The UN’s answer to cover them up and punish journalists might be coming to an end as there are signs that member states have had enough. Will the British government lead a new cause?
It’s practically impossible these days to google the word ‘UN’ without being hit with the wave of articles about its sexual harassment cases, which in recent years under Antonio Guterres, appears to have mushroomed into something of a pandemic. Even faithful supporters of the UN will ask themselves how can a global organisation which serenades itself on the world stage as an arbiter of human rights, be the worst offender? When does the organisation reach its tipping point of credibility when reports in mainstream press of UN peacekeepers raping women and children in African hotspots eclipse its other media coverage and its objectives?
Some might argue we are already there as few buy into the new UN chief’s stand on cracking down on sexual harassment and exploitation by simply sanitising the subject with his own personal touch of concern and apparent zeal to fix it. Reasonably, we could ask is it that Guterres with his so-called crackdown has simply cast a stronger light on sexual exploitation and so his own initiatives to investigate and expose the guilty gives the impression that the numbers are growing at the alarming rate they appear to be ? Recent studies have shown that this pandemic has spread to even sexual harassment and even rape within the UN’s own corridors, as UN chiefs escape prosecution under their immunity and are even helped by a corrupt system which destroys those who point the finger. The figures speak for themselves. A recent study showed that as much as a THIRD of female workers in UN agencies had suffered some form of sexual harassment in the office. And the numbers of those which the UN’s internal process nailed? Not even one.
The argument that these new alarming figures could be due to a new awareness campaign by the UN chief himself might have weathered well if it wasn’t for the UN’s spectacular failure to bring justice to those perpetrators of sex crimes, the UN chief’s support for a draconian, vile witch hunt against investigative journalists who expose it and perhaps most importantly Mr Guterres’ own tawdry background and relationship with corruption itself.
UN chief’s vendetta against journo
Guterres has a massive corruption problem within the UN with sexual harassment at the core of it, but it is his own personal touch towards journalists who wishes to probe deeper which is really the problem.
According to one, a Lisbon-based organization which paid Guterres in 2016 – but which the journalist claims he didn’t declare as earnings – is being linked to Patrick Ho, the Hong Kong businessman politico who is in jail now for bribing UN officials. Questions over a proposed deal by the Lisbon organization’s sale of an energy utility to a Chinese firm in 2018 are still a dark cloud hanging over the UN chief who appears at least, to have broken the mould on corruption, compared to Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Anan before him.
The journalist who has caused the stink over his links to the Lisbon gravy train and who continues to expose sex scandals and the tsunami of cover-ups by Guterres and his administration is Matthew R Lee, who is based in New York City and is the victim of a grotesque Machiavellian witch hunt which one would normally associate in countries which the UN assists in Africa where journalists are beaten up, tortured and finally end up disappearing.
Lee reports on UN corruption and scandals and has a vociferous goal to remain objective and not fall into the trap which nearly all journalists do when they relocate to cover multinational organisations like the UN or the EU: become an extension of the organisation’s propaganda.
He is the only journalist who refuses to be spoon-fed and hold the UN to account on graft and cover-ups right from the heart of its institution, at its headquarters in NYC. But how does Guterres react to being held to account?
Since July 2018, Lee had his press accreditation revoked, following a series of sex scandal articles he published in Innercity Press.
But recently, if that wasn’t enough, the UN boss has gone further by blocking Lee from even having online access to press briefings and even his own website being blocked.
This technique is straight out of the handbook of vile dictators who chose to spare the lives of journalists causing problems for them, by ostracising them from the source of official information. When an institution blocks access for a journalist, as part of the witch hunt, this is invariably followed up by discrediting his/her work by explaining that the journalist’s work can’t have any credibility due to the lack of access to officials, briefings etc.
Drugging and raping women in Iraq
Lee claims that the most recent crackdown against him – blocking him access to online briefings – comes after Inner City Press on June 23, 2020 exclusively published video of UN sexploitation in Tel Aviv, which exposed UN workers who are still on the payroll (denied by Guterres).
UN workers who carry out sexual assault firmly believe their immunity will protect them from prosecution. As long as they stay on the UN’s payroll.
A more recent scandal involved former UN staffer Karim Elkorany for drugging and raping women in Iraq. Lee claims that “All that Guterres did about that was allow Elkorany go back to New Jersey”.
Interestingly, Elkorany was recently charged not with rape or sexual assault, but with lying to FBI agents who interviewed him in 2017. It’s unclear how the immunity system prevented them from doing this then, but it is likely that it would have prevented a prosecution if Elkorany had remained working for the UN. He resigned in 2018, thus rendering him immunity invalid.
But these cases, plus many more, form the basis of a “zero coverage” policy the UN has on in-depth reporting. Guterres and spokesman Stephane Dujarric have refused all press questions on it, as they have on Guterres’ links with CEFC China Energy whose UN rep Patrick Ho was convicted of bribery/FCPA violations in the SDNY.
And in line with a total media blackout, the campaign against Lee shifts gear.
On September 5, Inner City Press applied for access, specifically mentioning online briefings of the type it is allowed to participate in at the IMF and WHO.
Dujarric was asked about it at the noon briefing on September 17 and said, “Mr. Lee’s status remains unchanged.”
The case against Elkorany is an important one as, to date, according to the author’s research, there are only three UN rape cases which have seen the light of day. The main one, which critics point to took 18 years to settle, was against a refugee worker employed by UNHCR. Two startling facts emerge from this case by the erudite observer. One, the chief investigator of the internal case who was employed and who seemed to do too good a job at establishing facts was fired by the UNHCR boss. And two, that boss at that time was Antonio Guterres.
A second rape case, which was more recent, and was carried out in a UN agency in Switzerland is still yet to be resolved as it has benefitted from the full guilt-edged treatment of the UN cover up machine.
The pattern is always the same with rape and sexual assault cases within the UN and it hasn’t changed. Internal investigations are designed to discredit and defame the victims, if not destroy their confidence. They usually are designed to protect the perpetrator who is usually transferred to another top job in another country, while the victim is left battling with a corrupt system which in the end drains her of energy, money and self-confidence – in many cases leading victims to become mentally unstable and dependent on professional help.
UK parliament report
A recent report published by the British parliament on January 15th was compiled by a group of MPs who wish to do something about such cover-ups in the aid sector – and has a specific chapter on the UN and its failure to investigate fairly and prosecute perpetrators – makes bold statements about supporting victims with a genuine mechanism which can assist them. It also calls for the lifting of immunity of UN officials and appeals to the UK government itself to lead an initiative which would crack down on the appalling cases of thousands of victims of sexual assault, exploitation and rape by both aid workers in the field and UN officials. It’s a step in the right direction as victims of the UN cover-ups always complain – rightly – that the UN gets away with this disgusting practice to protect its own, mainly (male) officials with a locker room rule book which lets them sexually exploit office workers with absolutely no fear of ever being prosecuted. This has to stop and the reference in the report to the immunity system being lifted is encouraging.
But there is little point in member states holding the UN to account if the latter is allowed to carry on its sullied practice of destroying journalists who report on its graft. The misjudged campaign, signed off by Guterres, to shut down Matthew R Lee is absolutely disgraceful and has to be exposed by member states also. With no accountability on the UN itself and its dark practices against the press, there is little point in any other initiatives. Soon, the words ‘rape’ and the ‘UN’ are going to be as commonplace as ‘horse and cart’. If the UK government is serious about its claims in its 70-page report, it should start by not allowing Guterres to continue with his personal vendetta against a journalist who reports on his own malpractice and not support a second term for Mr Guterres who is mired in corruption scandals, cover-ups and graft.