DR Congo sex abuse claims upheld
By Susannah Price
BBC News, United Nations
A United Nations inquiry has found that UN peacekeepers working in DR Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13.
The report by the UN watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, investigated abuse allegations in the north-east Congolese town of Bunia. The probe found a pattern of sexual exploitation of women and children, which it said was continuing.
Head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said he was outraged and angered by the abuse.
The report said many of the victims were under 18, with some as young as 13. They were usually given food or small sums of money in return for sex. The investigation looked at more than 70 allegations against military and civilian UN personnel in Bunia. It found seven cases against UN staff, all but one of them peacekeepers, involving sexual exploitation of under-age girls, were fully substantiated.
The report also said that while many of the girls could not identify the individual peacekeepers responsible, their reports of regular sexual contact were detailed and convincing.
The UN mission in Congo has also carried out its own investigations into allegations of abuse by both peacekeepers and civilian staff, and has sent home some soldiers. Mr Guehenno, the UN's under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, said the abuse destroyed the trust of local people in the UN mission.
"The rules of the UN are crystal clear. Any sex with under-18 years is against the UN rule and whenever we find that, this is just something that needs to be punished," he said. The UN has jurisdiction over its own civilian staff but no power to punish peacekeepers. It can only repatriate soldiers responsible and call for them to be brought to justice at home.
Investigations into the abuse in Congo has led to action being taken against two soldiers in one country and the imprisonment of a civilian UN staff member in France.
The UN is looking at ways to follow up whether governments actually take action against soldiers who are repatriated following allegations of misconduct.
Published: 2005/01/08 02:58:28 GMT
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