UN council clashes over tackling peacekeeper sex abuse

By Carole LANDRY   March 15, 2016 | 02:12 am PT
A US push for action over a surge in troubling allegations of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers has run into resistance from Russia, Egypt and some African countries at the UN Security Council, diplomats said.

The United States presented a draft resolution on Friday that backs a new UN policy of repatriating peacekeepers if no move is made by their country to investigate the serious allegations.

The move followed a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that showed a hike in the number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, from 52 in 2014 to 69 last year. 

US diplomats were hoping for a vote on the measure on Thursday, but after a five-hour meeting to discuss the draft this week, differences remained.

A revised draft seen by AFP on Wednesday "endorses the decision of the secretary-general to repatriate a particular military unit or formed police unit of a contingent when there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse by that unit."

The resolution would request that Ban "replace all military units and/or formed police units" from a peacekeeping country when no steps are taken to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Under UN rules, it is up to the country that contributes the peacekeepers to investigate and prosecute any soldier accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said his government "strongly supports" the draft resolution "to improve UN peacekeeping and crack down on troop-contributing countries whose military or police units have committed a pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse."

Rycroft said he hoped the measure will be adopted "without delay". 

But Russia and Egypt raised concerns, saying that misconduct by peacekeepers should be dealt with by the UN General Assembly rather than the Security Council, several diplomats said.

But one diplomat suggested that may have been a tactic to block the measures altogether because they would impose new obligations on peacekeeping countries.

"It will make a difference. It will change the culture" of inaction within the United Nations, said a Security Council diplomat.

"With this resolution, we'll have a tough policy document from the council which will be a reference for all TCCs (troop-contributing countries)," he added.

A total of 122 countries contribute 125,000 troops and police to the UN's peacekeeping missions worldwide.

US Ambassador Samantha Power has said the council measure will add weight to UN efforts to respond to "this horrific, recurrent problem in peacekeeping missions."

Ban will report to the Security Council on Thursday on his efforts to address the crisis, including his controversial move to identify the nationalities of troops and police who face sex abuse allegations.

Last year, the 69 allegations were against peacekeepers mostly in Africa.

Two missions accounted for over half of the cases: MINUSCA in the Central African Republic and MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo.-AFP

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