For more than a decade, allegations of systemic sexual abuse and extortion have followed deployments of UN peacekeeping missions around the world. For more than a decade, the UN insists that it has a zero-tolerance policy for such violations of human rights and that it has taken steps to end such practices. The endless cycle has begun again, this time in relation to two separate missions on two different continents. In Africa, a new charge of raping an underage girl added to a series of similar allegations about French and Moroccan troops in the Central African Republic, also known as Bangui:
The UN mission in the Central African Republic is investigating a new case of child sex abuse involving one of its peacekeepers, the UN spokesman said Thursday. …
The fresh allegations came a day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ordered an independent external review of the UN’s handling of allegations of child sex abuse by French and African troops from December 2013 to June 2014.
The United Nations has been badly shaken by accusations that it failed to act quickly to respond to serious claims that the troops had sexually abused children at a camp for displaced civilians near Bangui.
In the latest case, the UN spokesman said the UN was contacted by a local organization that runs a clinic where the girl was examined and that action was taken within 24 hours of receiving the information.
Dujarric said that once the suspect’s identity is confirmed, the United Nations expects “the troop-contributing country to not only repatriate that person, but that the soldier should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On the other side of the planet, the UN reported this week that its humanitarian mission to Haiti produced a sexual-exploitation ring that ensnared more than 200 women. More than a third of them were under 18 years of age, according to the Associated Press, which received a copy of the report. The peacekeepers demanded sexual favors for humanitarian assistance — a pattern seen in UN peacekeeper missions for more than a decade:
A year ago, the report says, investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who said they’d had transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers. “For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the ‘triggering need,'” the report says. Urban and suburban women received “church shoes,’ cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money.
“In cases of non-payment, some women withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media,” the report says. “Only seven interviewees knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse.” None knew about the mission’s hotline to report it.
Each of those instances of transactional sex, the report says, would be considered prohibited conduct, “thus demonstrating significant underreporting.” It was not clear how many peacekeepers were involved.
For all of last year, the total number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against members of all U.N. peacekeeping missions was 51, down from 66 the year before, according to the secretary-general’s latest annual report on the issue.
The draft report doesn’t say over what time frame the “transactional sex” in Haiti occurred. The peacekeeping mission there was first authorized in 2004 and, as of the end of March, had more than 7,000 uniformed troops. It is one of four peacekeeping missions that have accounted for the most allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in recent years, along with those in Congo, Liberia and South Sudan.
The media, both legacy and New Media, wrote more about this in the previous decade, when these stories first began emerging as a systemic issue with the UN missions. This goes back to the spring of 2004, almost exactly eleven years ago, when some of the victims today may have been infants — or perhaps not even that. The British newspaper The Independent uncovered the same transactional extortion, this time among women who were already the victims of rape in the war. The UN hired a firm called Atlas to manage a refugee camp, but they were too frightened of the troops to intervene or even report on the abuses:
One worker, employed by Atlas, the aid group that manages the camp, confirmed that staff were aware of the trade in sex but were too frightened to tackle it.
He said: “There is nothing to stop them and the girls need food. It is best to keep quiet, though. I am frightened that if I say something I may lose my job and I have children of my own to feed.”
Nothing much has changed, and nothing much will change while these missions run under UN auspices. The reason for this can be seen in the Yahoo News report on Bangui. The UN puts blue helmets on these troops but have no jurisdiction under which to maintain discipline and order among them. That falls to the countries that assign the troops to the mission, but those countries do nothing and keep sending the troops out to the next mission. If nations deployed troops on their own into a country and committed these kinds of atrocities — which is how the UN defines this kind of sexual degradation in war zones — Turtle Bay would be howling to bring commanders in front of the International Criminal Court. For their own missions? A report and a show of contrition is all they provide.
Despite having 11 years to make changes sufficient to keep its missions from committing sex crimes on an industrial scale, the UN has done nothing except continue to issue reports and platitudes. And these are the kind of efforts about which the UN brags as a raison d’être. Makes one wonder why we’re still a part of this corrupt bureaucracy, no?