69 allegations of sexual abuse lodged against UN peacekeepers in 2015: Report

Posted by News Express | 5 March 2016 | 3,462 times

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A U.N. report says there were 69 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against peacekeepers in 10 U.N. missions around the world last year, a “deeply worrisome” increase from the year before and the most since 2011.

The report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for the establishment of on-site court martial proceedings for sex crimes and for the first time lists the countries of origin of the alleged abusers.

Twenty-three of the accusations involved sexual activity with minors and 15 of the total for the year resulted in paternity, the report said.

“That anyone serving under the U.N. flag should prey on the vulnerable is truly an abomination,” said Atul Khare, under-secretary-general for field support. “We will never, never agree to protectors turning into predators.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Friday evening that the United States had introduced a draft resolution to the Security Council that would for the first time add support to the U.N. response “to this horrific, recurrent problem in peacekeeping missions.”

The highest number of abuses, 22, were alleged against peacekeeping personnel in the Central African Republic, according to the report.

Allegations mounted into scandal in the war-torn country last year and the mission head was fired in August after Amnesty International publicised a claim of rape made against a peacekeeper by a 12-year-old girl in the country’s capital, Bangui.

In December, an independent review panel found “gross institutional failures” were made by the United Nations in response to claims of sexual exploitation of children in the CAR by French peacekeepers in 2014.

Last month, the mission in the CAR announced it had identified seven new possible victims of sexual exploitation.

“I personally hurt when a few weeks ago I saw the case of a 13-year-old girl . . . who was left with a pregnancy. I think I am ashamed to call myself a peacekeeper on some of these days when I see cases like this,” Khare said.

“We need to find these culprits who bring a bad name to peacekeeping, who actually create problems within the country in which they find themselves, and most importantly who destroy young, innocent lives and we need to punish them in such a manner that nobody else in the future will ever think of doing that,” he said.

Seventeen of the allegations last year have so far been investigated, according to the report, with 10 found unsubstantiated. There are 124,746 personnel serving in 16 peacekeeping operations, according to the United Nations.

Some punishments levied by member states against substantiated abusers were “laughable,” Khare said on Friday. The report lists one case in which a U.N. police officer who was found to have engaged in a sexually exploitive relationship with a woman was suspended for nine days.

“In some instances we have seen punishments that do not appear to be commensurate with the seriousness of the offenses committed,” Khare said.

In the report, the secretary-general calls for heightened accountability from the global body and member states, including a faster investigation timeline and amended nation state laws and military codes that would ensure strict recourse against sex crimes committed by peacekeepers extraterritorially.

The report also recommends substantiated sexual offenders be repatriated to their country of origin with their DNA entered into a database and their salary transferred to a trust to be established for victims.

A pilot program to screen peacekeepers for previous allegations of misconduct while in U.N. service found success in late 2015 and will be implemented in full this year, Khare said.

In an effort to promote transparency, the report, an annual occurrence, for the first time listed the names of the countries where the alleged abusers came from. The list of allegations will be posted online and updated as the investigations proceed.

Human Rights Watch said on Friday that the United Nations and its member states “should do more to investigate and prosecute peacekeepers who commit sexual exploitation and abuse.”

“The U.N.’s reputation for protecting civilians is at stake,” Sarah Taylor, Human Rights Watch women’s rights advocate, said in a statement. “The secretary-general’s report shines a bright light on peacekeeper abuses, but countries that contribute peacekeeping troops will need to follow through on prosecuting these crimes.” (CNN)

Source: News Express

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