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Monday 26 September 2016

America urges vote to confront sex abuse by UN troops

Published 11/03/2016 | 03:16

Samantha Power made an impassioned plea for a UN Security Council vote (AP)
Samantha Power made an impassioned plea for a UN Security Council vote (AP)

America has called for a vote on what would be the first United Nations Security Council resolution to confront the escalating problem of sexual abuse by the world body's peacekeeping troops.

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Such a measure was critical to help end sex crimes, especially against children, the UN's US ambassador Samantha Power said.

In an impassioned speech, she pressed the UN to go further and provide information on why numerous cases were not investigated.

She also criticised the UN peacekeeping department for not quickly repatriating a Congolese contingent which had seven allegations of sex crimes in 2015, instead waiting until February for "operational reasons".

In the first two months of this year, Ms Power said there were eight new allegations against the same unit, seven involving children.

"How can we let this happen? All of us?" she told security council members, her voice rising with emotion.

"The experience should force us all to ask, what if those soldiers were sent home sooner? How many kids could have been spared suffering unspeakable violations that no child should ever have to endure, and that they will have to carry with them for the rest of their lives?"

The exchanges took place at a security council meeting where UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon presented his recent report detailing the 69 allegations in 2015, which for the first time named the countries of alleged perpetrators.

Since the beginning of the year, the UN peacekeeping department said there had been 25 additional cases.

The final draft of the resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, endorses Mr Ban's decision to repatriate military or police units "where there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse".

It also asks the UN chief to replace contingents where allegations are not properly investigated and perpetrators are not held accountable.

All 15 council members stressed that perpetrators should be punished, but Senegal's UN ambassador Fode Seck and others stressed that the security council "must ensure individuals do not fall victim to collective punishment".

Egypt's UN ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said the issue should be addressed by the General Assembly, where all nations are represented, but whose resolutions are not legally binding, unlike the 15-member security council.

He also argued that the issue shouldn't be used "as a tool to attack troop contributing countries" or undermine their reputation and significant sacrifices.

Russia's deputy UN ambassador Petr Iliichev said disciplining peacekeepers was not part of the security council's mandate to maintain international peace and security and it would be "wrong to set the council up against the General Assembly".

He stressed that countries contributing troops must play "the key role" in reducing and eliminating "these shameful statistics".

Mr Ban apologised for the growing sexual abuse scandal in peacekeeping operations that has tarnished the reputation of the UN and defended his decision to "name and shame" the home countries of alleged perpetrators "to improve their way of conducting their business".

He also pledged to speed up investigations, three dating back to 2013, and to expand the information about recent sexual abuse and exploitation cases on a new UN website to cover all outstanding allegations.

Press Association

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