In mid-March, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, a US citizen, were in the Kasi-province of Congo on mission for the UN. Together with interpreter Betu Tshintela, they were investigating crimes against international humanitarian law and human rights as part of the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Congo-Kinshasa, when they were abducted and murdered.
Human rights groups have expressed their suspicion that the perpetrators could be found among Congolese army soldiers.
A week ago, information came from Congo that the murder investigation had been closed as they had two suspects. But now, according to UN ambassador Carl Skau, word is that the investigation will continue.
So those arrested were not the guilty ones?
“That I can not answer. But we have been very careful in our demand that the full inquiry is completed, and we don’t feel we are there yet”.
Carl Skau explains that there are three different inquiries. The first is the ongoing murder investigation that the US, Sweden and Congo are working on, in which the US and Sweden are working closely together.
The second is a UN appointed board of inquiry that is made up partially of former UN staff that are experts on security issues. They are to collect information in order to map the precise run of events, but also to draw conclusions on what lessons can be learned.
The third started last week as Sweden, through its position on the Security Council, requested additional backing for the ongoing investigations.
“We have requested that the General Secretary takes a closer look, but the legal aspects are not straightforward. Our position is that we need to find out what happened, make sure the guilty are tried for their crime, and of course we do all we can to avoid similar situations in the future.”
According to an article in the New York Times, Zaida Catalán and her colleague had received inadequate training for a mission in a dangerous situation. The newspaper reported that Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp travelled to no-go zones and moved around without UN escorts.
This description has been refuted by both the UN and the families of both Catalán and Sharp.
Is there a revision of the situation of other UN investigators on mission in dangerous areas?
”I take for granted that that is the case. The UN has been rigorously involved from day one”. Carl Skau adds, “and there are most certainly lessons to be learned to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Translation: Ravi Dar