UNITED NATIONS — A veteran UN official broke down while speaking to journalists, his voice cracking with emotion as he reported incidents ranging from sexual exploitation of minors to sexual assault committed by UN peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.
“The UN’s doing everything we possibly can to assist the victims and to bring accountability and justice for them and to prevent any subsequent cases from occurring,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support Anthony Banbury at UN headquarters in Manhattan on Friday, pausing several times to bow his head and compose himself.
In announcing a new level of transparency regarding sexual predations by troops sent to help survivors of wars and disasters, Banbury said an upcoming report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would “name names” of countries whose troops were under investigation or found responsible for exploitation of vulnerable populations, including children.
And, Banbury said, UN personnel themselves could face penalties for not reporting such crimes.
Remaining silent “makes them complicit with the perpetrators of those crimes, Banbury said. “Failure to do so is a serious offense within the UN and it’s a moral crime, in my view.”
The revelations come as another UN official highlighted sexual exploitation in the Central African Republic by non-UN troops.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was disturbed about allegations of sexual exploitation by members of foreign military forces dating back to 2014.
“These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated,” he said in a news release.
His office spoke of four girls who were members of the European Union operation called EUFOR/CAR, two of whom said they were raped by EUFOR soldiers from the nation of Georgia, and two others saying they were given payment for sex with other soldiers. A 7-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy reported being abused by French soldiers in 2014. The girl said she had performed oral sex on soldiers in exchange for a bottle of water and a sachet of cookies, UN officials said.
Banbury reviewed the pending cases of accusations against troops serving in the Central African Republic, most of which occurred last year, and include offenses committed by troops from Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Niger and, in the case of Senegal, by police officers.
In all, 10 people from UN forces were accused of committing the offenses. The instances consisted of either sexual relations with minors, sometimes with money being exchanged, or sexual assault.
Banbury also announced that as a report on sexual exploitation among UN troops is issued next month the UN will launch a website that will detail special measures the world body is implementing to stop what Banbury called “a scourge.”
The site will display the countries involved and individual case information and the status of investigations and punishments, if any.
The troops sent to keep peace on UN missions operate under UN mandates but are ultimately disciplined by their own countries’ judicial or military systems.
“We will not rest until we’re down to zero cases and zero victims,” Banbury said.