Saturday, April 15, 2017

On UN Sex Abuse & Retaliation, ICP Asks & Spox Dujarric Spins, on Lanka, Haiti, CAR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 – Amid vague claims of reform at the UN, even the victims of high profile UN malfeasance such as bringing cholera to Haiti and abuse of children in the Central African Republic remain without any remedy. On April 11 at the UN, there were Press questions, but few answers, about the UN's chimerical response to its Haiti victims. On April 12, journalist Karin Mattisson spoke on a panel with Code Blue, about how little was done for the victims in CAR; Inner City Press ran to the Japan Society and asked questions, here. Then Inner City Press ran back to the UN and asked holdover spokesman Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I want to ask you two things.  One, there’s a… there’s a… I’m sure you’ve seen the AP investigative story about sexual abuse through the years in the UN, including of, what they call a child sex ring run by Sri Lankan peacekeepers.  And, given that the Sri Lankans are now being deployed again to Mali, I’m wondering what the vetting is… or, you know, what the… what the… and also, there was a press conference today by Code Blue near the UN, at which they presented the, the fact, based on a Swedish journalist who went to Bangui, that the children who were allegedly victims of the sexual abuse by peacekeepers received virtually no help whatsoever from UNICEF.  So they were highly critical of that. And I wonder, you were just speaking about UNICEF.  What’s the response of the UN system to this, to these two damming reports, one by AP about 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and, two, more locally here by Code Blue, about a failure to help victims?

Spokesman:  Sure.  I mean, I think we’ve, I’ve seen the report, and it’s clear that every single allegation of sexual exploitation and/or abuse by UN personnel, be it uniformed or civilian, is appalling and should appal every one of us who proudly work for, for the United Nations.

I think we’re all clearly aware of the shortcomings that we have seen in the UN system over the years on how, whether it’s the UN or Member States, react and deal with issues of sexual exploitation and abuse.

We do believe that in, we are moving in the right direction through various steps that have been taken very recently through the Secretary-General’s reports, steps that were taken in the last, in the last few, in the last few years.

It’s never enough as long as you have one case.  I think the, the AP report, you know, we’ve seen these, these cases.  I think every time anyone reads the testimony of a victim, it shocks us to our core.

The Secretary-General’s new approach, António Guterres’ new approach, focuses on bringing assistance to the victims, putting the victims at the heart of our response.  We’re working on improving on how we track cases and how we monitor victims’ assistance.

There is a growing recognition of a need to improve the partnership that we have with Member States, because it needs to be partnerships.

We have seen, I think, in the last few years, greater accountability and greater willingness to partner from, from Member States.  I think we have seen greater transparency by the UN in the last few years that I’ve been here, in terms of trying to be as up front as possible in, in reporting, in reporting cases.

You know, we have seen, we’ve seen Member States increase the follow-through in terms of, of jail terms that were given to people who were found guilty, in terms of, of being willing to have court-martials in, in situ like we’ve seen in… in the DRC, I think, with the South Africans and, I think, the Tanzanians, if I recall, if I recall properly.

For example, 11, last year, out of the 11 substantiated allegations involving uniform personnel, we saw five jail terms while we’re expecting conclusion for six more.

I think what everybody wants to see, the Secretary-General, the Member States, all of those of us who work in the UN, I think, especially my colleagues who work, who work in the field, is to see justice for the, for the horrendous acts that these people have, and often children, have suffered.

But I think, if you look at the, at the SG’s latest report, if you look at already the fact that we’re already using the Trust Fund, which is slowly become, getting more money that we’d like to see, to see more, there is a greater and refocused, focus on the, on the victims.

I think the Sri Lankan case that was outlined in Haiti is, was some years ago.  Overall, currently, in terms of Sri Lankans, they, they contribute about 500 peacekeepers, uniformed peacekeepers, mostly in UNIFIL, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.  They have currently no major contributions to, to MINUSTAH, and they go under, obviously, the human rights screening and the increased screening that we have seen being implemented recently.

