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For 2 Experts Killed in Congo, UN Provided Little Training and No Protection

Their bodies were discovered weeks later in a shallow grave, laid out carefully, side by side, in opposite directions. Ms. Catal n had been decapitated. Her head had been taken.

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Their deaths raise tough questions[2] about the United Nations and its work in the most dangerous places in the world. Almost two months passed before the United Nations even assembled a panel to look into what went wrong. The United Nations Security Council could go further and order a more formal investigation, but more than two months after the murders, it has taken no steps in that direction.

Instead, it has left the investigation to Congo, a nation where violence, corruption and impunity[3] are so widespread that the United Nations has had to spend billions[4] of dollars over the years in a failed effort to bring peace and stability. Indeed, a big focus of Ms. Catal n and her colleagues was whether the Congolese government played a role in the massacre and broader chaos she was investigating.

The U.N. needs to take ownership, said Akshaya Kumar, a deputy director at Human Rights Watch. She added that the Congolese authorities, who are implicated in the region s conflict, were in no position to carry out a credible investigation.

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The killings have also stirred a sharp debate over the United Nations responsibility to prepare and protect the people it hires to investigate wrongdoing around the world. Ms. Catal n and Mr. Sharp belonged to a panel of six experts authorized by the Security Council to investigate rapes, massacres and the exploitation of Congo s vast natural resources.

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They traveled without United Nations escorts, often going into areas that are no-go zones for United Nations employees. In this case, the two hired three motorcycle taxis and a Congolese interpreter to ferry them into the countryside. Their Congolese companions are still missing. There is no evidence that they have been killed.

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As independent contractors, the investigators had no health insurance and received little training on how to operate in hostile environments. They were bound by the United Nations security rules; don t travel on motorcycle taxis was one.

But former investigators say United Nations officials know full well the risks that experts routinely take to do their jobs. At least two said they had asked for electronic devices to track their locations and send distress signals, in case of emergencies exactly like this. The United Nations, through a spokesman, said it was not a feasible requirement to provide them.

They were more looking at protecting themselves than protecting us, said Daniel Fahey, who served on the Congo panel in 2013 and 2014. Everyone loved our analyses. But no one really asked us: How do you guys do this? What do you need?

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Frans Barnard, a former British Army officer who served on the Congo panel in 2014, said he had been concerned enough to buy his own location tracker.

Photo For 2 Experts Killed In Congo, UN Provided Little Training And No Protection Zaida Catalan Credit Bertil Ericson/Agence France-Presse Getty Images

In my world, duty of care means if we ask you to do something, we give you the training and the equipment to do that, Mr. Barnard said.

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Asked whether the United Nations had done enough to prepare and protect the experts, Jos Luis D az, a spokesman, said the organization was asking itself the same question.

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This is why the U.N. is looking at the whole sequence of events in the disappearance and murder of our colleagues, he said in an email. We want to assess whether things worked as they should, and if what we have in place is adequate or robust enough.

Congo has a long history of conflict and suffering. Foreign powers, successive leaders and an alphabet soup of rebel groups have all pillaged its rich natural resources. The country is the focus of the most expensive peacekeeping operation in the world. But the mission, called Monusco, has often been criticized for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by government forces and rebels alike.

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Ms. Catal n, a former Green Party activist in Sweden who had been working as a United Nations expert for less than a year, quickly got sucked into an extraordinarily dangerous world that she was woefully unprepared for, where the line between murderous rebels and corrupt politicians often blurs.

She worked assiduously to untangle a murky web of local politicians, rebel leaders and government ministers, trying to pin down perpetrators so that the Security Council could impose sanctions on them. Her tools often boiled down to a pen that doubled as a recorder, and a determined line of inquiry that ended up putting her life in danger.

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It is still unclear who ordered the murders of the experts. The Congolese government said it had released the cellphone video to show that militia fighters, not its soldiers, were responsible. In April, the government announced the arrests of two men. One escaped. Then, on Saturday, the Congolese said they knew who had ordered the killings and where Ms. Catal n s head was, but gave no further details.

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But according to documents kept on Ms. Catal n s computer and to others familiar with the case, she had been scrutinizing a government minister, Cl ment Kanku, for his possible role in inciting violence in the Congolese region of Kasai last year.

Mr. Kanku, the minister of development until he was fired this month, had close links to the militia fighters in the area; he had been brought into President Joseph Kabila s coalition government last year to bring the rebels to heel.

Ms. Catal n kept 130 files in a folder on her computer under Mr. Kanku s name. Among them was a recorded phone conversation in which he seems to discuss setting fire to a town in the region, Tshimbulu, with a subordinate. They talk about a successful jailbreak, targeted assassinations of a colonel and other officials, and general mayhem.

