United Nations: The UN has said it is the responsibility of member states to ensure they impose the "strongest disciplinary and criminal sanctions" against any of their peacekeepers found guilty of sexual exploitation.
"We count on all member states to live up to their responsibilities to expeditiously bring to justice those who have committed crimes while serving with the UN and to impose the strongest of disciplinary and criminal sanctions warranted under their national laws," Atul Khare, a senior Indian diplomat who is Undersecretary-General for Field Support said in his briefing to the General Assembly here yesterday on recent allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers.
Khare's comments come in the backdrop of reports of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic by UN and French troops and local armed groups.
The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General has said that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic announced on March 25 that it had received new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Most of the allegations relate to Burundian and Gabonese contingents present in the Kemo region between 2013 and 2015, as well as to the separate French Sangaris force stationed in the same region in the same period. Allegations of abuse in other parts of the country are also being investigated.
No Indian peacekeeper was found guilty of any wrongdoing in a new report last month that for the first time identified nationalities of UN peacekeeping personnel involved in sexual abuse against citizens.
As many as 69 allegations of sexual exploitation were received by the UN against its peacekeepers last year, according to the report.
Khare said the "new profoundly disturbing" reports from the peacekeeping missions in Congo and Central African Republic must be swiftly and professionally investigated.
He added that the immediate concern of the department is to provide protection and support to the victims most of whom are "sadly" children, stressing that a victim-centric approach is absolutely essential.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Chef de Cabinet Edmond Mulet reaffirmed the UN's determination to tackle the issue head on and indicated that such violations, if verified, would trigger a decision by Ban to repatriate the units in question.
Mulet said that since last June, reports of sexual exploitation and abuse have continued to come to light in the Central African Republic and in other countries.
"Tragically, the vast majority of the victims are children," he said, adding, however, that "at this stage, these remain reports," which must be verified and investigated swiftly and professionally.
"The Member States have been advised that if there is credible evidence to support the reports, their number would constitute widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse," he said.