Latest action is a response to a new report detailing the 69 allegations in 2015 and for the first time naming the countries of alleged perpetrators.
The United States is pressing the UN security council for the first time to confront the escalating problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers, which has undermined the credibility of the United Nations.
The United States is the biggest financial contributor to the UN’s far-flung peacekeeping operations, and US officials said Friday the Obama administration wants the council to send a strong signal that it will not tolerate sexual crimes by troops and police sent to protect vulnerable civilians, especially children.
“I am ashamed to call myself a peacekeeper when I think of some of these cases,” undersecretary general Atul Khare told reporters on Friday. “Anyone serving under the UN flag and preying on the vulnerable is truly an abomination.”
Of the allegations in 2015, 23 allegations involved sexual activity with minors.
If approved by the UN’s most powerful body, the binding resolution likely would be the strongest pressure so far on countries contributing to peacekeeping missions to deal with sexual abuse and exploitation in their ranks. The UN has more than 100,000 peacekeepers serving in some of the world’s most volatile and poverty-stricken areas.
Of last year’s allegations, 38 involved military personnel, 16 involved international police, and 15 involved UN staff or volunteers in peacekeeping missions. The report said 15 allegations involved rape of people over the age of 18. Paternity claims were associated with 15 allegations.
The report identified the peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation and abuse as coming from Congo, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Benin, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Solvakia, Niger, Moldova and Togo.
Over half of the allegations were made in two of the UN’s 16 missions: 22 against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and 16 in Congo.
The mission in the Central African Republic, or CAR, has made headlines for months with reports of peacekeepers in the impoverished country trading sex for money and sexually abusing minors.
The United Nations has been under pressure to act after an independent panel in December described the world body’s “gross institutional failure” in handling allegations against French and other peacekeepers in CAR. That report said the months-long delay in addressing children’s accounts of abuse had led to even more reported assaults.
The secretary general’s new report, obtained on Thursday by the Associated Press, outlines new measures such as launching immediate response teams to collect evidence, calling on countries to send investigators to probe allegations against their troops, and ensuring that victims are not frightened away from reporting alleged abuse.
The UN already has begun acting on its vow to repatriate troops over alleged abuses, recently sending home military units from Congo and the Republic of Congo from CAR.
Often no one is punished because peacekeepers come under the legal jurisdiction of their home countries. “We have no authority to prosecute,” Khare said.
The secretary general called for on-site court-martials of alleged perpetrators and DNA testing to identify them. He urged the 193 UN member states to update their national laws to ensure they apply to sex crimes committed by their citizens serving in UN peace operations.
He also asked countries to transfer the money withheld from UN personnel whose allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation have been substantiated to a victims’ trust fund.
The proposed security council resolution would endorse the secretary general’s decision to repatriate UN troops or police if there is a pattern of exploitation and abuse by their unit, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private.
The proposed resolution also would ask the secretary-general to repatriate and replace military units or police if the country that sent them doesn’t investigate allegations, hold the perpetrators accountable or inform the UN of progress in its investigation, the US officials said.
Countries contributing troops to UN peacekeeping operations are sensitive about interference from the United Nations, so it’s unclear whether the council will approve the proposed resolution.
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