March 25, 2005
Report on sex abuse by peacekeepers calls for DNA testing and child support
March 25, 2005 [The Washington Post]
By Colum Lynch
UNITED NATIONS – A report to the United Nations yesterday proposed forcing peacekeepers to submit to DNA tests to establish whether they have sexually abused women or girls and to ensure that those who father children while on mission pay child support.
The proposal reflects mounting concern that large numbers of so-called peacekeeper babies are being abandoned, tarnishing the reputation of blue-helmeted U.N. force among the communities it was sent to help. The issue has come to light through a series of investigations into sexual exploitation by U.N. personnel in Congo.
The initiative is part of a broader set of reforms aimed at halting an ongoing sexual abuse scandal plaguing U.N. operations in Congo, Liberia, Burundi, Haiti and other parts of the world.
The 41-page report, written by Prince Zeid Hussein, Jordan's U.N. ambassador and a former U.N. peacekeeper, calls for establishing a trust fund for women victimized by U.N. personnel, garnisheeing the wages of peacekeeper offenders and compelling countries that provide peacekeepers to prosecute those responsible for sex crimes.
"The founders of the United Nations did not intend that the privileges and immunities of (U.N. personnel) should constitute a shield from national prosecution for crimes committed in a state hosting a U.N. operation," Zeid wrote.
In July, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked Zeid to travel to Congo, where investigators have documented more than 150 allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. personnel, and undertake a review of U.N. policies on sexual exploitation.
Annan endorsed the report's proposals, and Zeid said he will now focus on persuading governments to support his reforms.
The United Nations' blue helmets, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, have long enjoyed a reputation as peacemakers in some of the world's most dangerous and traumatized countries. The United Nations has about 80,000 peacekeepers on 17 missions. But it has been shadowed by sexual abuse scandals over the past 15 years in Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere.
"The history of peacekeeping has been one of distinguished collective accomplishment and personal sacrifice," Annan wrote in an introduction to the report. But he said "the revelations in 2004 of sexual exploitation and abuse by a significant number of U.N. peacekeeping personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have done great harm to the name of peacekeeping."
The report also calls for the creation of a permanent U.N. investigative team, which would include a lawyer or prosecutor from the offender's country, to investigate sex abuse cases.
And it urges nations that supply peacekeepers to establish special courts-martial at the scene of a crime to prosecute individuals from their own countries.
It also calls for the creation of a data tracking system to follow investigations of abuse and determine whether perpetrators have been prosecuted.
The United Nations does not track the children abandoned by its peacekeepers. But one recent investigation into sexual exploitation in the Congolese town of Bunia cited "a growing number of babies allegedly fathered" by U.N. soldiers and civilians.
Conference to develop new anti-child abuse strategies
March 25, 2005 [AEDT]
Australia - Northern Territory police will work on ways to reduce the level of child abuse at a national conference later this year.
Senior police officers from Australia will attend the conference, which will work on developing strategies to help combat child sex abuse.
Territory Police Commissioner Paul White says there is a strong police focus on reducing crimes against children.
"It's an insidious crime and we need to do all that we can to eradicate it and to provide the greatest protection possible for the children of our community," he said.
Commissioner White says technological advances have made it necessary for police to develop new measures to target criminals.
"The Internet, for all the good things it does, can also facilitate some types of crime that perhaps we haven't seen the level of before," he said.
"Child pornography is probably a good example of that, where the Internet is used or... abused or misused."