The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Welcome to the noon briefing.
**United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Near East
And I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on UNRWA.
The Secretary-General is greatly relieved that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will be able to open its school year, safeguarding the education of 500,000 students in United Nations schools across the Middle East.
He stresses that education is a right, and that rights delayed are rights denied. Thanks to the generosity of UN Member States and tireless fund-raising efforts, that right can now be realized. This achievement cannot be underestimated at a time of rising extremism in one of the world’s most unstable regions.
The Secretary-General has personally been involved in raising the issue of UNRWA funding at the highest political levels. He reaffirms his commitment to working with Member States to place UNRWA on a solid financial footing to avoid a situation where the Agency is forced to the brink of a decision that would have had tragic human consequences.
He calls on UN Member States to support his efforts on behalf of Palestine refugee children and their families. For them, education is a passport to dignity, offering an escape from the poverty trap to a life of prosperity and security. He emphasizes that we must stand by them and the agency that serves them.
The Governments of host countries, in particular the State of Palestine, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Lebanon, have spared no effort during this challenging period. The Secretary-General expresses his sincere gratitude for their support.
The Secretary-General also underscores that we must do all we can to protect UNWRA’s mandated core services until such times as the Palestine refugees have their plight resolved in the context of a just and durable solution, based on international law and UN resolutions.
That statement is available for you, it should be out right now.
**Central African Republic
On the Central African Republic, the UN Mission there said this morning that a new series of disturbing allegations of misconduct have recently come to light. The events allegedly took place in recent weeks.
These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] military contingent. The allegations were reported to the Mission’s Human Rights Division on 12 August 2015 by the families of the three women.
After receiving the report, the Mission informed UN Headquarters here in New York, which notified the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the troop-contributing country in question. And the Department of Field Support has requested to meet with the Member State immediately.
Per procedure, the troop-contributing country has been asked to indicate within 10 days if it intends to investigate the allegations itself. Should the Member State decline to investigate or fail to respond, the United Nations will rapidly conduct its own investigation.
I would like to remind you that the Secretary-General last week said that it was critical that troop-contributing countries take swift action to appoint national investigation officers, conclude investigations and hold perpetrators accountable.
MINUSCA has been requested to preserve all available evidence concerning these allegations. Criminal accountability is the responsibility of the troop-contributing country, which is ultimately responsible for the good conduct, order and discipline of its forces.
The Mission, MINUSCA, and its partner agencies have been requested to provide such assistance to the three alleged victims as may be required. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with a partner organization providing medical and psychosocial assistance. To respect the privacy of those concerned, the specific details of that support are confidential.
The Mission reiterates its commitment to combatting all forms of misconduct by its personnel. It calls on anyone in possession of information to come forward in this regard and assures them that they will be protected.
Back here at Headquarters, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, briefed the Security Council this morning, saying that the past month had witnessed unconscionable crimes of hatred by extremist elements, reprehensible retaliatory violence, provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and a worrying increase in rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel.
In such a contentious environment, restoring confidence, before a return to realistic negotiations, is a must.
What is needed now is a comprehensive approach on three levels — on the ground, in the region, and with the international community — to alter fundamentally the current negative dynamics and begin to shape a clear and positive pathway towards peace, Mr. Feltman said.
He also reiterated that in Syria, hostilities must end and the parties must show genuine commitment to resolving the conflict through an irreversible political transition.
Finally on Lebanon, Mr. Feltman called once more on Lebanon’s leaders to act urgently and responsibly by filling the presidential vacuum without further delay.
His remarks are available in our office.
On Yemen, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said today that he is extremely concerned by the deepening impact that the continued conflict has on civilian populations.
He said in a statement that to date, nearly 4,500 people have been killed and a further 23,000 have been wounded, many of them civilians.
The Humanitarian Coordinator also expressed concern that the port of Hudaydah has been affected in the ongoing conflict. Serious damage to the port will potentially deprive millions of people of food and prevent importation of fuel which is necessary to run health facilities, flour mills and water and sanitation works.
