Evidence of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers uncovered
BBC World Service has uncovered fresh allegations of the sexual abuse of children by United Nations peacekeepers.
An investigation to be broadcast today (Thursday 30 November 2006) uncovered wide-ranging
accounts including child prostitution and rape from two of the UN's largest
peacekeeping missions, in Haiti and Liberia.
As the UN prepares for a Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by
UN and NGO Personnel next Monday, girls have told the BBC of regular encounters
with peacekeepers where sex is demanded in return for food or money and a senior
official with the United Nations has accepted that the claims are credible.
Allegations have been made from peacekeeping operations across the world that
members of the missions have abused their positions of trust - offering food and
money in exchange for sex with some of the most poor, vulnerable and desperate
people on the planet - many of them children.
Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping
Operations, acknowledges that sexual abuse is widespread.
She says: "We've had a problem
probably since the inception of peacekeeping - problems of this kind of
exploitation of vulnerable populations. My operating presumption is that this is
either a problem or a potential problem in every single one of our missions."
In Haiti a street girl as young as 11 reported sexual abuse by peacekeeping
soldiers, outside the gates of the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.
14-year-old described being abducted from the street at gunpoint and raped inside a
UN naval base two years ago.
Despite detailed medical and circumstantial evidence,
this allegation was dismissed by the United Nations for lack of evidence, and the
alleged attacker allowed to return to his home country.
A local NGO worker in Liberia, who did not wish to be named, said: "Peacekeepers are
unfortunately still taking advantage of the situation to sexually exploit young
girls; reports about sexual abuse involving peacekeeping are still coming to us.
The acts are still rampant despite pronouncements that they have been curbed."
However there remain allegations that measures to police and curb misconduct are
nowhere near as strong as they should be.
Sarah Martin, an advocate with the
agency Refugees International, says there remains a "culture of silence" in some
military deployments, and that fear of punishment is currently not enough to ensure
compliance with UN rules.
The report is part of a week of programmes from BBC World Service, Generation Next,
which explores the real issues in the world according to under-18s.
The full report can be heard on Thursday 30 November on Assignment on BBC World
Service at 9.05am (GMT) and Newsnight on BBC Two at 10.30pm.
BBC World Service Press Office