By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusives
UNITED NATIONS, October 7 -- The UN judged the Terrain Apartments in Juba, South Sudan to be safe and well-protected in October 2015, documents obtained and exclusively published by Inner City Press show.
In July 2016 the UN did nothing while those living there were rapes and, in the case of journalist John Gatluak, killed. After failing in South Sudan, the UN said it was offering protection in DR Congo.
On October 7, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you something about South Sudan. In the wake of that report that came out, it seems that UNMISS or UN Peacekeeping has acknowledged that they intentionally used tear gas to, quote, protect the safety of UN personnel in July in Juba. They had previously said… Elizabeth Chester, spokeswoman, had said, and I had asked your office in writing about, she called it an accidental tear gas explosion. So I would like… maybe you don't know from the podium, can you square those two? Was there an accidental tear gas explosion and then intentional use, or was it one in the same incident?
Deputy Spokesman: I think we'll need to wait for Patrick Cammaert's board to complete its work, and then we can proceed once we have the information from them. And we'll put out whatever they give us on that.
On October 6, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: there was a report that was put out by the Center for Civilians in Conflict… for Civilians in Conflict. And among other things, it was about South Sudan and Terrain. And so it sort of… I guess it's a curtain raiser to the Cammaert… the report that's supposed to come out. But it said… it said a couple of things about repatriation. It basically said that DPKO had in some instances claimed that people had been repatriated, you know, when they had not. And the example they gave is they said… they said that Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping, said in an early August interview with RFI the two commanders had been repatriated; however, a senior UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the republic of South Sudan) official told Civic several weeks after that only one had been repatriated. It kind of reminded me of the Mayuyu one. How is… what does DPKO mean when they say "repatriated"? Does it mean that somebody actually has left or intends to leave? And can you kind of clear up, if that's the main penalty that there is for misdeeds, should DPKO be saying people are out when they're not out?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. On that, a decision was taken to replace commanders in a unit following the crisis. One of the two identified commanders was repatriated. The other had already rotated out with his unit. In the current context of South Sudan, where the UN Mission in South Sudan is overstretched, it was decided not to replace an entire unit without immediate replacement and leave the protection of civilian site with even less resources to be protected. And, of course, the overview of how this crisis happened and how we handled it will hopefully be available shortly once we have Patrick Cammaert's team finalize their report.
ICP Question: They also… I mean… and maybe that's the thing that I'm not reading between the lines correctly. They said that basically, like, one of the so-called repatriations was, in fact, just leaving with a unit. Instead of staying behind for an extra additional month to provide some kind of a re-up, they left at that time. But it seems that's less than repatriation. Right? That's just leaving in the natural course of things. I mean… I guess I just… is there some way to…
Deputy Spokesman: Like I said, one of the two identified commanders was repatriated. The other had already rotated out with his unit.
ICP Question: And when is the report coming out? When is the Cammaert report coming out?
Deputy Spokesman: Hopefully not too much longer. It's being finalized right now. I will never make an actual prediction because it never quite works out, but I don't think it's that much longer before we get that.
On October 5 Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has told MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) that they want the… the SPLA-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition) fighters of Riek Machar to leave the country within a week, saying that there'd be somehow destabilising force in Eastern Congo. Can you confirm that? And what… what is the UN's, I guess, response? If that is the request, will they, in fact, do it? And where will the individuals go?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're aware of the request from the Government. As you're aware, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been apprised of the situation regarding these fighters. We're trying to see how best this can be handled in our own communication and our own dialogue with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ultimately, they're the ones who determine how their territory is to be used properly, and we respect that.
ICP Question: And what happened… the… the… they were apparently disarmed or whatever. What happened with the actual armaments that they had when they crossed the border? Where are they now?
Deputy Spokesman: The fighters who are being referred to in this case are people who have not disarmed. There were some… there was a group of people who the UN took charge of on humanitarian grounds that included Riek Machar and some of his close aides. Those individuals had been disarmed at the time that they were transported by the United Nations. This is a different group of people who were not transported and who have not been disarmed. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
Now what? On September 23 at a rare stakeout by UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press audibly asked about Terrain, without answer. (On October 5 an NGO took its report on Terrain into the UN Censorship Alliance, a group which has defended and empowered Ladsous' and the UN's UNresponsiveness. We'll have more on this.)
On September 26 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the delayed report - due September 23 - and about Riek Machar, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about South Sudan. I'd tried to ask Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous on Friday for an update on the… the report into the Terrain Hotel and other failures to protect civilians in Juba. He didn't answer, but I went back and looked. It seems like, on 23 August, Mr. [Patrick] Cammaert was in charge and said we'd be finished in a month. Is it finished? Has it been turned over, and when will it be made public?