The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that the lack of immediate and unhindered access to people who urgently need food assistance, coupled with a funding shortage, have created the possibility of famine for millions of people — mostly women and children. That’s also in Yemen.
WFP estimates that the number of people who are food insecure in the country is now close to 13 million. Out of that number, 6 million — that’s one in five people in the population — are severely food insecure and urgently need external assistance.
Also on Yemen, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said today in a new report that an average of eight children are killed or maimed every day in the country as a direct result of the conflict.
UNICEF said that nearly 400 children have been killed and more than 600 others injured since the escalation of violence four months ago.
You can read more on all of this online.
Also on Yemen, this afternoon, at 3 p.m., UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien will brief the Security Council on the situation there.
On Syria, the Head of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] today deplored the deaths of two leading scholars of Syrian antiquity.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said today that she was saddened and outraged to learn of the brutal murder of Khaled Asaad, who oversaw antiquities at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Palmyra.
According to news reports, the 82-year-old archaeologist was killed at the site he had worked at for more than 50 years.
Ms. Bokova was also saddened to learn of the killing of Qasem Abdullah Yehiya, who reportedly died in a rocket attack on the Damascus Citadel and the National Museum last week.
There is more on UNESCO’s website.
**World Humanitarian Day
Today is World Humanitarian Day, and in his message, the Secretary-General calls on everyone to honour the selfless dedication and sacrifice of aid workers and volunteers around world, as well as to celebrate our common humanity.
Also, he urges all to show solidarity as global citizens by signing up to the #ShareHumanity campaign, a digital storytelling campaign launched by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on behalf of the humanitarian community.
OCHA has announced that the campaign can now be seen in more than half a billion Facebook and Twitter feeds. By donating social media feeds, people can promote humanitarian action and help to give a voice to the voiceless by sharing their stories of crisis, hope and resilience. That is also in Secretary-General’s message.
As you know, World Humanitarian Day marks the anniversary of the bombing of the UN offices in Baghdad in 2003. The Secretary-General, this morning, participated in the ceremony to pay tribute to aid workers who lost their lives helping others.
I have a senior appointment: the Secretary-General is announcing today the appointment of Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan as his Special Representative and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
Mr. Tanin succeeds Farid Zarif, who will complete his assignment on 31 August 2015. The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation for Mr. Zarif’s successful management of the Mission in a challenging political environment and his dedicated efforts to further peace and stability in Kosovo and the region.
Mr. Tanin has, since 2006, served as Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations. There is more information about this in our office.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Matthew, lastly, you have asked about a previous case of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As I told you yesterday, we were looking into it: the Department of Field Support has checked its records, and based on the details provided, there is no case file that matches this incident for 2011.
**Questions and Answers
And that’s what I have for you.
And I just need to drink a bit of water before you start talking.
Okay. Yes, questions. Michelle. She’s had her hand up since the middle of the briefing.
Question: Thank you, Vannina. On the latest allegations in Central African Republic, you said three women have made the accusations. How many troops are accused? And is there any chance that Mr. O’Brien might come and speak to us at the stakeout after he briefs the Council this afternoon?
Associate Spokesperson: So on the stakeout, I am not sure. We’ve asked OCHA, and as soon as we know, we’ll squawk it. And for the number of troops involved, I am not sure either. I’m not. But I’ll look if we can share that. Ali.
Question: Thank you, again the same issue. How does the Secretary‑General feel about the… dismissing Mr. Babacar Gaye last week? And these new allegations are still emerging now. So how he is going to deal with this issue?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, a few things here. First as he said himself, the decision — well, Mr. Babacar Gaye, General Gaye, presented his resignation to the Secretary‑General and the Secretary‑General said himself that this was a very tough decision and that he respected Mr. Gaye and he also talked, if you remember correctly, about the institutional and responsibility that we have, the collective responsibility we have. And last week, he also spoke to all of his Special Representatives and missions and made those messages very clear about the need, the need for senior leadership to be involved and also of their responsibility in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse, in putting victims first and in making sure that we’re as transparent as we can be in these — when these events occur. Matthew.
