The last time we covered UN sex scandals at HA was, I believe, in a Vent six months ago, which means it’s just about time for the next time go round. And sure enough, here it is, right on cue via the Beeb. There hasn’t been much actual news on this front since March ’05, when WaPo reported allegations of sex abuse in Haiti and Liberia and drew this bold promise from one senior UN official:
“The blue helmet has become black and blue through self-inflicted wounds,” Jane Holl Lute, a senior U.N. peacekeeping official who heads a U.N. task force on sexual exploitation, told a congressional committee investigating allegations that U.N. personnel participated in rape, prostitution and pedophilia in Congo. “We will not sit still until the luster of that blue helmet is restored.”
Flash-forward a year and a half, and where are the new allegations coming from? Why, Haiti and Liberia. Fortunately, one senior UN official was available to comment:
“We’ve had a problem probably since the inception of peacekeeping – problems of this kind of exploitation of vulnerable populations,” Jane Holl Lute told the BBC.
“My operating presumption is that this is either a problem or a potential problem in every single one of our missions.”
Mark your calendars for summer ’08, when shocking new UN sex scandal allegations from Haiti and Liberia splash page
A1 C29 of the New York Times. “We resolve to do better,” a determined Jane Holl Lute will tell the paper.
In one sense, this is a dumb gotcha. There are bad apples in every military force, including our own. The travesty here isn’t that the UN is failing to prevent every crime before it’s occurred, it’s that the suspects are free to act with near-impunity. From the BBC article:
Under UN regulations, military personnel cannot be prosecuted in the country where they are serving, and it is up to the courts in their home countries to prosecute crimes committed.
The UN said it had firm knowledge of only two concrete examples of sex offenders being sent to jail, although it believed there could be others it did not know about.
Why have only two sex offenders been sent to jail? Because much of the rest of the world is more nuanced than we:
Sexual abuse scandals have shadowed the United Nations since the early 1990s, when U.N. peacekeepers in Cambodia were charged with sexually abusing girls. At the time, the U.N.’s top official in Cambodia, Yasushi Akashi, played down the gravity of the allegations, saying, “Boys will be boys.”
Multiculturalism fever. Catch it!