The United Nations has been under public scrutiny for quite some time now, and for good reason. Sexual abuse is a recurring problem in the organization, with numerous UN peacekeepers being accused of sexually assaulting the very people to whom they were meant to provide aid and protection. What’s worse, the organization often sweeps these cases under the rug rather than addressing them head on.
The most recent cases were brought to attention by Code Blue, a campaign by a US-based NGO that’s fighting for more accountability for UN peacekeepers’ actions. The latest allegations made against the troops were related to sexual misconduct against community members in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the UN’s mishandling of these accusations.
Sexual Misconduct By UN Peacekeepers in the CAR
Code Blue received 14 internal UN reports that included specific details regarding the allegations made against UN peacekeepers in CAR. Not only did these cases involve some very serious allegations of sexual misconduct, but they were repeatedly mishandled and “botched” by the UN.
Sharanya Kanikkannan, a lawyer with Code Blue, explained that the UN was filtering out complaints almost immediately after they received them and disregarding cases prior to even thoroughly investigating them.
“The filtering ensures that there is no access to justice for the vast majority of victims since they cannot gain access to law enforcement authorities without first convincing UN staff to believe them,” Kanikkannan said.
However, even if the allegations are considered “credible,” the responsibility lies on the perpetrators’ home countries to prosecute them. Then again, the UN can simply decide that the claim does not have enough evidence to back it up, meaning it gets dismissed.
Of the 14 cases cited by Code Blue, eight of the alleged survivors weren’t even interviewed. Ten of them were only dealt with inside of the organization and only one was pursued and investigated by the alleged perpetrator’s home country.
Another issue is that the UN fails to adequately disclose this information to the public. Of these 14 cases, only four are included on the UN website where data is supposedly published about sexual misconduct cases.
Code Blue isn’t the only organization urging the UN to take responsibility for their actions either. Last week, British human rights NGO Redress published a report titled “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping Operations,” which claimed that the UN mishandled many of these cases.
The report stated that there were obstacles preventing victims from coming forward and reporting their abuse to the UN “stemming from limited information about channels to report, fear and the inevitable conflict of interest when the UN receives complaints about the actions of those working under its mandate.”
The report continues:
There have been persistent allegations of sexual abuse in recent years in countries including the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti. There are no precise figures of the number of persons who have been subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse, though over 2,000 allegations have been recorded over a 13-year period (2004-2016).
Please keep in mind that these are only the recorded allegations, and this number is likely not an accurate reflection of the true number of victims abused by UN peacekeepers/troops.
This isn’t the first time UN peacekeepers have been publicly ridiculed for sexual misconduct, as the UN has been facing these problems for decades. Earlier this year, UN peacekeepers were actually caught running a child sex ring.
Other Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against UN Peacekeepers
An Associated Press investigation into the United Nations (UN) has revealed that over the past 12 years, there have been approximately 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers and other employees around the world. Over 300 of those cases involved children; however, very few perpetrators have actually been arrested and held accountable for their crimes.
In regards to the child sex ring run by UN peacekeepers in Haiti previously mentioned, nine children were being passed around from 2004 to 2007. The UN found out about what was going on, yet chose only to send home 114 of the peacekeepers. Of the 114 UN peacekeepers involved, no one was imprisoned. Though this put an end to that specific sex ring, the sexual abuse and exploitation in Haiti by UN peacekeepers didn’t stop there.
In addition, when the sex ring was being investigated, a team of Sri Lankan officials traveled to Haiti for two weeks to further examine the allegations. They only communicated with 25 soldiers out of more than 900 in the country and their findings indicated that only two corporals and one private were involved with having sex with two “young” victims. This is obviously a vast understatement of the amount of Sri Lankan peacekeepers involved and speaks to the level of corruption that exists within the political system.
To read more about the child sex ring run by UN peacekeepers in Haiti, check out the following article:
There was another pedophile ring in the Democratic Republic of Congo that the UN was involved in — UN police officers in Bosnia paid for prostitutes and were caught trafficking young women from Eastern Europe — and the UN was involved with child sexual abuse and rape in the Central African Republic as well.
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Cases like these are particularly devastating because the perpetrators are the people we’re supposed to trust to help others: the United Nations’ peacekeepers. As it turns out, these people are far too often anything but “peace keepers.” Instead, they’re the ones wreaking havoc in these villages and causing women and children to have nightmares for the rest of their lives.
Instead of burying these stories and simply not addressing them, the UN needs to step up and investigate these cases fully and take responsibility for any allegations that are found to be true. Not only do they owe it to the victims who were subjected to abuse, but they also owe it to the peacekeepers so they can further understand how to stop this from occurring in the first place.
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