Question: Sure. Also on these… this new announcement of sexual abuse allegations in the Central African Republic, one is I noticed in this one you said that you mentioned UNICEF’s assist… helping. And there was no mention of, quote, legal assistance. On Monday, you were saying… I had asked you what this legal assistance would consist of. Does this mean that UNICEF’s offering of help now doesn’t include legal assistance or did before? And I also wanted to ask Mr. Ladsous, the head of DPKO, where is he now? Apparently, he was on leave during the first iteration of these scandals. Can he speak to us given that he’s in charge of DPKO?
Associate Spokesperson: So. Your first question was on…
Associate Spokesperson: …on UNICEF. Again, I mean, I can read it to you again. But they’re offering — yes, there’s no mention of the, of legal assistance. And you can clarify that with them if you want. Mr. Ladsous is right here at Headquarters.
Question: And will he speak and answer questions about—
Associate Spokesperson: We’ll see. I mean, again, I want to stress this: We’re trying — you know, yesterday I said, as we have information, we will deliver it from this podium, and that’s exactly what I’m doing today. So I think, you know, we are providing you with as much information, as much detail as we can here.
Question: The only… the reason I ask the DRC thing that you mentioned, it was not only reported in the Toronto Globe and Mail, but I remember in 2011 there was back and forth in this room about the allegations. Nobody said that the thing didn’t happen. So what is the recordkeeping? Do these cases just disappear after they’re discussed in the briefing room?
Associate Spokesperson: No, no, no. The cases don’t disappear. The records are kept by the Conduct and Discipline Unit, and we do our best when you ask a question to go back and find out if we can confirm or affirm. And in this case, we could not find this case specifically that you mentioned. First, we looked at 2012, because this is what you mentioned in briefing. Then in your e-mail, 2011, if I understood correctly, so they went back to that and we just…
Question: So they never wrote it down. Because it was publicly alleged they clearly looked into it, so how did it not give rise to a case file?
Associate Spokesperson: Based on what you gave us, right now, we can’t find a case that matches. Joe, please.
Question: Thank you. First a follow‑up on Mr. Ladsous. Has the Secretary‑General, either face to face or by telephone, now that Mr. Ladsous is at Headquarters communicated directly the message that he delivered last week on this videoconference with the commanders, etc., about accountability all the way up the chain for any… for not dealing swiftly and effectively with these allegations? So that’s the follow‑up question. And my main question is on a different topic, Syria. Russia is reportedly airlifting advanced aircraft and missiles to the Assad regime as we speak in light of the Secretary‑General’s off‑stated position that there is only a political solution not a military solution to the conflict in Syria. What would be his comment or reaction to these reports of Russia delivering these advanced weapons to the Assad regime?
Associate Spokesperson: Okay, Joe, on that, I haven’t seen the reports but as you said yourself, the Secretary‑General doesn’t believe that there is a military solution to this conflict, so, you know, very obviously, he does not want to see more weapons come into this conflict. But what he’d like to see is Staffan de Mistura’s efforts being supported by everyone. On Mr. Ladsous, you know, the Secretary‑General made his concern about the need to address not just sexual exploitation and abuse but misconduct in general with our own troops, with UN peacekeepers. He was very public about it and I think everyone is quite aware of his concerns and of the outrage he felt at that moment. And, yes, he has spoken to Mr. Ladsous as he does with all of his senior advisers on a regular basis.
Question: Well, but… but did he directly and specifically communicate to Mr. Ladsous, who’s in charge of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, his view of the need for better responses to these allegations and accountability right up the chain… I think that was his expression or the supervisor’s, which Mr. Ladsous would be, you know, his expectations.
Associate Spokesperson: I’m going to stop you. I think Mr. Ladsous is very aware of the concerns of the Secretary‑General and of the importance the Secretary‑General attaches to institutional responsibility in this case. Sherwin, please.
