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French military forces, under the guise of United Nations Peacekeeping, are active in the Central African Republic. According to a confidential report done by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights, those French forces are accused of sexually abusing young refugee boys who were in a camp under their care. The UN mission in Minusca was set up to help displaced people after an outbreak of fighting. The abuse occurred there during the establishment of the camp in 2014.
The report was leaked by a UN aid worker to French authorities, and it took a roundabout path to Britain’s The Guardian. It was given to a group called AIDS Free World who in turn passed it on. The new information contained in that report should rock the foundations of what we know of UN Peacekeeping missions.
Entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces and stamped “confidential” on every page, the report details the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
[Paula Donovan, co-director of the advocacy group Aids Free World] said: “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”
And thus is the crux of the matter. In this arena, the United Nations is no better than Ted Kennedy and the Clintons. This is not the first time abhorrent behavior from UN Peacekeepers – doesn’t matter where they are from – has surfaced. Other forces have been accused of the same activities in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Burundi and Liberia. Some were pedophile rings, some opportunistic sexual abuse, but all such actions are inexcusable.
The whistleblower, a Swedish man by the name of Anders Kompass, a UN aid worker who at the time this report came to him was director of field operations and based in Geneva, passed the report to French authorities because the United Nations was going to do nothing about the abuse. The case is being investigated by UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS), and due to the sensitivity of the issue – and that he leaked the report – Kompass faces termination.
The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.
As it happens, the United Nations senior people found out that Kompass had done this when French officials went to Central Africa to investigate on their own. At first, there were no issues, but about a month ago Kompass was called on the carpet. The UN whistleblower advocates are not amused.
Bea Edwards, of the Government Accountability Project, an international charity that supports whistleblowers, condemned the UN for its witch-hunt against a whistleblower who had acted to stop the abuse of children.
“We have represented many whistleblowers in the UN system over the years and in general the more serious the disclosure they make the more ferocious the retaliation,” said Edwards. “Despite the official rhetoric, there is very little commitment at the top of the organisation to protect whistleblowers and a strong tendency to politicise every issue no matter how urgent.”
In other words this is nothing new, and the United Nations really wants this to go away.
The report itself is explicit in the abuse the young boys received at the hands of the “peacekeepers.” The Guardian piece does not go into detail on what sex acts are involved beyond sodomy, but does explain that the victims were traumatized. Undoubtedly, their trust in the concept of peacekeeping was shaken as well.
Indications are that French authorities are taking this seriously even as the UN tries to sweep allegations of sexual misconduct under the rug.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that the UN Office of Human Rights in Bangui conducted an investigation into abuse claims in late spring of 2014 following serious allegations that French military personnel had sexually abused children before the arrival of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country in September.
The statement said the unedited version of the internal report had been leaked to French authorities in late July, even before it had been passed to senior UN officials, and that a Geneva-based UN official had subsequently been suspended for a “serious breach of protocol”.
As for Anders Kompass, he is still suspended pending an investigation, but not without support from around the globe.