UN troops cleared of gold trading

Rights group criticises report for failing to fully investigate arms-for-gold claims.

    UN report acknowledged Pakistani peacekeepers arranged escorts for gold smugglers [EPA]
    "[Investigators] established that [Pakistani] peacekeepers deployed to Mongbwalu provided transport, meals and security for the ... group during their visits to Mongbwalu in November and December 2005," the internal UN report said.
     
    "During these visits, [the traffickers] purchased significant quantities of unwrought gold without the appropriate government authorisations," it said.
     
    The report did not say what the Pakistani peacekeepers received in return for their help.
     
    When the allegations were made, Pakistan rejected them as malicious and distorted but said it was investigating. In previous cases of misconduct by UN peacekeepers it has been left to the nation which contributed the troops to punish them.

    'Mafia-like organisation'

    New York-based Human Rights Watch, one of the groups which originally made the accusations, criticised the report saying it failed to fully investigate the allegations.
       
    "This was a mafia-like organisation. It is clear they were working as a group and were profiting as a result"


    Anneke Van Woudenberg, Human Rights Watch

    "This was a mafia-like organisation. It is clear they were working as a group and were profiting as a result," Anneke Van Woudenberg, a Congo researcher for HRW, said.
       
    Investigators failed to consider new information available more than a month before the final report was ready, she said.
       
    Kemal Saiki, UN mission spokesman said: "We take note that they are not satisfied with the report. But if that is the case, let them submit the proof of their allegations."
     
    The findings threaten to further tarnish the image of the world body's 17,000-member peacekeeping mission, credited with guiding the central African nation to landmark polls last year after a 1998-2003 war but repeatedly plagued by scandal.
     
    The mission said in July it was investigating separate allegations that Indian peacekeepers traded food and military intelligence with Rwandan Hutu rebels in return for gold.
     
    Another investigation into the alleged torture and killing of Ituri militia members by soldiers from Bangladesh is currently under way.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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