Question: Vannina, thanks. Just a few clarifications. Are we speaking… you mentioned in your statement that the UN has requested the TCC. Is it one troop-contributing country? Is it several troop-contributing countries…
Associate Spokesperson: It is one, yes.
Question: …that is responsible for these allegations? And is it UN policy to request TCC’s to investigate these allegations before they conduct their own investigations or is—
Associate Spokesperson: Yes. So in the case of military peacekeepers, we inform the TCC, and they have 10 days to appoint a national investigation officer. If they don’t do so, we can then do our own investigation and, as said in the note, we would proceed with our own investigation in this case if… and we do. Yes, Evelyn.
Question: Yes. Meanwhile, are they still running around loose — the one contingent or more that are responsible for the three young females — or locked up somewhere or told to take an R&R?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m not sure exact… I doubt that they’re running around. Yes. Oleg, please.
Question: Thank you, Vannina. You said three young females. Were they under 18? How old were they?
Associate Spokesperson: I believe one was a minor, yes.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: Nizar, please.
Question: Yesterday a group of particular parties in Yemen issued a statement condemning the atrocities committed in many cities where the coalition is working hand in hand with ISIS and Al-Qaida in Yemen. They are butchering people and this… how does United Nations feel about the coalition working side by side with ISIS and Al-Qaida in Yemen?
Associate Spokesperson: You know, I can only repeat what we have repeated here many times and that is just that we want to see the fighting in Yemen stop and that we hope that the efforts of the Special Envoy, that everyone, every party will help with these efforts and make sure that there’s an end to the crisis in Yemen. Maggie.
Question: But here we have a situation where countries are helping ISIS and Al-Qaida providing weapons and ammunition and everything. This contributes all UN resolutions regarding combating terrorism.
Associate Spokesperson: I’m sorry. Again, comment or question?
Question: Again, here we have a case where countries which are… it’s incumbent on them to combat terrorism are aiding and abetting—
Associate Spokesperson: Nizar, I am not going to say more than what the Secretary‑General… I’m just going to refer you to what he said multiple times on Yemen. Maggie, please.
Question: Vannina, on the CAR, maybe I missed it when you were reading the statement, did you have any details about the circumstances during which the alleged rapes took place? Were they on a patrol or some sort of operation?
Associate Spokesperson: No, I have no such details and… I can give you what I read out and everything that I have is there in terms of the incident itself.
Question: Also, the Force Commander in MINUSCA according to the website is Cameroonian, and in the previous allegations that we heard about last week, Amnesty International said some of the… the troops allegedly involved were from a Cameroonian contingent. Does that create a conflict of interest having him the Force Commander? Would he be suspended in light of that and in light of new allegations until things are investigated?
Associate Spokesperson: The investigation on the 2nd and 3rd of August incident is still ongoing. So let’s see what happens with that. And as you know, I didn’t confirm any nationalities. I just mentioned that there were six nationalities involved in that operation. Carol, I’ll get right to you but Cara — no, wait — Cara has been having her hand up for a while. You’ll be right after. Cara, please.
Question: Thank you. You didn’t mention the country in considering the new push for transparency. What—
Associate Spokesperson: The country? I said…
Question: What country’s peacekeepers been accused?
Associate Spokesperson: Sorry?
Question: What country’s peacekeepers have been accused in this latest series?
Associate Spokesperson: You know, we actually don’t name the TCC’s for a good reason. The Secretary‑General himself is pushing to have country‑specific information when it comes to these allegations. He made that recommendation in his report to the General Assembly. But we have to wait for the General Assembly to approve that initiative.
Question: …pushback on that. Why does the Secretary‑General have to depend on… on… on permission from the General Assembly to name and shame peacekeepers that are bringing the United Nations into disrepute and he’s the figure head, he’s the Head of the Organization. Why is he depending on permission—
Associate Spokesperson: I think, Sherwin, I think right now we’re going to give 10 days to this TCC, to this Member State to see if they will appoint a national investigation officer, something that we would very much like to see happen and then we can take it further. Yes, Carol.
Question: Can you tell us where in Central African—
Associate Spokesperson: In Bambari.
