Dozens of United Nations peacekeepers implicated in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation have been disciplined and punished, a spokesperson for the world body said.
The UN has imposed a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse and exploitation by its peacekeepers, and senior officials have reiterated in recent years that this means there is no impunity for blue helmets who engage in such practices.
UN spokesperson Michele Montas said that, since January, troop-contributing countries have reported that 33 military personnel implicated in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation while serving in UN operations have been disciplined and punished.
This is according to the Department of Field Support (DFS), which added that the punishments included forced retirement, withdrawal of officer’s commission, various lengths of imprisonment and outright dismissal.
Last year, two military personnel received such disciplinary action and there were 15 such cases the year before, Montas told reporters in New York.
In addition, disciplinary action was taken, over the past three years, against 20 military personnel for cases involving other forms of misconduct, such as negligent loss of firearms, traffic-related violations and fraud or theft.
Some of the cases involved peacekeepers who served in Haiti, Lebanon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which hosts the largest UN peacekeeping mission worldwide.
Deployment of UN peacekeepers is at a record high, with more than 113 000 personnel serving in 18 operations on four continents.
While not providing details about those engaged in misconduct, Montas said there have been a number of cases where people have been repatriated, with follow-up action by troop-contributing countries.
“When allegations of misconduct are substantiated against any military or police serving in UN peacekeeping, the UN repatriates the individuals concerned and then bans them from participating in future peacekeeping operations.”
She added that the UN tries to pursue cases of any misconduct as far as it can. Beyond that, national tribunals and national courts have a role to play.
“The UN is trying to get troop contributors to do more in prosecuting and punishing their nationals who engage in misconduct,” said the spokesperson.
Montas stressed that there has been an increase in the number of requests and responses to those requests in dealing with the issue.
In 2009, the UN sent 112 requests for action taken concerning all forms of misconduct, including but not limited to sexual exploitation and abuse, and received 14 responses as of 3 November.
By comparison, she noted, the UN sent 192 such requests in 2008 and received six responses on action taken, while 146 requests were made and nine responses received in 2007.