Thursday, May 4, 2017

In DRC, UN Hit Six People With 11 Shots, Leak to ICP Shows, MONUSCO Omits 11, Dujarric Stonewalls

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series
UNITED NATIONS, May 3 – Amid vague claims of reform at the UN, even the victims of high profile UN malfeasance such as the sexual abuse of children in Haiti, the DR Congo and the Central African Republic remain without any remedy - or even an answer, for example, on the circumstances of UN peacekeepers in the DRC shooting six people on April 28. Then after the UN's lead spokesman in New York rejects the question, the UN in the DRC air-brushes the key "detail" - UN shot six people with only 11 shots.  The UN mission there, MONUSCO, in an internal "SRSG Daily Brief" obtained by Inner City Press, reports (or spins) that "In North Kivu, on 28 April, a MONUSCO patrol was launched to Berere Quarters, in Kirumba (21km NW of Rutshuru) to gather information about the killing of one civilian by unidentified armed assailants. On reaching the location of the incident, the patrol was surrounded by up to 200 people who accused the peacekeepers of failing to protect them from armed attacks. The protestors blocked the road and prevented the movement of the peacekeepers. A group of up to 30 protestors, armed with machetes, stones and sticks attacked the patrol. MONUSCO fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, however the situation further deteriorated and MONUSCO fired 11 single shots, resulting in six civilians injured. The six injured civilians were taken to Kirumba hospital for treatment." But when Inner City Press on May 2 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this, he had nothing, said to take such "detailed questions" back to the Mission. Shouldn't UN headquarters have something when its "peacekeepers" shoot six people? We'll have more on this trend. For now we note that MONUSCO's May 3 spin omits the key fact, of a mere 11 (not "warning") shots hitting six people, saying (in French) "Les soldats de la paix ont tiré des coups de sommation face à l’attaque de trente (30) manifestants armés de machettes, pierres et bâtons, dans le but de se dégager de cette zone. Six (06) individus blessés au cours de cet incident ont été évacués vers l’hôpital de Kirumba." As Google-translated, to show the omission of the 11 shots: "The peacekeepers fired warning shots at the attack of thirty (30) demonstrators armed with machetes, stones and sticks, in order to free themselves of the area. Six (06) individuals injured during this incident were evacuated to the Kirumba hospital." From the May 1 UN transcript: Inner City Press: sorry to go back to something, but on Friday, I’d asked you about MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) saying that there are at least five new allegations of sexual abuse by military and non-military personnel, including from Burundi.  What’s the policy now in terms of making these announcements?  Are they done by headquarters, by the…

Spokesman:  I think they… we expect… we very much expect the missions to regularly update on where they are and we need… we can echo it from here, but it’s up to the missions to do it.  CDU website, the website of the Conduct and Discipline Unit, is regularly updated.  I think you can sign up for email updates for them.  I think… I felt bad because I think I should have been prepared to know… to have known what was announced, but, whatever, there was a breakdown in communications.  But it’s perfectly appropriate and, in fact, expected for the perm… for peacekeeping missions to do those announcements themselves.

Inner City Press: My question was one of the things they seem to emphasise at MONUSCO is that one of the alleged victim that’s a minor is going to be, quote, turning… you know, in the care of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).  And given the recent report and call by Code Blue that UNICEF didn’t follow through on victims in CAR (Central African Republic), has anything been learned from that?  Is there any UN response?

Spokesman:  I think it was an allegation from Code Blue.  I think you’ve seen the response from UNICEF.  You’re also welcome to contact them.  I think UNICEF works very closely with the victims, and we have no doubt that this particular person will be assisted and well assisted by UNICEF for medical and psychosocial care. 
   Really. From the April 28 transcript: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about these new sexual abuse allegations in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  Seems like… like now the UN, I guess, there is naming a Romanian military observer accused of sexual abuse of a minor and others, including from Burundi.  Have you seen the story?  Can you respond to this?

Spokesman:  I have not, but I will take a look at that as soon as I leave the podium.
Inner City Press: Seems like MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] has said this…

Spokesman:  I'm not disputing it.  I'm just saying if I haven't seen it with my own eyes, it's hard for me to respond.

Inner City Press:  I would assume, having seen all the posters around the building, like, wouldn't DRC have said… wouldn't MONUSCO have told the UN…?

Spokesman:  Matthew, I don’t…
  The day ended with no update at all. On April 13 in the UN Security Council US Ambassador Nikki Haley took the issue on, recounting the luring of children in Haiti with cookies and snacks, and the "disgusting" video-taping of an attack in 2011. She said that Troop Contributing Countries which do not prosecute those charged with abuse should not be paid. Video here; transcript below. On April 21, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  On Haiti I wanted to ask, I’m sure you saw the article in The Guardian about the failure of the UN to assist and cooperate with women who had children by peacekeepers, they say, getting DNA tests; and there is one case where the woman was 16 at the time, under the age of consent, and the UN did a DNA test in February 2014 but has not, according to her lawyer, shared it with her.  How is this consistent about the statements of accountability and zero tolerance to not share this DNA test with a person who it seems was victim of statutory rape by an UN peacekeeper?