Question: And it’s a military contingent?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes. Let me give a chance to Mr. Abbadi and then you. Yes.
Question: Thank you, Vannina. I have two questions. One, is there a clear position of the United Nations regarding the issue of forced feeding political prisoners?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m going to refer you to that, for that Mr. Abbadi, to the statement that was put out by Robert Piper, the number two of UNSCO and that statement I can give it to you where he and other members of the UN family in the region have raised their concern on this issue.
Question: And second, are there any changes in the Quartet?
Associate Spokesperson: Not that I’m aware of. Matthew, please. Sorry.
Question: I wanted to ask about South Sudan. I’d asked you yesterday about whether UNMISS could confirm reports of fighting and now there’s increased reports of fighting and counter charges by the Government and the opposition of fighting in Upper Nile State, also near the Ugandan border. So I’m wondering if UNMISS, given its presence in the country, it seems important to know is this taking place and if so which side is instigating it?
Associate Spokesperson: We’re checking and we’re waiting for an answer. As soon as I have one, I will give it to you. Sam.
Question: Just to follow up on CAR briefly.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: When did this take place? I haven’t heard you say that.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, the event allegedly took place in recent weeks. It was reported to the Mission on the 12th of August, and the events took place in the prior weeks.
Question: So be… [inaudible]
Associate Spokesperson: Please use your mic because you’re really in the back.
Question: What was the date it was recorded?
Associate Spokesperson: The 12th.
Question: Of August?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, of August.
Question: It took place before [inaudible]?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes. Nizar? I’m sorry! Ali! I’m sorry. [laughter]
Question: I’m becoming like Nizar! Are there any measures that are taken by the United Nations in order to prevent further incidents like these ones that you’re just disclosed?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes. There are a few, and the Secretary‑General, again, I’m going to refer you to his speech — I can’t find the paper, of course — last week where he laid out a series of proposal that he has made addressing misconduct and sexual exploitation and abuse. And, if I could just find the paper, I would give you an update on where we are, because I don’t remember everything. But there is an update on that. And that includes a series of measures, to raise awareness, also in terms of training, in terms of prevention, but also in terms of, for instance, having payments to troop be suspended during… as soon as an allegation.
Question: I wonder whether there are any immediate actions taken by…
Associate Spokesperson: But those are all happening. So they’re being put into place. Some are further along than others. And I will, I will get you a precise update on that. Too many papers. Joe.
Question: Yeah. I guess again a follow‑up to Evelyn’s question. Can you get us more details on the exact whereabouts of those soldiers who have allegedly committed these rapes? Because if there is a suspension as part of the Secretary‑General’s policy, it would be interesting… it would be useful to find out whether that’s now being implemented on the ground in real time.
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll check where they are. But I didn’t say there was a suspension. I said there was suspension of payment was one of the things that… one of the measures that he had suggested.
Question: Well, wouldn’t suspension of individuals at least during—
Associate Spokesperson: Sorry. But I do not know where the individuals in question are, and I will see if I can share that information with you.
Correspondent: Okay. Thank you.
Question: Hi. So is there any indication from CAR that this is a systemic problem in the country by peacekeepers given the… all the allegations that have occurred and that there actually might be more allegations reported? People are becoming more emboldened to come out and say this has happened? Is there any indication that this will be a continuing, unfolding drama? Thanks.
Associate Spokesperson: You know, I don’t know if there’s any indication, but I do think that you’re right in saying that the visibility and the importance that the Secretary‑General gave to this and, you know, the many statements he made, his meeting with the Security Council, with all of his Special Representatives — we certainly hope that this will raise awareness and will, you know, let victims know that they can report the allegations and that we or the troop‑contributing country will investigate them and, again, that we certainly hope that people will be held accountable for this conduct. Cara.
Question: Thank you. When was UN Headquarters told about these latest allegations? And also, have any troops or police been repatriated from CAR over sexual abuse or exploitation allegations? Thanks.