Deputy Spokesman: On that, what I can say is that the special investigation team led by Major General Patrick Cammaert departed Juba on 18 September after arriving in the capital on 9 September. The team has completed its investigation on the ground and is now in the process of drafting its report, which will be submitted to the Secretary-General. As we announced earlier, the findings of this report will be made public.
Inner City Press: is there a distinction between the findings and the report itself? What's going to be made public and how… on what kind of a gap… just given that the month is now expired, when… when… when do you anticipate releasing these findings?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the… as I just mentioned, they're finalizing the report, so hopefully it's not much longer before we can have the report go to the Secretary-General. And, as we have made clear, we'll put out the findings… it will be clear to you what has been issued once we give it to you.
ICP Question: Okay. And I guess what I wanted to… also, on South Sudan, Riek Machar, it's reported, along with his people in his party, have announced an armed… the beginning of an armed struggle against what they call the… the racist regime in Juba. This was announced in Khartoum on Sunday. And I wanted to know, given the UN's involvement in trying to broker that initial deal that's fallen apart, what's the response to… to what seems to be a return to war?
Deputy Spokesman: We obviously want the parties to abide by the peace agreement. We made it very clear that the peace agreement remains the only viable option for the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. And so we would encourage all of them to avoid any rhetoric of any return to conflict and to go back to the enforcement of all of the various terms of the agreement.
ICP Question: But does that term involve Riek Machar being first Vice President and being back in Juba or not or being out… chased out of the country and in another country?
Deputy Spokesman: We've made our concerns clear. We want to make sure that all of the stakeholders, including the Government of South Sudan and the opposition, are able to fully implement the agreement. It has to be an implementation of the agreement that is in line with what is acceptable to the parties.
On September 16 Ban Ki-moon's UN gave awards to peacekeepers in South Sudan from Ban's native South Korea, where he coyly seeks to run for president. From the UN's press release:
“Peacekeepers from the Republic of Korea Horizontal Military Engineering Company or ROK-HMEC which are deployed to Bor in Jonglei Region received medals for outstanding contributions to the UNMISS and South Sudan.
The awards ceremony was presided by the mission’s Director of Mission Support (DMS), Ms. Stephani Scheer, as well as the Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Parke Jong Dae.
“South Korea has made a very valuable contribution to peacekeeping activities for several decades and their support to the UNMISS is the country’s biggest contribution to the peacekeeping operations throughout the world,” said Ms. Scheer during her remarks.
The Ambassador said the Government of the Republic of Korea will continue it’s [sic] to support to UN peacekeeping Missions around the world, and in particular press on with their support for the people of South Sudan in order for the country to achieve peace.
The DMS then thanked the engineering company (ROK-HMEC) for the outstanding support to the UNMISS mandate in South Sudan.
The DMS also toured the mission’s level two hospital which is operated by Sri Lankan peacekeepers.”
All of this is shameful, a new low even for Ban's UN.
On September 17, as Inner City Press covered the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, under Ban's eviction order it was first locked out of the UNSC stakeout, then told to leave the UN by a UN Security officer. This is Ban's UN.
On July 11, 13 and 14, Inner City Press asked the UN about its lack of response to rapes and killing in the Terrain Apartments in Juba, South Sudan, having been contacted by sources there shocked at the lack of response by the UNMISS mission and others. Video here, including the UN on August 15 claiming after a month to STILL be investigating its negligence.
On August 16, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement that he “has decided to launch an independent special investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding these incidents and to evaluate the Mission’s overall response.”
On August 23, Ban named Patrick Cammaert to head it. Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: About South Sudan, when you mentioned that Mr. Cammaert had previously done the Malakal one, I wanted to know, has that resulted in any accountability? I went back. He did the study of Gaza in 2015. He was sent to Sri Lanka in 2009. I want to know, overall, is the goal of this exercise, particularly given the Terrain events but also rapes outside the gate, to actually hold someone accountable or to write a Malakal-style study?
Spokesman: You know, I think the Malakal report was fairly… was fairly clear. I think it’s important that we be able to assess, not only the facts on the ground, but the role of the mission, how the mission responded, how the various contingents responded. And from that, obviously, if there are further steps to be taken, they will be taken.
ICP Question: Right, but I guess I’m asking as an example, in the Malakal case, have any steps yet been taken?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, obviously, we have seen how various contingents responded, and we hope that also what we’ve learned from Malakal will be able to better prepare us for similar situations that may happen in the future.
ICP Question: Relatedly…
Spokesman: Okay. I’ll come back to you.
What's “come back” is Cammaert. With all due respect, Ban for his “independent” investigations picks the same people again and again, or people who need or want a UN post - it creates an incentive to deliver a report that doesn't lead to accountability, in order to get the (next) job: a cover-up cadre.
