Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

UN Has Impunity Problem with Sexual Abuse

United Nations personnel are involved in rapes, sexual assault and sex trafficking worldwide but especially in the most vulnerable areas: In 2014, most of these cases were in Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. UN reports on the matter are released quietly, as the lack of justice for these crimes can hurt the UN’s reputation. Currently, accused UN personnel can’t be tried in the country of their crimes unless the UN waives its immunity.

United Nations Workers Accused of Sexual Abuse

Somini Sengupta, The New York Times
March 16, 2015

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations personnel were accused in nearly 80 cases of rape, sexual assault and sex trafficking in 2014 alone, with the bulk of the cases involving peacekeepers deployed to some of the most troubled parts of the world.

The findings, part of a 32-page report released quietly last week, are part of a decade-long effort by the organization to stanch sexual abuse by its own staff and soldiers.

The report resurrects some tough proposals that countries in the General Assembly had quashed in the past, including holding courts-martial in the countries where complaints were made, rather than simply sending the accused soldiers home, as is often the case.

The report proposes to establish a trust fund for victims, including “children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Complaints have declined in the last four years, the report said. Still, the issue remains delicate for the United Nations system. It can hardly afford for its blue-helmeted troops to be seen as exploiting those they are sent to protect. At the same time, the United Nations must depend on contributing countries to pursue accusations of wrongdoing involving its military personnel.

The report found that in 2014, 51 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were reported in peacekeeping missions.

The majority came from three large missions, in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Among them were 13 allegations of sex with minors. There were paternity claims in 12 cases.

Civilian agencies were not immune. The United Nations refugee agency reported six cases in which its staff exchanged money, employment or goods for sex.

The report added that about 60 percent of complaints made since 2010 were found to be unsubstantiated.

The advocacy group AIDS-Free World accused the United Nations of painting too rosy a picture of its efforts to curb sexual exploitation. It cited an unpublished 2013 report, which had been commissioned by the United Nations and which found that the problem was underreported and warned that “impunity is more norm than exception.”

United Nations personnel can only be tried in the countries where they are posted if the organization specifically waives their legal immunity.

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