Sierra Leone: UN mission disturbed by report of child abuse in refugee camps
Expressing grave concern about a recent report of widespread abuse of children in West African refugee camps, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) today said that protection of children’s rights was a top priority for UN peacekeepers.
“UNAMSIL wishes to state that all military contingents serving under it receive systematic training on women’s and children’s rights as part of their induction,” Behrooz Sadry, the Mission’s acting chief said in a statement released today in Freetown. “Codes of conduct are also distributed to all military and civilian personnel of UNAMSIL, and explained to each individual by human rights officers, child protection advisers and commanding officers.”
The report issued earlier this week by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a non-governmental organization Save the Children UK alleges that children are subjected to “extensive” sexual exploitation in refugee camps in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - much of it allegedly perpetrated by workers locally employed by national and international NGOs as well as by UN agencies, including UNHCR.
The report also contains charges of similar exploitation by UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, and Mr. Sadry noted that a team of investigators is currently in the country to look into the claims that he described as “deeply disturbing.”
“UNAMSIL would welcome concrete information with regard to any offences that may have been committed by its peacekeepers that would enable an investigation to be carried out and appropriate action taken,” Mr. Sadry said.
He stressed that the Mission maintained Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s policy of “zero tolerance for any such acts of abuse perpetrated by anyone employed by or affiliated with the UN.” Mr. Sadry noted that the Secretary-General had directed that the allegations contained in the report be investigated as thoroughly and urgently as possible, and that remedial action be taken to strengthen the protection of women and children.