On the morning of August 17 Inner City Press reported that the UN Department of Safety and Security's Chris Du Toit is said by staff to be the one who adjudged the Terrain Apartments to be “safe,” and had gone “on leave,” like Ban Ki-moon.
On the morning of August 22 Inner City Press exclusively published: The UN Department of Safety and Security's MORSS - Residential Security Survey Report of October 29, 2015 says that “the residence is recommended to UN personnel,” that “UN PK [Peacekeepers]” are “present in the area... guarding the UN House,” and that the gates are in good condition. At noon on August 22, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Beyond the Vine here, UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about the Terrain Apartments in South Sudan. Back on 14 July, you'd said that the UN was already then starting to look at its role and I have since then obtained what was the UNDSS certification that it was safe. And it says things like the residents is recommended to UN personnel but it also says that there were CCTV cameras covering the area 24/7, that the gate was fine, and it recommended some mitigating measures. I guess my question is, if a month ago... more than a month ago, you'd said from here that the UN was investigating its role, what happened in that month? Is it true that, as was said in this DSS certification, that there are close… you know, closed-captioned TV running the whole time? And if so, why didn't the…
Spokesman: Again, I think you have access to documents that I don't have access to.
ICP Correspondent: Well, you can get this.
Spokesman: Well, I'm not… obviously, I'm not on the distribution list of the same documents that you are on. The… there was a preliminary work that was done, I think, as Farhan announced last week. A special investigation will be conducted. I expect to be… to be able to announce more details on that investigation either later today or at tomorrow's briefing. Obviously, they will take a look at all the circumstances, what decisions were taken by… by the UN, and, obviously, the fact that the perpetrators of these attacks will need to be brought to justice.
In South Sudan, UN DSS Called Terrain Apartments Safe Before July 2016 Rapes and Murder of Journalist John... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd
At the August 17 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about is whether the head of, my understanding is he is or was the head of the UNDSS [Department of Safety and Security] in South Sudan, Chris Du Toit, I'm told that he had in writing deemed the Terrain Apartments to be "safe" for UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund], FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and other staff to live in and that he's now just recently gone on leave. Was such a determination made? And how does the UN, in places like Juba, determine and certify off-site places for its personnel to live? [Vine here.]
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, I'm not going to get into the specific facts of the case, which are being determined, like I said, first, by the body that's from the UN Mission that's already been working on this and now by a special investigation that will be formed in the coming days. What I can say more generally is simply that we do rely on our Department of Safety and Security to determine, in any country, where places are that are safe for UN staff to stay.
ICP Question: Right. So, it's fair to say that this was… this place had been determined to be safe? That's why people were living there…
Deputy Spokesman: No, that's not fair to say. I'm not… like I said, I'm not going into any specific facts. Those remain to be determined by the groups who are looking into it.
ICP Question: And I also want to ask one thing. I've heard that… that staff of UNFPA in particular, but other UN system staff were discouraged of speaking with the media in the month since this event took place. And I wanted to know, is that… what is the UN's… does it feel that it has a right to tell its staff not to speak about things that… that… in which they themselves were the victims, or are they free at all times to speak about what happens to them?
Deputy Spokesman: No, people are free to speak to the media. Obviously, as staff are aware, when there's an investigation under way, we don't want to prejudice the course of an investigation. [Vine here.]But that… and that is what's happening. But, as a general rule, yes, of course, they're free.
ICP Question: But, it seems like this investigation is really triggered by the AP report. That's why I say it's sort of a chicken-and-egg problem. You were doing your own report. Then the AP ran a story where people spoke to it anonymously, and now you're doing a special investigation. Is that…?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't think that that's fair. I think part of what was happening is that the facts uncovered by the UN Mission prompted the people here at Headquarters to believe that something more is needed...
Inner City Press: I've gone back and looked at it. On 11 July, I asked Stéphane [Dujarric], as it happened, about the Terrain. And he said he hadn't heard anything about it. And then, two days later, Ellen Løj was on the TV screen, and I asked her about Terrain. And she said she acknowledged that she was aware of it and that they'd sent… they called the army to go. And then, on 14 July, Stéphane said more about it. That's what you're referring to. Was there any other statement that you guys proactively put out? When?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. Exactly. We got those… those were the details we shared over the days as we got them.
Also, who is going to DO Ban's belated (second) investigation? Will the investigation involve DPKO's “conduct & discipline unit” under Mercedes Gervilla, or OIOS' Michael Dudley - the spouse of Mercedes Gervilla? It's “all in the family,” as is so often the case in Ban's UN, where Ban's mentor Han Seung-soo is given a UN post while on the board of Standard Chartered Bank, with two contracts with the UN. We'll have more on this.