Wednesday, December 28, 2016

After ICP's Scoop on UN in Iraq “Losing” 25 Guns Confirmed, Some Let Off Hook

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- The day after Inner City Press asked both US Ambassador Samantha Power and UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the UN Mission in South Sudan giving automatic weapons to warlord James Koang, who killed civilians, a new UN outrage was brought to the attention of Inner City Press and after its publishing and asking about it (video here), was confirmed by the UN.

   Since the UN covered up its arming of South Sudan warlord Koang, and refuses to answer written questions including about its use of public funds, we published this report on this we'll follow up:

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, under the authority of the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS), have “lost” 25 weapons from their armory in their base in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The loss includes 18 Glock 9mm pistols, 5 G36 assault rifles, and 2 G36 sniper rifles.  Sources say that 10,000s of thousands of rounds of ammunition are also missing.

DSS only discovered or internally acknowledged this months after the fact and cannot account for their loss. The UN's Fijian Guard Unit have had to start patrolling inside the base.

   This is an outrage, on which we'll have more. At the UN "noon" briefing on December 20, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it. Video here. At first he dodged, then got handed a statement by his deputy that confirmed that the "light" weapons are missing.

UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you on Iraq, yesterday, I'd asked you about the South Sudan, and it seems like there's an acknowledgment that weapons were given to this James Koang and… with some reasoning.  I wanted to ask you now, and maybe you'll know this or you can find out.  I've heard that UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission] in Iraq run by DSS [Department of Safety and Security] has lost… has lost control of 25 weapons, including 18 Glock pistols, including 2 sniper rifles.  And what I wanted to know is, one, it seems like it's pretty serious if it's happened.  It would be twice that weapons have gone to unknown people that may kill people with them.  But what is the protocol of UN Missions informing the Security Council when heavy lethal weapons… they either give them over voluntarily or, in this case, seemed to have lost possession of them?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the details of the investigation that may be going on in Iraq.  If I have something to share with you, I will.  I think, as we said yesterday, the incidents in South Sudan happened a number of years ago.  It was a very tense situation in the beginning of the civil war.  I think better procedures were then put in place to ensure that weapons that are confiscated are then destroyed, and that's the policy that's in place in the Mission.

ICP Question:  Right.  But can you get some answer on Iraq?  I just…

Spokesman:  If I have something to share with you, I will share it with you.

Minutes later after being handed a sheet of paper, Dujarric read out:

My colleague Farhan [Haq], who's always very quick, has given me some guidance on the Iraq weapons issue.  I can tell you that it was discovered that several small arms and light weapons were missing from the armoury in Baghdad.  Physical check of all UN compounds and inventories was immediately conducted and efforts to locate and recover the missing weapons continue.  Thorough fact-finding/investigation into this very unfortunate occurrence was immediately started, and it is ongoing.  The respective Iraqi authorities, as well as the UN Secretariat, have been informed and are providing cooperation and assistance, as necessary.

ICP Question:  Just one quick follow-up on that.  I just wanted; I hear small arms/light weapons.  We hear the term a lot.  Inner City Press has reported prior to this briefing that this involves not only Glock pistols but five G36 assault rifles and two G36 sniper rifles and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.  So I guess my question is, one, does that fall under the definition of sniper rifles?

Spokesman:  Sniper rifles… several small arms/light weapons.

ICP Question:  Why does the UN have sniper rifles?

Spokesman:  This is part of the protection team for the UN in Baghdad.

ICP Question:  And what would be the… what would be the, I guess, accountability if these sniper rifles and presumably marked ammunition are used to kill civilians in Iraq?

Spokesman:  I think our focus right now is on recovering these weapons. 

 Since that confirmation, nothing from Dujarric and many leaving the UN off the hook.

When the UN Security Council members met about South Sudan on December 15, the best they could do was extend the mandate of the UNMISS mission for a single day. Even then, there was already news of UNMISS having given arms to warlord, or “rebel general,” James Koang.

 Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Samantha Power about this on December 16 and she said she hadn't read it. On December 19, even while fielding a pre-picked question on South Sudan, Power still refused to answer. Video here.

This was in a Small Arms Survey report, picked up in the Washington Post. Inner City Press tweeted it at UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, requesting a comment. Nothing.

  On the morning of December 16, Inner City Press asked the Ambassadors of the UK and New Zealand about it, and both had heard of it and said it needed to be investigated. The Ambassador of France, the country that has run UN Peacekeeping for 20 years, did not comment. Video here.

  The US holds the pen, and more, on South Sudan. In the early afternoon of December 16, when US Ambassador Samantha Power held a stakeout about Syria, Inner City Press asked about the US South Sudan draft, and the Washington Post report. Power said she hadn't seen the Washington Post report, but that the draft would pass. Video here.