Inner City Press:  One, one quick follow-up on that.  The Swedish journalist who spoke at the Japan Society said, when she went to do a show, basically it was about Kompass initially, and then she tried to speak to some of the alleged victims of the, of the abuse.  And one in particular that had a child from a peacekeeper said that the UN system told her not to speak to journalists.  And I just wanted to know, from this podium, is that appropriate?

Spokesman:  Obviously, I don’t have the details of, of the case.  I have no reason to doubt the veracity, but it is clearly not United Nations policy to tell anyone, especially a victim, that they should not speak to the press.
  The UN's retaliation, including against Swedish official Anders Kompass, is still in the news in that country, as in New York the UN dodges Press questions about holes in its claimed whistleblower protections. Based on retaliation against three separate whistleblowers, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid should be suspended, it has been requested of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a lettercopied to US Senators Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, and UN Special Rapporteur David Kayehere.  See also this detailed report by Brett Schaefer on why the UN budget should be cut, until whistleblowers are protected. 
 On March 15, Inner City Press asked UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask whether you've seen today the Government Accountability Project has made a proposal that there be a Special Adviser on whistleblower and has expressed some concern that the current Secretary-General may be, from their point of view, as unconcerned with protecting whistleblowers as his predecessor citing the case of Kompass, Miranda Brown and now Emma Reilly.  And so, I'm wondering, is there any consideration of appointing such a position?

Spokesman:  I think, I mean, I always appreciate hearing from the Government Accountability Office.  I think anyone who has looked at the whistle-blower policy that was approved within a few weeks of Secretary-General Guterres coming into office will see in it his strong determination to protect whistleblowers to ensure that there is the right kind of policies for the staff and for whistle-blowers.  The policy was, in fact, approved by both management and the representation of the global staff.  So, I think we're very… we're very confident, and I think the Secretary-General is very determined to ensure that the right policy is put in place.
 On February 23, after Dujarric announced Guterres will be with Zeid in Geneva on February 27, Inner City Press asked about the letter. Video here, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: since you said that the Secretary-General is going to Geneva, there are now… more than a week ago, there was a letter by the Government Accountability Project.  I know you sometimes say you disagree with them automatically.  But they wrote saying to the Secretary-General about three whistle-blower cases, Emma Reilly, Miranda Brown, and Mr. [Anders] Kompass, and said that he should… that there should be a probe conducted by the Secretariat of retaliation in Office of the High Commissioner.  Is he aware of the letter?  And is it something he…

Spokesman:  I don't know if he's personally aware of the letter.  If we received the letter, I'm sure it will be answered.
  Sure? Here are questions from whistleblower Miranda Brown:
"the SG has recognized the old policy failed to protect whistleblowers, but the new policy is not retroactive for me, so I will not be protected... (this is tantamount to saying we will no longer apply the death penalty, but sadly we will continue with your execution). My case before the UNDT is still pending. However, this is a procedural case only. Under the old policy, which I am being subjected to, I cannot challenge the decision by the UN Ethics Office not to afford me protection.
There is no justice for whistleblowers at the UN, no accountability for retaliation and no punishment for the retaliators - not even an investigation into Zeid, after the UNDT concluded that his suspension of Anders Kompass was unlawful.
Does the SG plans to update the whistleblower protection policy further, given that it does not meet the requirements under US law for the full disbursement of US funds (section 7048 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act). The revised policy does not provide external arbitration nor does it eliminate the effects of retaliation (I lost my job at OHCHR) - both are required under section 7048. 
Also, given that he has recognized that the old policy was a failure, why has he not instituted interim measures for existing whistleblowers?"
 On February 14 in the morning (New York time) Inner City Press posed three questions to Zeid's spokesperson Rupert Colville, including:
"Hi. Inner City Press has a few questions it'd like answers to as soon as possible:

1) whistleblower Emma Reilly tells us that “OHCHR now claims I can't speak because of the staff rule that 'in no circumstances should [staff members] use the media to further their own interests, to air their own grievances, to reveal unauthorized information or to attempt to influence their organizations’ policy decisions.' No response to my email on how this squares with OHCHR airing grievances against me by falsely stating my claims had been found to be unsubstantiated.”

