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Secretary-General alarmed by reports of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in Sudan

Secretary-General alarmed by reports of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in Sudan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Voicing deep concern at media reports that United Nations peacekeepers in southern Sudan have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of locals, including children, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon soundly denounced the practice while pointing out that the world body’s own investigations have already resulted in the dismissal of four blue helmets there.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban emphasized that “the UN standard on this issue is clear – zero tolerance, meaning zero complacency and zero impunity.”

He said the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was examining the substance of the press reports to determine if the allegations are new or refer to existing cases under investigation.

“It is the UN’s policy to treat credible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse as serious offences to be investigated by the Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS),” the statement said.

The statement added that OIOS already has a team based permanently in Sudan and that four UNMIS peacekeepers have been sent home over the past year as a result of the Office’s investigations.

“The UN is working closely with local authorities and all operational partners, including our troop-contributing countries, to ensure that UN personnel adhere to the highest standards of accountability. When necessary, strong disciplinary action will be taken.”

The problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by blue helmets surfaced in 2004, when a UN report found that a “shockingly large number” of peacekeepers had engaged in such practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with payments for sex sometimes ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. The victims included many abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.

The UN responded with forceful policy decisions and disciplinary action. By the end of last November, 319 peacekeeping personnel in all missions had been investigated. These probes resulted in the summary dismissal of 18 civilians and the repatriation on disciplinary grounds of 17 police and 144 military personnel.