Image: U.N. peacekeepers take a break as they patrol along a street during the presidential election in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Media Coulibaly
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council on Friday backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recommendations to repatriate peacekeeping units where there are grounds to suspect their personnel have engaged in widespread sexual exploitation and abuse.
The United Nations last week reported 99 allegations that U.N. staff took part in sexual exploitation or sexual abuse in 2015. That marked a sharp increase from the 80 allegations in 2014 across the U.N. system. The majority of cases in 2015 – 69 in all – involved personnel in 10 peacekeeping missions.
The 15-nation council adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution endorsing Ban’s recommendations, and also said that if a country fails to either investigate allegations of sexual abuse, fails to hold perpetrators accountable or does not inform the secretary-general of actions, its troops should be repatriated.
There were 14 votes in favour of the resolution. There were no votes against, though Egypt abstained.
The resolution expressed “deep concern about the serious and continuous allegations and under-reporting of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers and non-United Nations forces, including military, civilian and police personnel.”
During the drafting process, council diplomats said the U.S. text had encountered resistance from Russia, Egypt and some African countries that contribute troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions, who disliked the terms for repatriating troops accused of sex crimes or whose countries do not investigate allegations.
The council struck down a proposed amendment by Egypt that would have watered down the criteria for repatriating troops. Egypt’s proposed amendment received only five votes in favour and was opposed by nine council members, including the United States.
Egypt, Russia and the others objected that the repatriation criteria amounted to collective punishment, an analysis U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council was not the case.
She said the adopted version of the resolution highlighted “our responsibility to address the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping, which has been allowed to persist for far too long.”
Most recently there have been dozens of abuse accusations against international troops in Central African Republic (CAR). The United Nations pledged to crack down on allegations of abuse to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.
The previous head of the U.N. mission in Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, resigned last August and some 800 Congolese peacekeepers were repatriated last month. The U.N. report from last week said there were seven accusations of sexual abuse against Congolese troops in CAR last year.
The United Nations currently has 106,000 troops and police serving in 16 peacekeeping missions. The United States pays for more than 28 percent of the more than $8.2 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Andrew Hay)
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