Saturday, January 14, 2017

After UN Covers Up Peacekeepers' Rapes, New Panel With Old Faces

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, January 6 -- French soldiers accused in detail of sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic have all been cleared by French prosecutors. Given the obvious cover up, or failure of the French justice system, will the International Criminal Court get involved in this crime of war?

  While that question pends, on January 6 UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who has defended or spun out numerous peacekeeper rape incidents under former Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon announced yet another task force.

Inner City Press asked, video here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: I wanted to know if the new Secretary-General, António Guterres, is aware of the critique by Code Blue of the current… of even the previously announced strategies and their proposal that there be a mechanism independent from the Secretariat to initially try civilian staff charged with such crimes and then make itself available to try soldiers.  Is he aware of that?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General is extremely well versed on this.  He was briefed obviously during the transition.  He was briefed during his first week.  He had a long briefing on this issue.  He's very well versed on the challenges.  And it's his assessment that he wants to see more, and he wants to see more at a… in a way that will break new ground.  This is not… I don't think anyone would ever say that we're trying to stop abuse and wipe out abuse.  Any organization, whether it's the UN, whether it's football associations, whether it's any organization, has had to face and will continue to face this issue.  It's about how we react, how we put the victims at the centre, and it's about accountability, both of those who are accused of… especially for those who are accused of these crimes.

Inner City Press:  Since you say he's been briefed on it, I wanted to ask, specifically, the decision by DPKO to override the recommendation of the Office of the High… High Commissioner for Human Rights and the panel of experts and redeployed Burundians despite 25 charges of sexual abuse…  And does he support that decision or not?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into the details of policy discussions.  He's very much aware of the SCA issue.  I think on the Burundians, we said DPKO and DFS said they would keep close eye on it, and they will.

   Right. When the crimes were first revealed by whistleblower Anders Kompass, the reaction of just-left Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's UN was to have Kompass fired. This was the retaliation for which Ban Ki-moon's UN became known. So the UN's hands are by no means clean in this cover up.

   Kompass is Swedish, and Sweden is the President of the UN Security Council this month. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was previously the UN's expert on sexual violence in conflict. 

  It would be well within their rights to call for a meeting about this failure of accountability systems, as such a meeting - or open debate - could be called. That and the ICC -- and hearings in capitals like Washington -- are among the suggestions of the Free UN Coalition for Access.

Also to be considered: the role of French head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, who linked the rapes in CAR to... R&R.

On January 5, Inner City Press asked holdover UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the French (non) action, and he said he's read an interesting article about it in his native French. Video hereUN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: the French judicial inquiry into Sangaris, Central African Republic peacekeepers charged with sexual abuse of minors, has resulted in no charges at all.  And throughout this process, you'd said that the UN is watching it but leaves it up to the French authorities.  Given the level of detail that people came forward and people have seen the memos that Mr. [Anders] Kompass, who was fired, released, what does the UN think of a judicial process that results in no accountability whatsoever…?

Spokesman:  You know what?  I read in detail the rather long and interesting piece published in France.  From what I gather, the… it is now up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to go forward, with the investigative judges having submitted their results.  So, obviously, we'll keep an eye on this.  But it's… as we've said, it is the responsibility of Member States to fully investigate and hopefully prosecute crimes.  The fight against impunity for these horrendous actions has to be a partnership between the UN and Member States, and we hope every case is fully and thoroughly investigated.

Inner City Press:  What's the status of the… the 25 Burundian cases referred by OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) back to the Government, given the UN's decision to bring in 800 more Burundian peacekeeper…

Spokesman:  If my understanding is correct, they still have some time with which to submit information back to us, and we look forward to receiving that information.

In April 2016, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about inaction on sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, UN retaliation against whistleblowers and what US Senator Bob Corker calledBan's inept response.

Dujarric was dismissive - and days later, Inner City Press was evicted from its long time UN office, and required to have UN escorts or minders to cover UN General Assembly meetings including budget meetings.

  On November 9, after the US election, Inner City Press tried to ask Ban (Vine here) and did ask his spokesman Dujarric about Corker's criticism and whether anyone charged with sexual abuse has, in fact, been convicted or even prosecuted. Dujarric said only the the UN's “reporting systems” have improved.  Video here.

   Notably, the US Mission to the UN, which did nothing about the UN's eviction of Inner City Press when theGovernment Acountability Project asked it to, has also done little on UN rapes, except praise what it calls Ban's “zero tolerance” policy. We'll have more on this.

Back on July 28, Senator Bob Corker the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which the UN told it has "no record" about evicting Inner City Press while telling Nobel winner Jose Ramos Horta it has an "internal report," put out this statement:

"I am horrified by allegations that U.N. peacekeepers witnessed women and girls being raped and failed to act. The U.N. must get to the bottom of these reprehensible charges immediately, and if true, swift and forceful action must be taken. The U.N. has shown a callous disregard for actions such as these, and we must use every tool available to end these abuses. Our nation’s leadership at the U.N. must immediately use its influence to restore accountability and oversight of peacekeeping missions, which are being subsidized by American taxpayers. Peacekeepers continuing to fail to protect the most vulnerable, including when security forces use rape as a weapon of war on innocent civilians, fundamentally violates why they are there and must not be tolerated.”

On the UN watching rapes, Inner City Press got a quote from the UK on July 28. Where is the US Mission to the UN, on this as on the UN's retaliatory Press eviction?