Peter Fitzgerald, a veteran official of the Irish National Police, urged the Government to undertake police reform in view of its “deeply flawed performance and conduct.”

The Palmer Panel (2011)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident on 2 August 2010. The Panel received and reviewed reports of the detailed national investigations conducted by both Turkey and Israel.

The Marzuki Panel (2011)

On 22 June 2010, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of a Panel of Experts to advise him on the implementation of the joint commitment included in the statement issued by the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General at the conclusion of the Secretary-General's visit to Sri Lanka on 23 March 2009.

  What exactly has the UN done about Sri Lanka?

And here is the UN's June 3 announcement, and Inner City Press' immediate questions, here.

 Meanwhile UN staff advocates have written to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his chief of staff and Ladsous, among others, demanding resignations. On June 2 Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who Banned any Inner City Press question to Ladsous on May 29, what Ban Ki-moon DID, once he learned in March about the rapes.Video here and embedded below.

 Dujarric said he had nothing to add to his previous answers. Huh?

 Inner City Press asked Dujarric, in light of OHCHR Zeid using a private email address for UN business, what the UN's record retention policy is. Dujarric said the policy must be available somewhere. To this has the UN descended.

  Dujarric said the investigation by Lapointe's OIOS, discredited in the leaked emails, will "lead where it will lead." But Lapointe has told OIOS invstigators to not go beyond what they are asked to look at -- in this case, only the whistleblower. This is called a cover up.

Many are asking why UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid, while emailing with the UN Ethics Office and OIOS, was using a private Gmail address, and not his work account.

 When Hillary Clinton used the UN Security Council stakeout to belatedly answer questions about her own use of private email while US Secretary of State, it was described as an accident of scheduling, or attempt to use the UNSC backdrop to convey gravitas. But the echo now with Prince Zeid also using private email for presumably public business raises similar questions.

  But will the questions be asked, much less answered? Reuters, typically, ran a piece on May 30 repeating Zeid's press release, withlittle analysis of his role, or use of private email, or Herve Ladsous, who has now been emailed staff advocates' call for resignations.

  Anders Kompass was asked to send his side of the story -- to a private email address, but wisely declined.

Beyond the treatment of Kompass himself, the documents show pressure brought to bear on lower-level staff to make and thereby launder the high officials' desire for an investigation of Kompass.

  Most directly, it is asked, what UN staff member will now report fraud or misconduct, knowing that OIOS and the Ethics Office will then discuss the accusations with their boss? This is a question Inner City Press on May 29 asked UN Spokesman Staphen Dujarric, who BannedInner City Press from putting a single question to Ladsous - the question has yet to be answered.

    UN staff advocates have written directly to Ban Ki-moon and his deputy, Ladsous and Atul Khare and others, demanding resignations. They are offended by the exposure of lack of independence at the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services and UN Ethics Office, and question whether the US should cut off funding under the 2014 U.S. Consolidated Appropriation Act, section 7048(a)(1)(B). After reading those leaked documents, how exactly can the U.S. Secretary of State (or anybody else) certify that the UN's whistle-blower policy fulfils the Act's requirements? Is there any "independent adjudicative body" in this chain? Evidently the Ethics Office and OIOS are not."

  The staff notice Ban's appearance at another softball soccer game, among those who are supposed to hold him and the UN accountable. The call for Ladsous to resign out be fired has spread from the African Group to Latin America and GRULAC...

  On May 7, Inner City Press asked more questions about this - including to Herve Ladsous himself.
  After a long closed-door consultation meeting of the Security Council, Ladsous emerged. Inner City Press asked him, based on Paragraph 9 of the UNDT ruling, Why did you ask Kompass to resign?"

  Ladsous stopped and said, "I deny that." Inner City Press put the handheld video online, here.