UN chief orders review of handling of claims of child abuse by French soldiers – The Guardian
- ‘There are systems that failed here,’ UN chief’s spokesman told reporters
- Top members of UN staff will have to be subject to investigation
Ben Quinn and agencies
Wednesday 3 June 2015 18.57
The UN’s secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has ordered an independent external review of how the United Nations handled allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and African troops in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The move follows revelations in the Guardian in April that a senior UN official had been suspended for disclosing an internal report on the alleged abuse to French prosecutors.
The UN has been rocked by criticism of its response to the serious allegations of child sexual abuse at a camp for displaced civilians from December 2013 to June 2014.
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN chief, said on Wednesday: “His [the secretary general’s] intention in setting up this review is to ensure that the United Nations does not fail the victims of sexual abuse, especially when committed by those who are meant to protect them.”
“There are systems that failed here,” Dujarric told reporters. “This was not handled in the way that the secretary general would want it to be handled.”
French prosecutors, themselves under pressure over an apparent failure to act quickly to identify and prosecute the suspected soldiers, last month ordered a criminal investigation into the allegations that French peacekeeping soldiers raped children and demanded sex for food in the CAR.
Authorities in Paris said that 14 French soldiers were under investigation, 10 months after it received the leaked UN report and opened a preliminary investigation.
The UN has been criticised for taking action against Anders Kompass, the official who leaked the report to the French – sources say because he suspected the UN would not take action.
Kompass, director of field operations, was suspended in April. An appeal tribunal subsequently found that his suspension was unlawful and ordered his reinstatement while an internal management review continues.
French troops were deployed to the Central African Republic in December 2013 to help African Union peacekeepers restore order after the country exploded into violence triggered by a coup. The alleged abuses took place in 2014 when Minusca, a UN mission in the country, was in the process of being set up.
Last month Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, blamed the French – who had jurisdiction over the soldiers – for not responding sooner to the allegations.
The internal UN report contained interviews with six children alleging sexual abuse from December 2013 to May 2014. Zeid said: “What was happening in December, in March, in May? Someone knew, they didn’t report. Who was that person?”
The Guardian was passed the internal report on the sexual exploitation by Paula Donovan, co-director of the advocacy group Aids Free World, who has been demanding an independent commission inquiry into the UN’s handling of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
The NGO said on Wednesday that the UN inquiry must be “a truly external and independent inquiry”, adding that no member of existing UN staff should be appointed to investigate.
Aids Free World said in a statement: “Second, it must be understood that top members of the secretary general’s own staff will have to be subject to investigation. This must go right up to the level of under-secretaries general.”
Ban Ki-moon issued a statement that the review would examine the treatment of the specific report of abuse in the Central African Republic, as well as a broad range of systemic issues related to how the UN responds to serious information of this kind.
It added: “As has been stated over the past few weeks, the secretary general is deeply disturbed by the allegations of sexual abuse by soldiers in the Central African Republic, as well as allegations of how this was handled by the various parts of the UN system involved. His intention in setting up this review is to ensure that the United Nations does not fail the victims of sexual abuse, especially when committed by those who are meant to protect them.”
The UN said that the identity of who will lead the review would be announced in the next few days.
Ex-Workers Accuse CVS of Racial Discrimination Against Shoppers
By ALAN FEUER – JUNE 3, 2015
From left, Lacole Simpson, Kerth Pollack, Sheree Steele and Delbert Sorhaindo in front of a CVS in Manhattan. In a class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday, they say their supervisors at the drugstore chain ordered them to target black and Hispanic shoppers. Credit Ramsay de Give for The New York Times
Four former store detectives employed by CVS in New York filed a class-action lawsuit against the drugstore chain on Wednesday, accusing their bosses of ordering them to target black and Hispanic shoppers.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, also alleged that the detectives were fired after they complained about racial discrimination, against both customers and themselves.
The plaintiffs, all of whom are either black or Hispanic, contend in their suit that two supervisors in CVS’s loss-prevention department, overseeing stores in Manhattan and Queens, regularly told them to racially profile nonwhite shoppers. The suit says that one of the supervisors, Anthony Salvatore, routinely told subordinates that “black people always are the ones that are the thieves,” and that “lots of Hispanic people steal.” The second supervisor, Abdul Selene, frequently advised detectives, known at CVS as market investigators, to “watch the black and Hispanic people to catch more cases,” the suit said.
The supervisors also subjected the plaintiffs to discriminatory treatment, the suit said. When one plaintiff, Kerth Pollack, got into an argument with a store manager, Mr. Salvatore phoned him and demanded that he “get his black ass back to the store and apologize,” the suit said. A different store manager once instructed another plaintiff, Delbert Sorhaindo, to “hide like a monkey” to avoid being detected by potential shoplifters, the suit said.
When the plaintiffs complained about these and other episodes to officials at CVS, the suit said, they were subjected within weeks “to increased scrutiny, micromanagement and fabricated performance criticism.”
The suit comes nearly a year after Macy’s struck a deal with Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, to pay a $650,000 fine and hire an independent monitor to address complaints that minority shoppers faced heightened surveillance and, in some cases, wrongful detention at its flagship store in Midtown. Mr. Schneiderman reached a similar arrangement with Barneys New York, which agreed last summer to pay $525,000 and put in place reforms intended to deter racial profiling at its Madison Avenue store.
