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UN finds 217 sex abuse claims against blue helmets
January 14, 2009
The Associated Press (The new York Times)
GENEVA: A United Nations probe collected 217 allegations of abuse of girls and women by peacekeepers in eastern Congo, from sex with teenagers in the back room of a liquor store to threats of "hacking" victims for cooperating with investigators.
The 2006 investigation found many allegations credible and said evidence suggests "frequent and ongoing" sexual exploitation in the region. But it could only establish proof against one of 75 peacekeepers accused of wrongdoing.
Details of alleged incidents dating back to 2004 are summarized in a "strictly confidential" 17-page document.
It is dated Jan. 30, 2007, and was published Wednesday by whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.org. The report has previously been referred to by human rights organizations and the U.N. itself, but not made public. U.N. officials confirmed its authenticity.
Allegations of sex abuse and other crimes have dogged U.N. peacekeeping missions almost since their inception in 1948; the global body has in recent years adopted a "zero tolerance" approach.
The report cited a number of cases where victims may have been pressured or bribed to keep silent. "One victim informed (investigators) that she had received a message from a peacekeeper that he would 'hack them' if he ever saw them again," the report said.
Ten alleged victims, all girls below 18, were living at a liquor store that doubled as a brothel.
The United Nations mission in Congo has 22,000 soldiers and police from dozens of countries. It began in 1999 during a civil war that brought in neighboring countries seeking to exploit Congo's mineral wealth.
It is now the U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping mission and has recently dealt with a conflict partially fueled by festering ethnic hatred left over from the 1994 slaughter of a half-million Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda.
First appeared in The New York Times. Thanks to The Associated Press and The New York Times for covering this document. Copyright remains with the aforementioned. Contact www.nytimes.com for reprint rights.
- United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Ituri region, Bunia (ID Case No. 0618-05), 30 Jan 2007