UN chief ready to throw out peacekeepers over sex abuse claims
The warning was among a series of measures unveiled by the UN chief at a meeting with the 124 countries that contribute troops and police to UN peace missions worldwide.
“I will not hesitate to repatriate entire contingents or terminate deployments where there are failures in command and control, evidence of widespread or systematic violations, or when member-states fail repeatedly to respond to requests for investigations or to investigate promptly,” Ban said.
The United Nations has been badly shaken by a string of sexual abuse claims targeting its peacekeepers, in particular in the Central African Republic, where many of the 17 allegations involve underage victims as young as 11.
Ban has moved to toughen the UN response to the crisis in peacekeeping but is heavily reliant on troop-contributing countries to do their part in confronting the serious misconduct allegations.
Ban last month took the unprecedented step of firing the mission chief of the peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic over the wave of accusations, but new allegations have continued to surface.
In his address to the peacekeeping nations, Ban outlined seven measures that he said would help stamp out sexual abuse such as suspending pay to soldiers who face serious allegations.
The United Nations pays peacekeeping countries a stipend of about $1,000 per month per soldier who serves in their missions.
Ban proposed that the money from the suspended pay be transferred to a trust fund to help victims, a measure that is bound to meet some resistance from contributors.
– DNA samples –
Among the most controversial measures is a proposal to begin collecting DNA samples of peacekeepers to help with investigations and setting up courts-martial in the host country to allow justice to be witnessed on site.
Peacekeeping nations must take “prompt and determined action” to prosecute their soldiers and ensure that the punishment is severe, Ban argued.
“I am frustrated that too few cases are prosecuted and sanctions are not nearly strong enough.”
Under UN rules, it is up to member states to investigate and prosecute their soldiers who face serious accusations while serving under the UN flag.
The UN chief warned he was ready to name specific countries whose troops are accused of serious misconduct, a measure that troop-contributing nations have strongly opposed in the past.
In toughening the response to the sex abuse scandals, the UN chief is walking a fine line at a time when peacekeeping missions, in particular in Africa, rely on contingents with varying degrees of military discipline.
For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo military, which is on the UN list of children’s rights violators, is serving in the MINUSCA force in the Central African Republic.
Ban called for stronger vetting of soldiers and warned that any troops not meeting UN standards will be sent home at the country’s expense.
More than 105,000 troops and police serve in the United Nations’ 16 peacekeeping missions worldwide.
Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India and Pakistan are among the top troop-contributing nations.