“While there have been many high-profile shop-and-frisk cases filed by customers of large retailers in recent years,” said David E. Gottlieb, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, “this is the first time a group of employees has banded together to provide an inside account and expose the blatant racial profiling policy at one of the largest retailers in the world.”
Mr. Gottlieb, whose law firm, Wigdor L.L.P., handled the initial private suits against Macy’s, said he had not spoken to Mr. Schneiderman’s office in advance of filing this suit. The office could, as it did with Macy’s, bring its own enforcement action against CVS.
Carolyn Castel, a spokeswoman for CVS, which is based in Rhode Island, said the company “has firm nondiscrimination policies that it rigorously enforces.”
“We serve all communities and we do not tolerate any policy or practice that discriminates against any group,” Ms. Castel continued. “We are shocked by the allegations in this complaint, and we intend to defend against them vigorously.”
She did not respond to a subsequent request to contact Mr. Salvatore and Mr. Selene or to speak on their behalf.
Mr. Gottlieb said the case began this year when one of the plaintiffs — he declined to say which one — came to the firm. The plaintiff complained, as the suit contends, that the store detectives were routinely being “directed to follow utterly despicable and racist directives.” The four eventual plaintiffs — Mr. Pollack, 41; Mr. Sorhaindo, 26; Lacole Simpson, 32; and Sheree Steele, 46 — contend that CVS store or loss-prevention managers frequently used crude racial epithets to describe customers.
Mr. Pollack, Ms. Simpson and Mr. Sorhaindo, each of whom had worked for CVS about four years, were all fired between February and April. Ms. Steele worked for the chain for a few months; she was not allowed to return to work in July 2013 after taking an approved leave, the lawsuit said.
Correction: June 4, 2015
An earlier version of this article misidentified the state where CVS is based. It is Rhode Island, not Maryland.
A version of this article appears in print on June 4, 2015, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Ex-Workers Allege Discrimination at CVS.
Paris Police Clear Out Migrant Camp and Destroy Tents
By AURELIEN BREEDENJUNE 2, 2015
Paris Police on Eviction of Migrant Camp
Bernard Boucault, the Paris police chief, spoke about why his department evacuated a camp of hundreds of migrants near the famed Sacré-Coeur basilica.
By Reuters on Publish Date June 2, 2015. Photo by Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
PARIS — The French police evacuated hundreds of migrants from a camp in Paris early Tuesday in the latest attempt to control a growing population of migrants arriving on European shores after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Officials and humanitarian associations supervising the operation said the 380 migrants, most from East African countries like Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, had been told to gather their belongings and then led to buses that took them away. Immediately after, the authorities bulldozed through the tents.
Some of the migrants, including women and children, had spent months in the camp, where hundreds of tents took root under an elevated Métro line in north central Paris. The camp was near a major rail station and not far from the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a popular tourist attraction.
Bruno Morel, the general manager of Emmaüs Solidarité, an association that provided aid for the migrants, said that the camp had taken shape last fall, and that the number of migrants had swelled. Mr. Morel, who oversaw the evacuation, said living conditions in the camp were “catastrophic.”
“When nearly 400 people are living in a public area, in the cold, sleeping on the ground and curling up in makeshift tents without water or electricity, these aren’t even the most basic living conditions,” Mr. Morel said in a telephone interview.
The camp was one of many that have been popping up throughout Europe. Many of the migrants are headed north, where the economy is stronger and, in some cases, the asylum rules less stringent.
Last month, the authorities in Rome cleared a camp that had been in existence for two decades because it was being flooded with newcomers on their way north from the Italian coasts.
The Paris operation unfolded as the European Union continues to debate how to deal with the flow of migrants. France and Germany have come out against European Commission plans to spread the 40,000 migrants expected to arrive over the next two years more evenly among member states.
Police officers evicted African migrants living in a camp under a subway bridge in Paris on Tuesday. Credit Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Bernard Boucault, the Paris police chief, said in a statement that the camp had been evacuated because of tensions among migrants and “particularly alarming” conditions, including health risks like scabies and dysentery.
Mr. Morel said about 40 percent of the 380 migrants were seeking asylum in France, while the others were in transit to other destinations. City social services took asylum seekers to housing made available to those in the process of applying for asylum, he said, while the other migrants were taken to shelters.
Mr. Morel said the French government and the city of Paris had to do more to coordinate with humanitarian associations to better “support and assist these people who have been through harrowing migratory journeys.”
Scandinavian countries and Britain are more popular destinations for migrants than France, which has very strict asylum procedures. Last year, while the number of asylum applicants registered in the European Union jumped 44 percent from 2013, the number of applicants registered in France decreased by 5 percent, according to Eurostat figures.
Many migrants passing through France make their way to Calais, a northern coastal town that has long been a gateway to Britain, and where the police also evacuated 140 migrants from two camps on Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse.
A version of this article appears in print on June 3, 2015, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Police Clear Out Migrant Camp in Paris and Destroy Tents
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