Is that in fact OHCHR's position?

2) In terms of OHCHR calling things unsubstantiated, on social media and in a press release, is OHCHR denying that the Ambassador of Morocco financial supported the sale of Mr Eric Tistounet's book?

3) ....Please state what happened at the HRC organizational meeting yesterday. Please answer these asap."
  Hours later, and after a UN noon briefing in which UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq called Inner City Press obsessive and an "asshole," still not answer. We'll stay on this.
 Back on February 10, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the request, and about OHCHR essentially gagging whistleblower Emma Reilly. Video here, transcript here and below.
  Haq declined to respond on the gag order Inner City Press quoted (below), and said that the UN Ethics Office is handling it. But Inner City Press understands that the Ethics Office - whose director Elia Armstrong has refused Press requests to answer questions - has recused itself, leaving an official from UNFPA to start from scratch.
  While whistleblower Emma Reilly has been prohibited by Zeid's Office from providing the Press with her substantive defense to OHCHR's attempt to trash her, she has authorized Inner City Press to use this quote:
"OHCHR now claims I can't speak because of the staff rule that 'in no circumstances should [staff members] use the media to further their own interests, to air their own grievances, to reveal unauthorized information or to attempt to influence their organizations’ policy decisions.'

"No response to my email on how this squares with OHCHR airing grievances against me by falsely stating my claims had been found to be unsubstantiated, revealing unauthorized information by referring to a confidential investigation (for harassment, against Mokhiber and Darrow - panel found the facts I claimed were true, Zeid magically declared the motive not to be harassment), or attempting to influence the Ethics Office decision by stating I had never been subjected to reprisals. Still no news on what the alleged second investigation was...

Feel free to use the above - it's legitimate for me to quote the reason I can't talk to you, and it's clear from a glance at the press release that they broke the very rule they are using to keep me quiet."
  Here's from the UN's February 10 transcript:
Inner City Press: there's a letter directed to António Guterres by the Government Accountability Project specifically concerning this whistle-blower issue and saying [Anders] Kompass, Miranda Brown, and Emma Reilly in asking that he be suspended and investigated.  So I wanted to know, did he receive this letter before he set off on his trip?  And can you respond, Ms. Reilly has told Inner City Press that she's been ordered not to speak, which is contrary to what Stéphane had said, they've quoted to her some rule... She said she's been told the following:  that staff members should not use the media to further their own interests, to air their grievance, or to reveal unauthorized information.  She feels it's unfair because they put out a press release saying that her charges are unsubstantiated.  So, in sum, has he received the letter?  And what's the process to consider the request by this group?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, I don't have a confirmation about a receipt of a letter.  What I can say is we're aware of these issues.  A lot of these are processes that are being handled by different bodies.  The question regarding Ms. Reilly is being… is something that has been looked at and is being looked at by the Ethics Office.  Regarding what she may have said to you or not, I think that that's something you'll need to take up with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  They are dealing with that issue.  I believe that they were simply responding not to her but to reporting that came out in media.  So they… so that is something… they were not trying to take up anything involving a dispute with her so much as responding to reports that had come out in different published accounts.

Inner City Press: My understanding is that the Ethics Office is actually not handling this.  They've recused themselves because they say that she… one of her charges is against them, so it's been assigned to somebody from UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), and basically, the process has started all over.  Is that… can you confirm that at least that it's back to square one?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm aware that… well, not back to square one.  I believe that the process is continuing.  I don't have any further details to engage on that.  Have a good weekend.
  A leaked UN Ethics Office memo that raises questions not only about that Office but also the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was published by Inner City Press on February 1, here. 
  On February 2, OHCHR responded with press release and tweet against the now petitioning Government Accountability Project and Inner City Press, claiming that Inner City Press' report - based on the UN memo - was unfounded, and trashing the whistleblower, Emma Reilly.
  On February 7, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres what Guterres meant when he said he had formed a committee about - but without - whistleblowers. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I've seen the Secretary-General quoted that he's formed, quote, committees to deal with thorny issues, such as the protection of whistle-blowers and sexual exploitation and abuse.  Can you say who's on those committees, particularly in the case of whistle-blowers?  Are there whistle-blowers on the…

