UN human rights office denies pressure from Ban to change Congo ‘genocide’ report

By Frank Jordans, AP
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UN denies Ban pressure to change Congo report

GENEVA — The U.N.’s human rights office said Tuesday it hasn’t come under pressure from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to alter a forthcoming report accusing the Rwandan army of committing possible genocide in Congo in the 1990s.

Rwanda has threatened to pull its troops from U.N. peacekeeping missions if the report is published unchanged, claiming the five-year study is “fatally flawed” and “incredibly irresponsible.”

Rwanda contributes thousands of troops to peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan.

A leaked draft — extracts of which were first published by Le Monde last week — accuses Rwandan troops and rebel allies tied to the current Congolese president of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo. The attacks allegedly came two years after those same troops stopped Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

The French newspaper cited unidentified U.N. sources as suggesting that Ban wanted U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to change the language of the report to remove the word “genocide” from the text.

“I want to make it crystal clear that this is absolutely untrue,” Pillay’s spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.

“Up to this point the secretary general has never put pressure on the high commissioner to alter the text,” he said.

But Colville acknowledged that publication of the draft report had thrown earlier plans for its release into disarray.

“The leak has complicated matters,” he said. “There’s been quite a furor about it. The environment surrounding it affects other parts of the U.N.”

Pillay discussed the report with U.N. officials in New York last week, and it is there that a decision will be made on when to release the final version, which already has been printed.

“There are lots of discussions going on now in New York with various actors,” said Colville. “It’s not simply the secretary general.”

The $3 million study was commissioned in 2005 by Pillay’s predecessor, Louise Arbour. Its production was approved by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Ban, his successor. The study also has been endorsed by the powerful U.N. Security Council.

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