UN fears more peacekeeper scandals

UN officials fear the sex-abuse scandal among peacekeepers in Africa is more widespread and appears to be a problem in each of the global body's 16 missions around the world.

    The UN has 16 peacekeeping missions around the globe

    As the world body seeks to crack down on the abuse, it

    could bar countries from participating in missions if they fail

    to prosecute offenders, even though the UN is hard pressed to

    find contributing nations, the officials said on Friday.

    Rocked by widespread abuse of women and girls, including

    gang rape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United

    Nations also has found sexual exploitation cases in at least

    four other missions - in Burundi, Liberia, Ivory Coast - as

    well as more recently in Haiti, they added.

    "We think this will look worse before it begins to look

    better," Jane Holl Lute, assistant secretary-general for

    peacekeeping operations, said. "We expect that more

    information will come from every mission on allegations. We are

    prepared for that."

    Action demanded

    The undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie

    Guehenno, said that up until now the UN had avoided identifying

    countries that were slow to court-martial their troops, but that

    he had demanded action within weeks in some cases.

    "We do share concerns that sexual abuse could be

    widespread, could exist in other places"

    Richard Boucher,
    US State Department spokesman

    "They are aware of a very direct threat which is that if

    they don't get their act together, we are going to tell them to

    get out of their mission," Guehenno said, referring to all of

    the peacekeeping missions and not just the Congo.

    There are nearly 11,000 military personnel in the Congo to

    help keep the peace after a civil war. The force is the largest

    among the more than 60,000 soldiers in UN peacekeeping

    operations around the world.

    The United States, whose support is essential for

    peacekeeping missions, said it shared the UN's fears and

    wanted the world body to make preventing further abuses a

    priority.

    "We do share concerns that sexual abuse could be

    widespread, could exist in other places," State Department

    spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, noting Washington

    believed the idea of naming countries that fail to act against

    offenders was worth considering.

    "We have worked very carefully with the UN to try to get

    them to ... make sure that in fact prevention becomes a top

    priority for UN peacekeeping operations and troop

    contributors."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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