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Sex abuse by UN peacekeepers described in 41-page report

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday released a 41-page report listing 69 allegations of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in 2015. It also outlined 45 measures to combat it, including greater transparency, assisting victims, harsher punishment and better prevention.

For the past year, peacekeepers’ misdeeds in the Central African Republic have skyrocketed relative to those at other UN missions.

“We are fully committed to addressing the deplorable situation in MINUSCA,” said Atul Khare, UN under-secretary-general for field support, during a briefing in Manhattan, using an acronym for the UN Mission in Central African Republic.

“The heartbreaking events that have come to light in the Central African Republic are a stark reminder that we must redouble our efforts to curb this scourge and that we depend on a strong partnership with member states to do so,” he added.

Khare said that though the tally is higher than the 47 instances reported in 2014, fully 22 of the 69 instances reported in 2015 occurred in Central African Republic. The report was released a few weeks after seven fresh allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were reported by peacekeepers in Central African Republic, where the UN has a peacekeeping mission consisting of nearly 11,000 troops.

Khare added that the trend worldwide among peacekeepers exploiting the people they are charged to protect is on a downward track: There were 85 allegations five years ago and 340 as recently as 10 years ago.

“It is greatly distressing when protectors, in rare instances, turn predators,” he said in an interview with UN media.

Troops who are charged with crimes may undergo tribunals in and are disciplined by their own countries, if at all, and not by the United Nations itself. The low level of prosecutions in the past has frustrated observers and UN officials who conclude that many abusers act with impunity.

The report issued Friday is the UN’s most comprehensive attempt to rein in troops whose predatory actions constitute a paradox for an organization designed to relieve the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“Of the 69 allegations of [sexual exploitation and abuse] for peacekeeping, it is very concerning that approximately 70 percent of investigations are marked as pending,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. “Given the unimaginable suffering of victims around the world, this is outrageous.”

Power urged countries to finish their investigations into misconduct within the six-month time frame recommended in the report and said the United States has drafted a resolution to present to the UN Security Council to add teeth to the measures outlined in the report.

“The secretary-general has taken a laudable and critical step toward transparency by reporting the nationality of individuals facing credible allegations of SEA so the world can know which countries are responsible for investigating and, if necessary, prosecuting their personnel, and can track their progress,” she added.

Quoting remarks Ban made recently at a meeting with the African Union, Khare said: “We are all deeply ashamed and horrified over the damage that has been done when peacekeepers abuse and exploit vulnerable people. The appalling acts of a few undermine the dedicated work of many.”

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