Is U.N. Fit to Investigate Sex Crime Allegations Against Peacekeepers?

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Should the United Nations lead the investigation into alleged sexual abuses in the Central African Republic by its own peacekeepers?

A former investigator for the United Nations, who had prior abuse cases, and AIDS-Free World, a group in the forefront of exposing abuses, think absolutely not.

Peacekeepers have been accused of dozens of sexual abuse allegations in the African nation over the past couple of years.

Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue campaign for AIDS-Free World, said that the United Nations should not act like a law enforcement agency.

“The U.N. should recuse itself from assessing the crime and determining who should hold responsibility and be accountable for those crimes,” she added.

In response, U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said, “I would disagree respectfully.” He said “extreme care” has been taken in dealing with alleged victims of the sexual abuses.

But, the United Nations might risk “retraumatizing victims,” Donovan said, especially if it “grills” them over their experiences one more time.

Dujarric countered in New York that “extreme care” has been taken in dealing with alleged victims of the sexual abuses.

“The last thing anyone wants to do is to victimize these young women … a second time,” Dujarric said.

Almost 100 Girls Interviewed

UNICEF has just finished interviewing 98 girls a little over three weeks ago, but other U.N. agencies and the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic are planning on interviewing them again, Donovan told reporters in a global webcast briefing.

Last Tuesday, a U.N. official said that more than 100 victims said they were sexually abused by U.N. peacekeepers and non-U.N. forces.

Yasmin Sooka, a former member of a U.N.-appointed panel that looked into earlier abuses, said independent experts should be employed and deployed to the Central Africa Republic whenever allegations are renewed. Follow-up investigations into future allegations should be conducted by a panel independent from the United Nations.

Jane Holl Lute, U.N. special coordinator on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, just concluded an assessment trip in the Central African Republic.

After meeting with troops in Bambari, Lute said that soldiers must “look after each others’ behavior and look after each others’ performance” the same way they look after their health and welfare.

The first trial of three CAR peacekeepers began last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Donovan said that the trial can provide a glimpse of how the abuses can be easily forgotten once peacekeepers are indicted in their own countries.

“These soldiers are put on trial without facing their accusers,” she said. Sooka agreed that trials should happen in the country with the violations take place.

The United Nations has increasingly demanded more justice and accountability from member countries when their own troops are accused of abusing people they were supposed to protect.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “horror and disgust” at the allegations Monday.

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