Demands Consequences for Countries that Fail to Punish Troops for Misconduct
WASHINGTON – At a hearing to examine the United Nations’ response to sexual abuse among peacekeeping forces, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed disgust over continued reports of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers and the failure of the United Nations to provide accountability. He suggested the U.S. should consider withholding peacekeeping funds or other forms of assistance when troop-contributing countries fail to punish those responsible for misconduct.
“If I heard right now that a U.N. peacekeeping mission was going to North Chattanooga today, which is where my wife is, I would be on the first plane out of here to go home and protect her,” said Corker. “I am disgusted by the actions of U.N. peacekeepers that American taxpayers are paying for, and I hope that somehow we’ll figure out a way to reel this in.”
The committee heard testimony today from U.S. Department of State officials who oversee U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions, a U.N. whistleblower who exposed efforts to silence reporting of peacekeeping abuse allegations, and the Better World Campaign, an arm of the United Nations Foundation that advocates for U.S support of the U.N. The United States currently provides nearly 30 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, which is more than the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council combined. In spite of a 2005 U.N. Secretary General report declaring a “zero-tolerance” policy for SEA, the U.N. Security Council only recently adopted a resolution that provides more authority to repatriate peacekeeping troops where there is credible evidence of abuse.
While the State Department officials pointed to a renewed focus by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to address this ongoing crisis, they described recent steps to improve transparency and accountability regarding abuse allegations as “necessary” but “insufficient” to end the impunity.
“Clearly, given the shocking scale and gravity of the SEA incidents being reported from CAR and other missions, these actions are necessary but by themselves are not sufficient to address the crisis,” said U.S. Ambassador Isobel Coleman. “The U.N.’s recent commitments to greater transparency and accountability must result in a long-overdue sea change that ends impunity. Our work is not done. We continue to make it our highest priority both in New York at the U.N. and bilaterally to see perpetrators held to account and sorely lacking integrity restored to peacekeeping.”
U.N. whistleblower Miranda Brown, a former official with the U.N. Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of structural impediments within the U.N. system that discourage accurate reporting of abuse among peacekeepers and fail to properly protect victims and U.N. staff who take risks to do so. Brown’s former supervisor at the U.N., Anders Kompass, was initially suspended pending an investigation after he disclosed to French authorities an internal U.N. report that described shocking allegations of child sexual abuse perpetrated by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR). Brown, who lost her job following subsequent disclosures regarding Kompass’s treatment, argued recommendations from an expert panel that examined the CAR allegations will fail to adequately address claims of abuse as long as flaws in the reporting mechanisms remain in place.
“While the U.N. Secretary General has announced an intention to implement the recommendations made by the External CAR Panel and has announced measures for tackling sexual abuse in peacekeeping, these do not address the structural barriers to reporting, nor provide protections for U.N. staff who report wrongdoing by the institution,” Brown said. “These measures do not address the U.N. internal accountability for abuse of authority towards staff members.”