Egypt and Russia led a charge at the UN Security Council on Thursday against plans to send peacekeeping contingents home if their soldiers are accused of sexual abuse while serving under the UN flag.
by Carole LANDRY
Facing a surge in the number of allegations of sex abuse by peacekeepers, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he will order troops who face repeated allegations to be repatriated, amid warnings the misconduct is damaging the reputation of the whole UN.
The new policy is a key part of a US-drafted resolution under negotiation for nearly a week, the first by the Security Council aimed at addressing the scandal.
During a council meeting, Egyptian Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said his country “strongly opposes collective punishment against forces making the ultimate sacrifice in very difficult conditions.”
“We are talking about several dozen cases, a handful of cases among hundreds of thousands of troops,” said Aboulatta.
“Accountability must be confined to those involved in the crimes, and not others.”
Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev also said entire contingents from a given country should not shoulder the blame and argued that the UN General Assembly, and not the Security Council, was the forum to address peacekeeping misconduct.
“The collective responsibility for such actions proposed by the secretary-general and a number of states raises questions,” Iliichev said.
Senegal, one of the few Security Council members that contributes troops and police to peacekeeping, also opposed wholesale repatriation because of the misconduct of a few soldiers.
Last week, Ban released a report that showed a hike in the number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, from 52 in 2014 to 69 last year.
Two missions accounted for over half of the cases: MINUSCA in the Central African Republic and MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There have been 26 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers already this year.
– Letting it happen –
Under UN rules, it is up to the country that contributes the peacekeepers to investigate and prosecute any soldier accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag.
But US Ambassador Samantha Power, whose country funds 28 percent of the UN’s $8.3 billion budget for peacekeeping, said the allegations “too often are allowed to remain in the darkness.”
Power said the United Nations should have acted more quickly to repatriate troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo who faced seven allegations of sex abuse while serving in the Central African Republic.
The DR Congo troops finally left in late February, but by then eight more allegations of sexual abuse had surfaced, seven of which involved children.
“How could we let that happen?” asked Power.
France, whose troops face accusations of raping children in the Central African Republic, said it strongly backs the US-drafted resolution to push peacekeeping countries to take allegations more seriously.
“It will help break the silence and reverse the stigma from victims towards the perpetrators,” said French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek. “That’s a very important moment.”
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft also called for measures to confront the rise in allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
“The sickening actions of a small number of individuals now threaten the reputation of the entire United Nations,” he said.
A total of 122 countries contribute 125,000 troops and police to the UN’s peacekeeping missions worldwide.
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