22 October 2012

Rwanda: Why Does the UN Accept That Its Reports Are Leaked?

Photo: Evan Schneider/UN
Louise Mushikiwabo, left, Rwanda's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation, is congratulated on the country's election to the UN Security Council by Peter Wittig, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN.


Last week, a few days before the UN Security Council was to decide whether Rwanda would be granted one of the non-permanent seats for 2013-14, once again a report of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC was leaked to the press. As usual, the international media were quick to seize the story and present the report as "irrefutable proof" of Rwanda's involvement in the conflict in the Eastern DRC.

That in itself is not surprising. What is more difficult to understand, though, is that none of these self-proclaimed champions of objectivity and impartiality raised any eyebrows about the fact that the report was leaked. There would have been good reason to ask some questions, though - after all, only a few months ago, another report of the same GoE reached journalists prematurely, and that one too contained serious accusations against Rwanda. In both cases, the leaked reports were not final, yet the media presented them as conclusive, and did not investigate how it was possible that they were leaked.

That, too, is not very surprising, because it has become clear that there is a good reason why these reports are being released prematurely. When Rwanda's representatives appeared before the Security Council to provide their response to the first leaked report, they pointed out numerous factual inaccuracies, and even outright falsehoods. In addition, they completely discredited the GoE's head, Steve Hege, who in his past writings had shown a clear bias against Rwanda, going even so far as to defend the genocidal FDLR militia.

In the normal process of a UN investigation, Rwanda's arguments would have been taken into account before the final report would be published, and the case against Rwanda would be obliterated. Clearly, it suits some members of the GoE, and their allies among human rights organizations and international media, better to get the report out before Rwanda can dismantle the 'evidence.'

What is more worrying, though, is that in the UN too, nobody seems to be alarmed. In the spate of just a few months, two unfinished reports by the same GoE, headed by the same discredited Steve Hege, have been leaked, yet until now there has been no sign that anyone in the UN seems to be concerned or has called to order these so-called experts.

That is not acceptable. If the UN cannot ensure that reports remain confidential until all parties are heard and the finalized version is ready for release, its credibility is seriously undermined. Therefore, those same members of the Security Council who last week showed their confidence in Rwanda by giving it a seat in their midst, should now stand up and hold Steve Hege and his experts to account. That would not only do justice to Rwanda, but also restore confidence in the body's reports.

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