By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, July 24 — While the Congolese Army was blasting away at Rumangabo on Wednesday, apparently killing civilians including children there, Inner City Press at the UN in New York exclusively asked French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud about the UN’s stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, quoted below.
Specifically, Inner City Press asked how it could be that UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post, continued UN support to the 391st Battalion of the Congolese Army after it was implicated in 135 rapes in Minova in November.
Now, the same 391st Battalion has been implicated in the desecration of corpses. Has the Policy failed? Or has Ladsous?
Araud responded citing higher numbers of arrests than even Ladsous has, and saying “even the Americans” are in a tough spot, since the 391st is the “best unit” of the Congolese Army, “which doesn’t have many good units.” (The 391st Battalion was trained by the US in 2010; Inner City Press requested, obtained a US Mission comment, here.)
If its “best” units commits mass rape and desecrates corpses, what of the other ones, in Rumangabu for example? Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s outgoing deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey told Inner City Press the UN doesn’t know anything about that fighting — hard to believe.
Of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and the 391st Battalion, Araud exclusively told Inner City Press on Wednesday that “these issues have been raised in the Council, the Secretariat was following it.”
Of the mass rapes in November Araud to his credit endeavored to give a substantive answer, saying, “after Minova twelve officers were suspended, twenty nine soldiers were arrested and two or there indicted.”
Other have said that only two of the arrests were for the rapes. Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN; Ladsous’ four spokespeople have left questions unanswered for twenty five days (and one of them tried again to bypass Inner City Press for Ladsous’ favorite Agence France Presse again on Wednesday, story here.)
While Ladsous and his spokespeople have never said it, Araud on Wednesday told Inner City Press that “they said the support to the units have been, I guess, drastically reduced… they didn’t say totally cut.”
Here as promised is the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy as explained by Ban’s outgoing chief lawyer Patricia O’Brien at a July 9, 2013 meeting on which Inner City Press exclusively reported:
“First, the UN cannot provide support to non-UN security forces where there are substantial grounds for believing there is a real risk of those forces committing grave violations of international humanitarian, human rights or refugee law. Secondly, where grave violations are committed by non-UN security forces that are receiving support from the UN, the UN must intercede with a view to bringing those violations to an end. And thirdly, if, despite such intercession, the situation persists, the UN must suspend support to the offending forces.”
The policy does not speak of calibrated “reduction” in support. Also, Ladsous clearly miscalculated on the risk, as evidence by the continued abuses committed by the 391st Battalion, up to desecration of corpses.
Of that, Araud said, “Now after what jsut happen, they are re-assessing.” You would think – but given Ladsous’ refusal to answer questions, how would you know?
Araud also tried to spread the blame away from Ladsous, up to Ban Ki-moon himself, telling Inner City Press “the decision is by the SG himself, there are several entities, OLA, DPKO, [Zainab] Bangura and Human Rights, the recommendations are to the S-G, now I guess they re-assessing.” Before or after the Congolese Army kills more civilians?