Associate Spokesperson: So on the exact date of when… I mean, it was very quick, so I think, I’m not sure of the exact date. But I’ll… I’ll… I’ll see if I can get it to you. I don’t know if we give a timeline. I think it might have been the 13th or the 14th.
Associate Spokesperson: To the Mission. But you know, there’s time difference. You know? Okay. So — what else did you ask, Cara? I’m sorry.
Question: If anyone from the Mission been repatriated over SEA [sexual exploitation and abuse] allegations.
Associate Spokesperson: I remember a case of repatriation, I think it was early July, I think, and I can find that… MINUSCA, the UN mission of the Central African Republic had put out information on that at the time. I don’t… I’m trying to see… there you go. Further 20 military contingent members were repatriated on… for excessive use of force leading to civilian deaths pending completion of the investigation. That was in the CAR and if I remember correctly, it’s beginning of July. And that’s it.
Question: Thank you, Vannina. I’d like to ask about Ukraine and next week should be the new meeting of the Presidents of France, Ukraine, and… and the head of Germany. How do you… how does Secretary‑General set the new format? I mean, it should be the Normandy format but only for three countries and they’re supposed to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine. How do you assess the new meeting?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m not going to comment specifically on the format of the meeting. Again, the Secretary‑General just this week made clear his concerns about the recent escalation of the fighting in Ukraine. He also talked about the reported harassment on the OSCE team there and talked about the importance for all part—… for everyone to respect their role and their work, of course, and… and he also… No, I’m going to stop there actually. Oleg.
Question: Thank you. Back to CAR. I could have missed that, but are these allegations… do they concern one incident or separate incidents, these three victims? Were they raped at the same time or what?
Associate Spokesperson: Look, I really, I don’t know all the details. I don’t. So what I’ve read out to you is what I know at this point in terms of details of the incident itself.
Question: And also, you said you got the information… not you, the Mission got the information on 12th of August. Did the Headquarters in New York… was it informed before Ban Ki‑moon took the decision to, you know, fire Babacar Gaye or afterwards? I mean, it’s the same day, 12th of August.
Associate Spokesperson: I believe that, in the case of the 2nd and 3rd of August incident, the Secretary‑General was informed of the allegation, I think, on Monday night. So is that the 10th? Okay. So that answers your question, I think.
Question: No, no… [inaudible]
Associate Spokesperson: Please use your mic.
Question: I’m saying that the Secretary‑General took the decision to fire Babacar Gaye and informed the press the stakeout on the 12th if I’m not mistaken.
Associate Spokesperson: I just told you—
Question: Did he know…?
Associate Spokesperson: The 12th of August is when the families of these three women went to the Mission to report to the Human Rights Division so that’s the very beginning of the process.
Question: Yes, but was the Secretariat informed the same day?
Associate Spokesperson: No, he was not.
Question: All right. Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: Matthew.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask a couple of world, I guess, humanitarian questions. One has to do with the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus. It was announced yesterday by UNRWA that they got the first access there since June, you know, 8th or 9th and found typhoid in the camp. In their announcement, they call it besieged, but OCHA has said that it’s not besieged. So I wanted to know, is this a change? Has the UN decided now that, according… by OCHA, because there’s some legal distinction about besieged and not besieged. Mr. O’Brien said it’s not besieged. UNRWA says — that runs the camp — says it is besieged. Is it besieged or not? And what’s going to be done on the typhoid, which they say has now doubled to 11 cases?
Associate Spokesperson: On the typhoid, I don’t know. And I’ve seen the UNRWA information, but I don’t know, so I’ll check on that. On besieged, not besieged — look, you know, given the… I understand your point about that it could mean different things, but the most important thing here is that, you know, Yarmouk is in a desperate condition and that we are trying to do our best whether it’s the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and USG O’Brien or through UNRWA to get assistance there as much as we can and help the people that are in Yarmouk.
Question: I guess I’m just saying—
Associate Spokesperson: I know what you’re saying.
But I’m not going to say anything else than this. Anybody else has a question? Joe. Let’s do one, you and then one someone else.