Spokesman:  On the whistle-blower, I think he was referring to the fact that, I think, just two weeks after or three weeks after he took office, there was an agreement between the staff and the management, and a new whistle-blower policy was issued.  And he was also referring to the task force being led by Jane Holl Lute on sexual exploitation and abuse.

Inner City Press: The other one is, I saw in his schedule yesterday, he met with the ACT group, Accountability Coherence and Transparency, and particularly given the third noun in their name, can you give a readout?

Spokesman:  No, I don't have anything to share on the transparency… meeting with the transparency group.
  OHCHR's press release also trashed the whistleblower, while keeping in place rules prohibiting her from speaking to the press. OHCHR claims, while censoring rebuttal:
"the staff member has never faced reprisals. The staff member has had her contracts renewed and remains employed by the organization on full pay. She has made allegations against various managers. These have been taken seriously, leading to two separate independent investigations that have been carried out to determine whether or not there is any substance to her allegations. In both instances, the claims made by the staff member were found to be unsubstantiated."
Inner City Press replied, asking OHCHR or @UNHumanRights to explain how the finding for example about Morocco improperly paying for OHCHR official Eric Tistounet's book-selling event was "not substantiated." There has been no response. If a response to that, or to today's GAP request, is received Inner City Press will publish it.
  On February 3, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Morocco's payments - he refused to answer - and if the reclusive head of the UN Ethics Office Elia Armstrong will come and answer questions, as for example her predecessor Robert Benson did. There has been no answer.
   Now we can report from a range of sources that not only did Eric Tistounet take Morocco's financial support to promote his book - he tried to recruit Moroccan faux NGOs - GONGOs -- to try to make the complaint go away, seeing if they would complain about the whistleblower. This is how the OHCHR, and wider UN, have been operating. We'll have more on this.
  Inner City Press supports the replies of the Government Accountability Project, here, and of the annotator, which we are putting online here, along with this new Kafka-esque game chart. 
  Eric Tistounet of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, without Ethics approval, published a book and had a member state promote it. Document at Page 11. One pitch mentions the state of Morocco.
  Prince Zeid's OHCHR responded with a press release denying everything, concluding "the claims made by the staff member were found to be unsubstantiated."  Inner City Press has asked OHCHR this.
 But the Ethics Office memo - on which UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric refused to answer Inner City Press, video here - admits Reilly's exposing of Morocco paying to promote OHCHR's Tistounet's book created a right to protection. And the event's website makes clear Morocco was paying, against the rules. That's not "unsubstantiated" - that's a cover up of corruption. On this and the rest, we'll have more.
  For now we only note that Zeid's OHCHR's self-serving total denial, seemingly a product of fear of loss of US funding, has been welcomed by Pierre Nkurunziza supporters in Burundi.
And this, from the annotator:
"They are clearly panicked, and the OHCHR Press Release is not saving the Ethics Office.   This would, of course, be the same OHCHR that still insists they did nothing wrong in the Kompass / CAR sexual abuse case…...

The question is not whether there was a casual connection between Eric Tistounet’s decision and Cao Shunli’s death.  Eric Tistounet’s decision gave Emma Reilly cause to be concerned for the safety of the human rights activists in China, and in the specific case of Cao Shunli, that concern turned out to be justified.

The question is whether Emma Reilly had reasonable grounds to believe that Eric Tistounet’s decision might be misconduct ….. and the Ethics Office bent over backwards to say ‘no’!

This would, of course, be the same Ethics Office as was involved in “facilitating” Zeid's misconduct complaint against Kompass - and didn’t know that child sex abuse generally gets a bad rap in the Press."

  Yes, that's them.