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We burnt Tshimbulu, the subordinate is heard saying.

It s good that we burn everything; that is good news, Mr. Kanku replies.

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The colonel is in his house, and we re burning down the house so he burns to death, the subordinate says.

Mr. Kanku asks: Did you kill the colonel s bodyguards?

Yes, we beat his bodyguards on the head with our batons, the subordinate responds.

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Though it was unclear how she had obtained it, Ms. Catal n had the recording in her possession in January, according to people familiar with her work, the same month she wrote in her diary about the big breakthrough. She had also texted Mr. Sharp, her colleague in Congo: I have big stuff going on.

Photo For 2 Experts Killed In Congo, UN Provided Little Training And No Protection Michael Sharp Credit John E. Sharp, via Reuters

People familiar with the case said Mr. Kanku had known she had the audio file. In fact, she had told Mr. Kanku that she had it, they said, and was scheduled to discuss the matter with him after her trip into the bush.

When contacted by The New York Times, Mr. Kanku initially denied, then confirmed, that he had been in contact with the experts.

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I talked with the man; the woman, I didn t talk to her. When pressed, he replied: I think I also spoke with the woman, but I m not sure because many people call me.

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Listen, where are you? Can I see you? he continued, sounding nervous. I can t talk right now. I ll call you after. Mr. Kanku abruptly hung up without addressing the contents of the tape. He did not call back or respond to multiple calls after that.

It was Ms. Catal n s sister, Elizabeth, who first raised the alarm that the United Nations investigators were in trouble.

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Late in the afternoon on March 12, she received an unnerving call from Ms. Catal n s cellphone.

I couldn t hear her voice, she said in their family s home in Sweden. I just heard lots of men talking in the background, not just a few but many, a group of men talking.

Sensing something wrong, the family frantically reached out to Ms. Catal n s colleagues in the United Nations.

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The United Nations said peacekeepers sprang into action from the very start, with troops and helicopters deployed the next morning, according to Mr. D az, the spokesman.

The few peacekeepers stationed nearby began searching by road and air. But it took four days to deploy more United Nations forces from other parts of the country and begin a robust search, according to the commander of Monusco s Uruguayan forces, Col. Luis Mangini.

It took a full two weeks to find the bodies.

The autopsy concluded little. Death by multiple injuries, it said. Ms. Catal n s second autopsy report, conducted by a private Ugandan pathology service, said the body, initially examined by the Congolese authorities, had neither blood staining, mud nor soiling of any sort, suggesting that the body had been washed clean.

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Families and friends of Ms. Catal n said they were unaware of just how dangerous her job was, even compared with her earlier assignments. Ms. Catal n previously worked for the European Union, educating local police officers in Afghanistan, Congo and the Palestinian[22] territories on gender-based violence. She once confided to a friend about the ad hoc nature of her United Nations assignment. It was, she said, like living on the edge.

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In December, during a visit home for Christmas, Ms. Catal n recounted a frightening episode in which she had interviewed a rebel leader accused of committing atrocities. I barely made it out of that room alive, Elizabeth, her sister, recalled her saying.

The risks began to take a toll on her.

A week before her death, she had a disturbing premonition: My body will be carried out of the jungle, she confided to a friend.

Now, relatives, colleagues and friends are frustrated at the handling of the killings. The Swedish authorities say they are looking into the deaths, but family members are calling on the United Nations to conduct a credible, independent investigation as well.

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What we hope for now is an independent international criminal investigation, said Mr. Sharp s father, John. We can t depend on the Congolese government to do it.

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Sectoral Presentation by Attorney General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo …

Mr Speaker- As the representative of the people of the St James West Central Constituency in this Hounourable House, entrusted with the additional role of principal legal adviser to the Government of Jamaica, I remain humbled by the votes of confidence and the trust resposed in me by my constituents and by our Party Leader and Prime Minister -the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP.

2. I am deeply indebted to all my companions on this amazing journey. To my friends and family, especially my husband Ian, I say thank you for your love, support and understanding. To my constituency team, I say thank you for helping me to better serve the constituents. To the staff of the Attorney General s Chambers, headed by the Solicitor General, and especially my secretary and personal assistant, I also say thank you. Although our workload at the Chambers is very heavy and our resources are inadequate, our collective commitment is without question.

3. The Honourable Delroy Chuck, QC, MP, Minister of Justice is most congenial and collegiate. It is a delight to have him as my Minister. Within the Cabinet, I appreciate
his fierce defence of the people who work within the various departments of the Ministry of Justice. It is a real pleasure to work alongside him.

