The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
A review, initiated by the Secretary-General, was conducted into recent allegations that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers.
The review team examined all the material related to 16 incidents, which were the basis of those allegations. It also interviewed former and current staff in UNAMID and at United Nations Headquarters. The review team did not find any evidence to support those allegations. However, it did find a tendency to under-report unless absolutely certain of the facts. In five of the cases examined, the mission did not provide United Nations Headquarters with full reports on the circumstances surrounding those incidents, which involved possible wrongdoing by Government or pro-Government forces. The Review Team also found that the mission took an unduly conservative approach to the media, maintaining silence when it could have developed a press line, even in the absence of all the facts.
The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by those findings. He recognizes that UNAMID faces unique challenges owing to its complex mandate and operating environment. Nevertheless, keeping silent or under-reporting on incidents involving human rights violations and threats or attacks on United Nations peacekeepers cannot be condoned under any circumstances.
The Secretary-General will take all necessary steps to ensure full and accurate reporting by UNAMID. Every effort will be made to ensure that sensitive information is systematically brought to the attention of United Nations Headquarters and the Security Council in a timely fashion. UNAMID’s media policy will be re-examined to ensure greater openness and transparency. The mission will be expected to follow up formally and report on Government investigations into incidents where peacekeepers have been killed or injured.
Ensuring that the United Nations speaks out consistently against abuses and identifies the perpetrators is a key goal of the Secretary-General’s Human Rights up Front initiative. The Secretary-General will ensure that all missions are provided with clear guidance on the fulfilment of their reporting obligations, particularly with regard to human rights and the protection of civilians. He looks forward to the upcoming review of United Nations peace operations as an opportunity to comprehensively address that issue, which is a core element of his Human Rights up Front initiative.