World

Peacekeeping overhaul needed to counter sexual abuse: UN

A UN report on peacekeeper sex abuse describes the UN military arm as deeply flawed and recommends overhauling how crimes are prosecuted

A United Nations report on peacekeeper sex abuse describes the UN military arm as deeply flawed and recommends overhauling how crimes are prosecuted and victims helped.

The report says UN peacekeepers need to be punished for sexual abuse and says a fund should be set up to assist women and girls left pregnant, according to the report's author, Prince Zeid al Hussein, Jordan's ambassador to the UN.

The issue gained media attention after it was found earlier this year that peacekeepers in Congo had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money.

Thursday's report also claims abuse occurred in missions ranging from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor and West Africa.

Zeid described in his report a troubled system where peacekeepers have often "failed to grasp the dangers confronting them, seduced by day-to-day conditions that can be viewed as benign."

"There are at least some people in peacekeeping who perceive it as almost a form of camping," said Zeid, a former peacekeeper himself.

"You can forget how wounded and traumatized the people you're working with are. You can make assumptions that you're entering into a normal consensual relationship if you're a civilian staff member and often those assumptions may be misguided."

The UN could withhold salaries for peacekeepers found guilty of sexual abuse and put the money in a fund to care for their victims or the babies they father.

"There is a need to try to ensure that the fathers, who can be identified, perhaps through blood or DNA testing, bear some financial responsibility for their actions," wrote Zeid.

Other recommendations in the report, made public today, include trying perpetrators in the country where the crime occurred or having nations refer cases to national courts for prosecution.

Currently, UN troops and employees accused of wrongdoing are sent home to be dealt with by their own government but are often never punished.

The report also calls for the UN to form an investigative arm to pursue misconduct allegations.

now