Peacekeepers As Predators: UN Let Child Rapists Off Scot-Free
In Haiti, at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers sexually abused nine children for three years. None was arrested. None went to jail.
A new explosive Associated Press report details the sex ring, which ran from 2004 to 2007. Citing an internal United Nations report it obtained, the AP paints a disturbing picture of what the international body can get away with -- even when faced with overwhelming evidence.
The men who came from a far-away place and spoke a strange language offered the Haitian children cookies and other snacks. Sometimes they gave them a few dollars. But the price was high: The Sri Lankan peacekeepers wanted sex from girls and boys as young as 12.
"I did not even have breasts," said a girl, known as V01 — Victim No. 1. She told U.N. investigators that over the next three years, from ages 12 to 15, she had sex with nearly 50 peacekeepers, including a "Commandant" who gave her 75 cents. Sometimes she slept in U.N. trucks on the base next to the decaying resort, whose once-glamorous buildings were being overtaken by jungle.
Justice for victims like V01 is rare. An Associated Press investigation of U.N. missions during the past 12 years found nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other personnel around the world — signaling the crisis is much larger than previously known. More than 300 of the allegations involved children, the AP found, but only a fraction of the alleged perpetrators served jail time.
The UN doesn't allow host countries to mete out punishment to peacekeepers, leaving that to the home countries from which they came. But according to the AP, few countries bother with prosecuting those accused of wrongdoing while working for the UN.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has demanded more accountability, announcing in last month new measures to weed out sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers."Let us declare in one voice: We will not tolerate anyone committing or condoning sexual exploitation and abuse. We will not let anyone cover up these crimes with the U.N. flag," Guterres said.
But the details from the AP report, found here, are beyond disturbing.
In one particularly grim case in Haiti, a teenage boy said he was gang-raped in 2011 by Uruguayan peacekeepers who filmed the alleged assault on a cellphone. Dozens of Haitian women also say they were raped, and dozens more had what is euphemistically called "survival sex" in a country where most people live on less than $2.50 a day, the AP found.
Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph has been trying to get compensation for victims of a deadly cholera strain linked to Nepalese peacekeepers that killed an estimated 10,000 people. Now, he is also trying to get child support for about a dozen Haitian women left pregnant by peacekeepers.
"Imagine if the U.N. was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera," Joseph said in Port-au-Prince. "Human rights aren't just for rich white people."
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker agrees. The Tennessee Republican, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been calling for reforms in the United Nations. He may well get them under President Donald Trump, whose administration has proposed a 31 percent reduction to the U.S. foreign aid and diplomacy budget. Corker and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley want a review of all missions.
Corker recalled his disgust at hearing of the U.N. sexual abuse cases uncovered last year in Central African Republic.
"If I heard that a U.N. peacekeeping mission was coming near my home in Chattanooga," he told AP, "I'd be on the first plane out of here to go back and protect my family."