Global perspective Human stories

East Timor: UN looks into allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers

East Timor: UN looks into allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers

An investigation by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has found "strong grounds" that an alleged act of sexual misconduct by UN soldiers occurred in the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi last May, the peacekeeping operation said today.

"The investigation also brought to light other alleged acts of sexual misconduct by UN soldiers in Oecussi and these will also be thoroughly investigated," UNTAET said in a statement issued in the capital, Dili.

The UN mission carried out its investigation after receiving reports of alleged sexual misconduct by UN soldiers in Oecussi on the night of 27 May. In accordance with UN policy, a board of inquiry was also set up, comprising a representative from the battalion of the troop-contributing country and two members of the UNTAET peacekeeping force.

UNTAET's probe will be followed by an investigation by the East Timor Prosecutor-General's office, with cooperation and participation of the authorities of the troop-contributing country in question.

In another development, the UN has decided to permit the return of staff members to specific areas of West Timor, in order to conduct emergency or humanitarian relief operations. Hundreds of aid staff had been evacuated from West Timor following the murders of three relief workers from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by militia men last September in Atambua.

The move follows the recommendations of a UN inter-agency security assessment mission that was in West Timor from 8 to14 July. According to a UN spokesman, the decision to permit the staff's return is subject to the completion of an agreement specifying security responsibilities with the Government of Indonesia.

In other news, some 700 vehicles have been registered in Dili during the seven weeks since the registration process began, with more than $20,000 in revenue collected, UNTAET said today.

"This is an important step in curbing lawlessness and showing the authority of the State to those who got used to thinking that this is a free for all," said Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of UNTAET. He noted that the registration complemented existing laws related to the administration of justice and enhanced the rule of law by supporting the police in enforcing vehicle controls and traffic laws.