//170 UN peacekeepers fired for sexual misconduct

170 UN peacekeepers fired for sexual misconduct

 Friday, February 24, 2006  22:50 IST
NEW YORK: The UN last year fired 170 military and civilian personnel accused of sexual abuses while on duty, the chief of UN peacekeeping said.
Jean-Marie Guehenno said on Thursday six commanders were among those fired because they were responsible for their troops’ violations of UN rules against sexual exploitation.
The task of meting out punishment belongs to governments that contribute troops to the 16 peacekeeping missions around the world, not the UN. Troops caught committing sexual exploitation were fired and sent home.
The 170 personnel were among 269 peacekeepers under investigation in 2005, Guehenno said in a testimony to the UN Security Council, which held a debate on sex crimes by peacekeepers. He did not deliberate on which missions and which countries the troops were from. Meanwhile, a UN  diplomat said, Sexual abuse charges against UN peacekeepers remain unacceptably high due to a persistent “culture of dismissiveness” in field missions.
It could take three to four more years for a reform program to fully take hold, Jordan’s UN ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, said in updating the U.N. Security Council on how the problem was being addressed.
A spike in allegations was “not entirely unexpected” since a system was now in now place to facilitate complaints, he said, and all the reform elements had not yet been implemented. Al-Hussein was asked by the United Nations to recommend reforms after issuing his findings a year ago.
“We are making headway in laying the foundations for the prevention of the problem in the longer term,” Guehenno said.
The United Nations has 18 peacekeeping missions with over 85,000 staff from more than 100 countries and an annual budget of nearly $5 billion. While a reform program was still being implemented, the most effective measure against abuse would be full enforcement of a ban on prostitution, he said.
The largest UN peacekeeping operation — in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the most problems have surfaced — has barred UN troops from fraternising with the local population, but this policy does not apply elsewhere.  The United Nations has accused peacekeepers and civilian staff in Congo of rape, pedophilia and enticing hungry children with food or money in exchange for sex.
The United Nations and its 191 member-states ignored sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and other field staff for decades and only launched a crackdown two years ago, after reports of abuse surfaced in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A program of assistance for abuse victims would soon be proposed, Guehenno said. In addition, legal experts were still studying complex legal issues such as how to deal with UN staff diplomatic immunity and how to sort out enforcement between the United Nations, the countries where abuses occur and the governments contributing troops to UN missions, al-Hussein said.
In any case, “allegations being lodged against UN peacekeeping personnel remain high and unacceptably so,” he said.
Both al-Hussein and Guehenno made a plea for full UN funding for in-house investigators from the Office of Internal Oversight Services, which took control of all sexual abuse inquiries last May.
US Ambassador John Bolton, who scheduled Thursday’s briefing as the Security Council president for February, said he was troubled no OIOS official had been allowed to participate in the meeting.
UN to set up new human rights body
NEW YORK: Diplomats at the UN have wrapped up talks on creating a new human rights body designed to have more legitimacy than the current one, said secretary general Kofi Annan.
A plan for setting up the Human Rights Council, a project championed by the US, was presented in a resolution to the 191-nation General Assembly. If approved, it would set up a new body for promoting and monitoring human rights worldwide.

The four-page draft emerged from months of closed-door negotiations. The aim is to replace the much-criticised UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, which has had countries notorious for human rights violations among its members for decades. Welcoming the end of the negotiations, Annan expressed hope that the new body will have “greater transparency and legitimacy.”