Spokesman:  My understanding from our colleagues in the mission is that of the cases that are discussed in the article, eight out of the nine are in our records.  Out of the eight cases, one is closed, where paternity has been established and an ex gratia payment has been made for child support by the mother of the… to the mother by the Member State and the other seven, we are following up regularly with the concerned Member State.  In some cases, paternity has been established through DNA testing that the mission has facilitated between the victim and the Member State and in others we are in touch with the Member State to facilitate the DNA testing and process the claim.  We have requested the ministry to encourage the lawyer to provide credentials of one of the victims whose name does not appear in our records.  So as far as I understand, the cases are being followed up on and it’s clear that the Member States of the peacekeepers who are being accused have a responsibility to cooperate and to pay ex gratia, to pay the mothers of the victims and if there was a crime that those people be prosecuted.

Inner City Press:  Can you explain in English what ex gratia means and can you say how much is paid…?

Spokesman:  I don’t have the information because that is something issued between the Member State and the family.  Ex gratia just means a cash payment, as far as I understand it, but you’re the lawyer so you may know more.

Back on April 13, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here: Inner City Press:  today, in the Security Council
 [...] child sex ring run by the UN in Haiti by Haitian peacekeepers, you said, well… you didn't say bygones.  You said it was long time ago.  So I wanted to ask you…

Spokesman:  It's not, it's not at all what I said, Matthew…
Inner City Press:   I have the trans…

Spokesman:  You have the transcript.  You can interpret the transcript…
Inner City Press: Here's my question.

Spokesman:  It's not at all what I said.
Inner City Press:   And I would like you today, at end of the day, on your holiday, I would like you to get an answer, of the more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers known by the UN to have bought children for sex with cookies and snacks, were any of them ever prosecuted?  And, if they weren't, why is it that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has continued to deploy Sri Lankan soldiers to the three missions you mentioned yesterday, and I believe they're on tap for Mali?

Spokesman:  I don't think they continue to deploy.  As you know, there was no deployment of Sri Lankan peacekeepers for a long time.  The issue of impunity of peacekeepers who committed horrendous crimes, who violated the trust given to them and were not persecuted is one of the reasons, and one of the many reasons, this Secretary-General and his predecessor have pushed for greater accountability and have pushed for greater partnership for Member States.  And Member States have not always given us the information we needed.  So I would urge you to check with, with the Sri Lankans.
Inner City Press:  But I'm asking you, as the UN that continue, that deploys this troop-contributing country, of the 100… this was in the AP story yesterday, child sex ring.  So it seems like it's important to say…

Spokesman:  Of course.  Everyone is, is vetted, and the troop contributors have a responsibility to certify that none of the soldiers that are being deployed from wherever they come from have ever been implicated in any sexual abuse, and we would expect Sri Lanka and all other troop contributors to do the same.
Inner City Press:   But they don't accept the charge…

Spokesman:  Benny.

Inner City Press:  So they don't accept they're implicated.
  We'll have more on this, and on the UN's continued retaliation against whistleblowersand on the Press which reports on them- later on April 12, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the sexual abuse in Haiti and he called the Press' tweets "harassment," here. The UN has become a place of censorship, it must be reversed. USUN transcript: "it’s a nightmare for many in Haiti, who will never be able to forget and live with brutal scars. We must acknowledge the abandoned children, 12 to 15 years old, who lived everyday with hunger. They were lured by peacekeepers with cookies and snacks. The high price of this food was sexual abuse. According to Paisley Dodds of the Associated Press, the children were passed from soldier to soldier.

One boy was gang-raped in 2011 by peacekeepers who disgustingly filmed it on a cell phone.

What do we say to these kids? Did these peacekeepers keep them safe? We must acknowledge these realities. How can we learn from these acts? These peacekeepers are sent into vulnerable communities to protect the innocent, not to exploit or rape them.

The United States has made it clear to the UN and all troop-contributing countries that these abuses must stop. Countries that refuse to hold their soldiers accountable must recognize that this either stops or their troops will go home and their financial compensation will end. The abuses do not represent poorly to a troop-contributing country if they hold these abusers accountable and stress this to the soldiers that are in place.

The United States will continue to work closely with Haiti as it makes progress towards security and stability. With the international community, we stand by the Government of Haiti and are committed to the country’s democratic development, independence, and economic growth.

We will, however, continue to push for accountability of those troops in Haiti, as well as all troop-contributing countries involved in peacekeeping efforts. We owe it to the vulnerable in these countries who desperately need peace and security. I ask that you join me in this effort. Thank you."
  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... 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.