Question: Back to the CAR, I believe and tell me if I heard you wrong but I believe in response to an earlier question, you had indicated that there was repatriation of certain peacekeepers to their country of origin based on allegations of use of excessive force against civilians. I didn’t hear you say whether there was any repatriation of soldiers alleged to have specifically committed sexual exploitation or abuse. So I just want to have that clarification.
Associate Spokesperson: No, you’re absolutely right. The repatriation I mentioned was about misconduct and the use of excessive force not about sexual exploitation and abuse. I do not know if there’s been repatriation for sexual exploitation and abuse. I will look into it. We are trying to put together as much information as we can and give that to you. Okay? Yes, Sherwin.
Question: One question. In terms of the accusations… allegations of misconduct directed at the TCCs, is this potentially happening by one country and one contingent or are these across the board in the CAR? Are they repeat offenders? You know, for example, you talk about the 20 that… the 20 peacekeepers that have been repatriated. Is the sexual misconduct happening from the very same contingents or are these sort of different contingents?
Associate Spokesperson: Yesterday in answering about the second and third incident, I told you there were six nationalities. You know, unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if it’s one TCC or six TCCs. I mean, one incident is too much. So we don’t look at it like that. We look at it from the victim’s point of view making sure that those who perpetrate these crimes are held accountable and that they can come and report to us and that the… if in the case of a TCC, that a national investigation officer is appointed, that the investigation is concluded and done quickly and that the people responsible are held accountable. If the TCC is not willing to do it, we will… we will conduct the investigation. I just want to remind you — too many papers — of what the Secretary‑General said last week saying that there were too many cases and that often too many cases went unpunished.
Really? [laughter] Matthew. I said I’d come back to you. I’m sorry.
Question: I wanted to ask about the AT&T and the surveillance, but there was a follow‑up humanitarian question I wanted to ask.
Associate Spokesperson: Okay.
Question: Which is about the aid worker that was raped in a Bentiu camp in South Sudan. And much was said from this podium of what the UN system including the agency which turned out to be UNICEF was doing. And the victim… the alleged victim herself has asked… has tweeted at your office and Inner City Press asking what has happened since? And since it’s Humanitarian Day, it seems like the right time to ask. Are you aware of any steps taken since this was reported in Buzzfeed to get to the bottom of the rape of this aid worker working in the Bentiu camp of the UN?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware, but it might just be me so don’t, it might just be because I was on, working on something else. So I’ll… okay?
Question: AT&T? Should I do it now or can I do it late—
Associate Spokesperson: Are you going to stop asking questions?
Question: [inaudible] I promise.
Associate Spokesperson: Go.
Question: On AT&T, you’d said the UN didn’t know and now is going to speak with them, so… okay. The thing is in looking into it, there is a UN rule… this is a UN… it’s called the general conditions of contract, and it says that all UN contractors can disclose information provided that the contractor give the UN sufficient prior notice of the request of the disclosure information to allow the UN to have an opportunity for protective measure. This implies that all… for a UN contractor, AT&T, to allow the US to take any information, they would have had to have disclosed to the UN. So I wanted to know… and you may not know at the podium, but given that this is a UN rule for all contractors and given that… again, you said that the UN didn’t know. But by the rules, either the UN had to know or AT&T violated the rules because that’s what the rule is. So I wanted to know, can you find out either from procurement or OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] whether the UN was notified of AT&T providing all of this electronic communication to the United States?
Associate Spokesperson: So on AT&T and this issue, just to tell you that we are in touch with AT&T, and we have made our concerns known to them. And we’ll be continuing this discussion with them over the coming months. And also, we will put to bid a number of IT and voice contract also in the coming months. And I just want, again, to reiterate that we expect all Member States to respect the inviolability of our communication.
Question: Do you assume that such a… Do you assume that information is continuing to be shared with the United States today going forward during the GA week? Is that the UN’s understanding?
Associate Spokesperson: I said from here both yesterday and the day before we got assurances from the US Government that they were not and would not monitor our communication, and that’s it. Yes.