4. I also want to express my gratitude to the Close Protection Officers (CPOs) assigned to me. I commend them for the high level of professionalism with which they discharge their duties, and for going beyond those duties, to ensure my safety and comfort on our regular commutes between the constituency in St James and the Chambers and Parliament here in the Corporate Area.

5. Mr Speaker- My last presentation gave rise to numerous questions in the court of public opinion about the role of the Attorney General and in particular, how I, as current holder of the office, discharge my duties. I was even depicted in cartoon-land as the gun-wielding vigilante, on the verge of shredding the Constitution to pieces.

Those who harbour doubt about my personal unwavering commitment to ensure that the machinery of Government acts lawfully and legitimately really should get
to know me better.

6. Admittedly, as a non-minister, the Attorney General is in a somewhat anomalous place in these debates. Notwithstanding, I welcome the opportunity to speak to pertinent issues relating to the Chambers. I should very much like to use it to shed further light on the role of the Attorney General, beyond what is generally accepted and readily understood.

The Role of the Attorney General:

7. The role of Attorneys General was specifically addressed at a meeting of Law Ministers and Attorneys General of Small Commonwealth Jurisdictions, which I attended, in September 2016, in London, England.

See Full Statement Here[1]

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  1. ^ See Full Statement Here (

White House leads assault on Great Lakes protection

President Trump won the 2016 election in several Great Lakes states, but his EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading an assault on Great Lakes protection and restoration. Slashing funding for the sensible Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million annually to zero. Rolling back Clean Water Act standards that protect safe, clean drinking water. Potentially closing the U.S. EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, which includes the Great Lakes National Program Office, and transferring its staff to Kansas. What are they thinking? This is a headscratcher, criticized by both Republican and Democratic leaders. Pruitt says he wants to get “back to basics.” What could be more basic than protecting the Great Lakes, which hold the planet’s largest freshwater supply (21 percent of the earth’s total) and provide drinking water for 42 million people. They provide a rich aquatic habitat and ecosystem, support a $7 billion annual fishing industry, and offer lakefront and recreational opportunities for millions of people.

The Great Lakes are one of our great natural treasures. Military analysts say future wars will be fought over freshwater. Minnesotans, Chicagoans, Cheeseheads, Hoosiers, Michiganders, and Ohioans all recognize this remarkable liquid gold. We can’t afford to spoil it. Why put this at risk? First, the Trump Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget would apparently eliminate funding for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Sens. Franken, Klobuchar and Portman, and other bipartisan senators, representatives, governors and mayors are urging President Trump to reverse course. They understand voters’ strong support for the Great Lakes. The short stopgap fiscal year 2017 budget approved by Congress continues this Great Lakes program at the full $300 million. The administration’s 2018 budget (starting October 1) does not.

This is a practical program that has supported 3,000 projects to keep the lakes clean, preserve shorelines, restore wetlands and protect safe clean drinking water. These include projects to For prevent and reduce harmful invasive species, such as the sea lamprey and quagga mussel in Lake Superior, and $30 million to clean up and restore the severely contaminated St. Louis River estuary[1] in Duluth. Second, Pruitt is rushing to roll back clean water standards that protect safe drinking water and preserve fish and wildlife habitat. The Environmental Law & Policy Center commissioned 12 focus groups of Trump voters in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. While they didn’t like regulatory paperwork, these voters solidly support regulations to protect safe clean water as common sense. They understand that pollution upstream or next door can contaminate their drinking water. They like swimming in clean lakes and enjoy playing on nice beaches. Some remember when raw industrial sewage polluted our lakes before the Clean Water Act was passed and implemented. They didn’t vote for a rollback.

Third, the administration’s rumored plans to close the U.S. EPA Region 5 Office in Chicago, which oversees the largest freshwater body in the world, are tone-deaf and foolish. The EPA’s national Great Lakes Program and experienced staff are in Chicago. The plan would transfer staff to the Region 7 Office in Lenexa, Kan., as the new center for EPA’s Great Lakes protection work and team. When the Enbridge pipeline broke and spilled oil into the Kalamazoo River, would EPA’s emergency team have responded more quickly from Lenexa, Kan., than from Chicago? Will Kansas-based staff better deal with algae blooms in Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, and contaminated drinking water in East Chicago, Flint and Toledo? The administration suggests that consolidating Chicago’s Region 5 office into Kansas’ Region 7 office will save money, but that’s penny-wise and pound foolish, just like the flawed choice to seek short-term cost savings that resulted in the Flint contaminated water tragedy.

Good policy is good politics. This shortsighted attack on the Great Lakes and safe clean drinking water is bad policy. The public and most political leaders know better. The battle for Great Lakes protection is well worth fighting and winning, but this battle shouldn’t have to be fought. President Trump, it’s time to step back and reconsider.


  1. ^ St. Louis River estuary (
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