Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On DRC Killings of Sharp, Catalan & Fixers, ICP Asks UN Lacroix, Who Says Shares Info With DRC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 – After the UN belatedly focused into the murder of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, unprotected by the UN in the DR Congo, on July 10 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what it is, exactly, that the UN is investigating. UN Transcript here and below. Then on July 11 Inner City Press asked the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix what is being done. Periscope video here. Lacroix answered that he raised the issue "at the highest levels" in the DRC, as of concern to the UN and to the countries of origin of the experts. (In fact, Sweden's Olof Skoog has called for a more rigorous investigation that those current underway.) 

Lacroix noted the current DRC cases and said the UN has shared detailed information with the authorities there. We'll have more on this. Back on July 10, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarrric: on DRC.  There's been a letter by ten US senators, pretty much bipartisan about the killings of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.  And I wanted to ask you about this sentence in it.  They said that they've heard of the UN Board of Inquiry [BOI], but they understand, quote, it will not seek to identify perpetrators or what happened to Mr. Sharp's and Ms. Catalan's Congolese interpreter and drivers.  So, they're asking for a more serious investigation.  One, I wanted to know, what's the status of that Board of Inquiry given the interest and what happened.  And is it true that the Board of Inquiry, as these senators are saying, will not look at all at what happened into the UN-contracted interpreter and driver?

Spokesman:  No.  The BOI is under way. We… last I'd heard, we expect it for the end of this month.  As we've said, we would effort to make some of its findings public.  The BOI was appointed to establish the facts and, if possible, identify the perpetrators around the killings.  We'll submit a report with recommendations as to the next step.  We're also looking at further options that may be available to us.  Obviously, first and foremost, the responsibility lies on the Congolese authorities.  We cannot substitute ourselves for a national criminal investigation unless, of course, there is a Security Council mandate.  I think I would urge you to wait and see what the findings are, and then we can take it, next step.  My understanding also is that the letter was addressed, from what I saw in the press reports, to Ambassador [Nikki] Haley, not to the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: What I wanted to know is, one, I remember at the time, there was some dispute about whether the… in fact, the interpreter of the two experts had also been found dead.  Is that… is your understanding that he has?

Spokesman:  My… I don't have an understanding into that.  I think we have to wait for the BOI and see what facts they would have been able to clear up. 
On June 5 US Ambassador Nikki Haley said "they and their families deserve justice. We owe it to their legacy to end the human rights abuses being carried out by armed groups and the DRC government against the Congolese people. We hope other nations will join us"- she called for a Human Rights Council and a UN Secretary General investigation. On June 16, Haley added: "reports of the Congolese government’s campaign of murder and rape of women and children should shock us into action. These allegations must be investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is past time for the Human Rights Council to take decisive action and launch an independent investigation into the human rights violations and abuses in the DRC. This is the core mission of the HRC. If they can’t act in a situation this horrifying, why bother having one." On June 6, Inner City Press asked the SG's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Nikki Haley has called on the Secretary-General, António Guterres, to initiate a special investigation into the murders of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.  I saw you were quoted, something about… I want to understand your position, something about using maximum authority.  Doesn't he have the authority to investigate the murder of UN staff members?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, you know, first of all, we, obviously… you know, the call from Ambassador Haley and we've seen calls from the… from Sweden, as well.  We take the requests very seriously.  I think they echo our own concern.  The Secretary-General has consistently said that he and the Secretariat would do everything they could to make sure justice was done in this case while recognizing first and foremost that the responsibility for a criminal investigation rests with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  We cannot substitute ourselves… the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, cannot substitute himself… ourselves for the criminal justice system of a sovereign State.  We're cooperating… actively cooperating with national authorities conducting criminal investigations, but we're also ready to implement any Security Council decision on this matter.  As you know, there is a Board of Inquiry (BOI) that was appointed.  They are fully at work.  We expect their conclusions of that work to be done by the end of July.  They're there to establish the facts and, if possible, identify the perpetrators. And they'll submit a report with recommendations to the Secretary-General.  We're also looking at further options that may be available to us.  But that review, the work of the BOI, should provide a good basis for putting together a set of possible next steps for the Secretary-General Member States to consider in the murder of… to find out what happened… not only find out what happened to the murder… to our two murdered colleagues, but also to ensure that justice is done and those who killed them are brought to justice.

Inner City Press: Since often these Board of Inquiries are not… not made public, can you… is the intention, at a minimum, to at least make it public…

Spokesman:  We will… as we've done in certain cases, we will share with you what we can and make public what we can of the Board of Inquiry, in a way that doesn't jeopardize any future investigations that may take place.
   We'll stay on this. Earlier on June 6, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft: Inner City Press:  Does the UK think that the Secretary-General should do his own inquiry to the death of the two experts in the DRC? Nikki Haley has called for that, as well as for the Human Rights Council to do it. Which do you think should happen, or either?

Amb Rycroft: Well, we want to just get to the truth. We want those who are responsible for the devastating murder of the two UN officials to be held to account. So whichever way will get to the truth, we support.

   Meanwhile, as Inner City Press has reported, the UN Department of Safety and Security's alleged burying of reports should not itself be covered up. After Inner City Press exclusivelyreported that UN Department of Safety and Security's top officer Peter Drennan -- to whom the Board of Inquiry report on Sharp and Catalan would be filed on July 31 -- ordered that a security report on UNESCO chief Irina Bokova be “buried” last year due to the personal political implications for Drennan if Bokova instead of Antonio Guterres became UN Secretary General, the UN's response was to attack the leak. (On May 23 they insisted a Garowe, Somalia Board of Inquiry report was shared with interested parties). Also on May 23, when Inner City Press asked about criticism of the UN in the DRC, the response was to defend everything. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen the editorial in The New York Times saying, “astoundingly irresponsible approach by the United Nations to an obviously dangerous and unusually important task”.  They also question what's been accomplished for the billions spent in the… in the DRC.