Correspondent: That’s inconsistent with what was later disclosed.
Associate Spokesperson: Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, it’s not just your briefing. Let’s just give questions to other people, please, other people not just you. Yes, Ali.
Question: CAR again. Which contingent is deployed in Bambari? What countries?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t… I’m not sure, but I think there’s… there’s ways to… I think that’s fairly accessible. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you. Obviously, there’s a special interest in what happened in the CAR in terms of the sexual abuses and other abuses. What… how does the UN answer the allegation that the Organization was well informed about these abuses at an early stage but it did not respond rapidly?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m sorry. You know, again, Mr. Abbadi, the Secretary‑General addressed this thoroughly last week, the need for mission leadership to take responsibility, the need for everyone in a mission to be engaged in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse, but also misconduct in general, and to report back to UN Headquarters as quickly as possible. This has all been said last week by the Secretary‑General. Sam?
Question: As of last month, the only troops in Bambari were from the DRC. Can you confirm these troops are from the DRC?
Associate Spokesperson: Is that… where did you get that from?
Correspondent: It’s… I’m aware that that’s… that’s…
Associate Spokesperson: Well, if the DPKO website says that, then yes.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, on this issue of interns in the UN system being unpaid, therefore, that only most affluent can work, there’s a letter… it’s public but it’s also said it was…
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: …sent to Ban Ki‑moon. Have you gotten the letter and are you going to work with these groups, QFRI, and pay your interns?
Associate Spokesperson: We printed out The Washington Post thing for him this morning so I think he has seen it. Evelyn?
Question: Could you sometime as soon as you can give us an accounting of all the different suspects of abuse in the CAR, what’s happened to them either repatriated or… or…
Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, okay.
Question: …on R&R? I mean I know it’s not information readily available, but could you give it to us?
Associate Spokesperson: Wait. I do have… there’s really a problem with paper today.
Question: Starting from the…
Associate Spokesperson: What I have… this is a summary that was kindly done by my colleagues at the Department of Peacekeeping. So since its establishment in April 2014, MINUSCA has received 61 allegations of possible misconduct. This number includes 13 cases of possible sexual exploitation and abuse with 12 allegations involving military personnel and one involving a Foreign Police Unit member. Based on MINUSCA’s recommendation and after an evaluation by the Department of Field Support, two FPU members and four military contingents have been repatriated at the Secretariat’s request on disciplinary grounds. And then there are the further 20 that I mentioned — that’s a further 20 military contingent members were repatriated on administrative grounds for excessive use of force leading to civilian deaths pending completion of the investigation and the United Nations Headquarters continues to follow up with the concerned TCCs and Governments and is calling for immediate investigation and accountability as I have said.
Question: Will that be put online? How can we get a copy of that statement?
Associate Spokesperson: You can walk right there as usual and I will give it to you. Matthew?
Question: Sure. In Burundi, the… one of the media that was closed by the Government, RPA, Radio République Africaine, has published its publication of who killed the general that the Secretary‑General denounced the assassination of. Their investigation was pretty detailed, seems to say that it leads… the tracks lead back to the Government itself. So, I wanted to know—
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll just refer you back to his statement at that moment and his alarm at the trend of politically motivated violence that we’re seeing in Burundi.
Question: But is DPA tracking, I guess, these… it’s this… this report, one, if true, would be a pretty big thing and also seems to put the media at risk. So I wanted to know, who in the UN system is sort of tracking these events?
Associate Spokesperson: We have a presence in Burundi, a UN presence, as you know, and, of course, DPA is looking at, you know, the relevant offices in DPA look at the political developments of, all over the world, Matthew. Okay. I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.
Question: [inaudible]. You mentioned that the troop‑contributing country has 10 days to appoint an investigator. Does any investigation happen in the intervening period? Because from my understanding in cases of sexual abuse, it’s very important to get—
Associate Spokesperson: In the note, MINUSCA has been requested to preserve all available evidence concerning these allegations. We’re putting together… there’s a gathering of evidence going on. Yes. Anything else? Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.