UN staff members accused of 99 sex crime charges in 2015

United Nations report says its staff members were involved in 99 different sex crimes charges in mostly African countries

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

French soldiers patrol a street in the capital city of Central African Republic, Bangui

There have been 99 new allegations of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse against United Nations staff members in 2015, increasing from the 80 allegations in 2014, according to the new UN report.

Most of those accusations -69 in total- are against UN personnel from 10 peacekeeping missions, the report says.

The accusations have been involved by troops from 21 countries including Germany, Slovakia, South Africa, Moldova and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon does not give any details about the nationalities of other 30 UN staff who accused of sexual exploitation who were not working for peacekeeping missions.

Police officers from Rwanda, Madagascar and Senegal also faced allegations.

Most of the allegations involved peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, seven in all, serving in Central African Republic. There were also allegations against several European countries and Canada.

At least 22 children were sexually abused by peacekeepers, according to the report, but that figure may be higher as the age of the victims was not always determined.

The report demands UN General Assembly and troop providing countries to allow judicial proceedings inside of those countries where the sexual crimes committed.

But human rights groups say one of the big problems is that it is up to the UN troop-providing countries to bring charges against their soldiers. However, when those prosecutions take place, they are often kept secret and it makes difficult to follow up on the results and punishments, if any.

A French peacekeeping soldier patrols a street in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui.

No Prosecution

None of last year's cases have yet resulted in criminal prosecution, though a Canadian police officer who served in Haiti was given a nine-day suspension.

Under UN rules, it is up to the country that contributed the relevant troops to investigate and prosecute those accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag.

Human rights groups have complained about the lack of accountability for peacekeepers serving in UN missions; many have avoided investigation altogether or received light punishment.

Last year, the United Nations was informed that 10 soldiers and three police would be repatriated and barred from taking part in any future missions, the report said.

For allegations dating back to 2014, one soldier was sentenced to six months in prison for sexually abusing a minor in exchange for money while another was punished with a 60-day jail sentence.

Another soldier was "forced into retirement" for child rape while a military observer received a warning for engaging in prostitution.

The United Nations has been badly shaken by the wave of allegations of sex abuse by the troops it deploys in missions with a clear mandate to protect civilians.

An independent panel concluded in December that the United Nations had grossly mishandled serious cases of child rape in the Central African Republic despite the official zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence.

The high number of cases from the Central African Republic stems from the violent conflict that has pushed women and girls into prostitution and increased their vulnerability to abuse, said the report.

"It is deplorable that United Nations personnel would take advantage of this situation," it added.

Two victims who became pregnant succeeded in establishing the peacekeepers as the fathers but some 25 other paternity claims dating back to 2010 have yet to be settled, said the report.

Ban reported that payments to 12 peacekeepers, three police and one government-provided worker were suspended last year after credible allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against them.

The UN chief is also recommending a six-month limit for investigations, establishing on-site courts martial for soldiers and requiring peacekeeping countries to provide DNA samples of their soldiers on missions.

The United States is preparing a draft UN resolution that would endorse his proposals, and the report is expected to be discussed at a Security Council meeting on March 11, diplomats said.