At 4 pm the resolution, changed, was adopted 15-0. Afterward Egypt, for example, criticized the US for not consulting enough, and showing its draft(s) too late. Final adopted draft here. 

But three days later on December 19 when Samantha Power came again to the Security Council stakeout, while it was mostly on Syria Power or her spokesman made sure to pick a South Sudan question which would allow Power to gently urge Japan to support the US call for sanctions and an arms embargo.

  Inner City Press asked right after, what about UNMISS arming Koang? Nothing. Then as Power left, Inner City Press asked the question, quite audible. Power walked off; the understanding is that she has now read the report but wants to ask the UN about it before any comment. 

Later on December 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  On South Sudan, I wanted to know, on Thursday, The Washington Post published a report based on the small arms survey report that UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) gave hundreds of automatic weapons to a SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement)-in Opposition commander named James Koang, who, in turn, killed civilians with them.  And I'm wondering, since it's pretty outrageous, what is UNMISS' under… explanation for having turned these weapons over?  And even if they say they were under duress, what was their responsibility once they gave these weapons to the civilians that were killed with them and also to… did they ever inform the Security Council?  And what do they do to protect civilians from their weapons they gave to a warlord?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything to share with you on that.

ICP Question:  I heard that UNMISS has an answer.

Spokesman:  I… they may.  I don't have anything for you on that right now.
Later: I've just been given something that I didn't have with me on UNMISS, which I will share with you, which… from the Mission, which says, when UNMISS opened its gates to save lives as the conflict erupted, it applied utmost diligence to disarm and collect weapons and ammunition from people seeking protection.  The Mission worked tirelessly and impartially to save thousands who sought refuge in its camps at the points… protection of civilians sites in the town and avoid an escalation of violence with the forces controlling the area.  Anyone who was armed and seeking for protection was not allowed to enter the UN Compound.  In December 2013, at the early stages of the conflict, some SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) soldiers abandoned weapons outside the UNMISS compound, in order to seek protection inside the compound in Bentiu.  UNMISS collected the abandoned weapons and safely stored them according to its weapons management policy.  In response to direct threats from local SPLA commanders to UNMISS to hand over weapons abandoned by the soldiers, the Mission facilitated the transfer of a limited number of weapons to Major-General James Koang, who commanded the SPLA 4th Division in Bentiu at the time.  Later in that month, he officially defected to the then newly-established SPLM-in-Opposition.  Since January 2014, the Mission has also conducted several destructions of weapons and ammunitions that pose risks to the civilian population and UN staff.  The Mission underscores that a political solution is the only viable solution to the crisis, as it continues to implement its protection of civilians mandate in Bentiu and around the country. 

Question:  Follow-up?

Spokesman:  Yeah.

ICP Question:  Do they… I mean, first of all, what's the number of weapons that they handed over?  Small arms survey puts it at… at several hundred automatic weapons so it seems like… it's a large number.  Why didn't they… this whole idea of like stay and deliver or stand and deliver, once they handed the weapons over, what did they do to ensure that they, in fact, wouldn't just be used to kill civilians?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, the Mission has continued to protect civilians in the… tens of thousands of civilians at its point… protection of civilians sites in Bentiu since then and continues to do so.  I don't have an update on the exact number of weapons we're talking about.

ICP Question:  And just one… I'd asked you whether… whether at the time because it seems like a pretty extreme thing to do to give these weapons.  Did DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) or UNMISS tell the Council… and I ask you because my understanding… I asked Samantha Power about this on Friday, and today the US Mission has said that they're asking the UN for its answer.  So did they not tell… I read from that that they didn't tell the Council.  Is this the kind of thing that the Council should have been told?
Spokesman:  I don't know what was updated in 2013 at the time. 

  And after that, nothing from the UN - Ban Ki-moon didn't answer when Inner City Press asked, Vine here, video here - nor from the US Mission to the UN.

Speaking for the US on December 16 was deputy Isobel Coleman, who did not in her speech mention UNMISS arming Koang. (In full disclosure, she is also the USUN ambassador to whom the Government Accountability Project directed its request that the Mission opposed the UN's eviction and restriction of Inner City Press - and apparently did nothing.) Nor now about this - the smashing by UN thugs of the same Periscope-camera ICP used to broadcast Samantha Power. We'll have more on this.

  There were already over 9,000 viewers of Inner City Press' Periscope of this South Sudan Q&A, but even after Inner City Press tweeted the Washington Post story to Power, her spokesman and the US Mission generally, there was no response.

None of these did ANYTHING when Inner City Press was evicted, and is still restricting, by the UN of Ban Ki-moon and Cristina Gallach this year, despite a request from the DC-based Government Accountability Project. We'll have more on this.