Despite pressure for justice both within and outside the UN, there was no justice for UN peacekeepers’ recent rape of a mentally handicapped boy. The peacekeepers were dishonorably discharged and one was sentenced to a year in prison but they were not prosecuted further for their crimes, which had gone on for years.
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The UN let off peacekeepers involved in a Haitian boy’s rape
Amy Bracken, PRI’s The World
October 2, 2014
Behind this tangle of barbed wire in the Place d’Armes in Gonaives, a boy was sexually assaulted by UN peacekeepers, according to a UN investigation.
Place d’Armes, the public square in the middle of Haiti’s northern city of Gonaives, is alive with merchants. Groups of friends gather in patches of shade to rest and socialize.
But one area is less populated: a stretch of brick littered with bundles of razor wire and piles of garbage. “That’s where it happened, over there,” my companion says.
A contingent of UN peacekeepers from Pakistan used to have a post here. They’ve since departed. But it’s here, in early 2012, that local youths reported seeing UN police in a vehicle sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy who is mentally disabled. I’ll call him Jean.
“Jean was one of the kids who hung around here,” says Adler Delismat, who fixes cell phones at a stand in Places d’Armes. “He was abandoned by his family and living in the street. The soldiers always gave him something to eat. He would shine their shoes, and they would give him a little money.”
Then, one morning in January 2012, Delismat says people here learned that some of the UN contingent had raped Jean. “It’s unacceptable,” Delismat says. “I know Haitian law doesn’t accept that.”
Technically, though, Haitian law doesn’t apply to foreign peacekeepers, according to the UN’s Convention on Privileges and Immunities. Discipline is ultimately up to the country where the peacekeepers come from, unless the UN Secretary General lifts the immunity. That never happens for UN military forces, and rarely for UN police.
Just over a decade ago, the UN stepped up training and investigation measures to try to address problems of exploitation and abuse. They created something called a Conduct and Discipline Unit, or CDU. Sylvain Roy, who works with the CDU, maintains that member state sovereignty doesn’t mean the UN is powerless when it comes to discipline.
“There is this need for a partnership, which I think is recognized by member states.” Roy says, arguing that the partnership allows his unit to be “comprehensive in the way we are addressing the issue and trying to find solutions.”
In other words, even if it’s the member state that decides on discipline, the UN can try to influence that decision. In Jean’s case, the UN flew in experts from Italy and New York shortly after the incident to work alongside Haitian investigators.
According to UN officials, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs, investigators concluded the abuse did occur.
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