“One case is one case too many”, according to the UN spokesman.
But they keep popping up.
A BBC Worldservice Radio programme reported on 30 November that fresh allegations have emerged concerning UN Peacekeepers — and civilian staff — in Haiti. (See story below.)
The first allegations concerned UN Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then, there were reports that UN humanitarian aid workers in Africa were requiring sexual put-out before distributing rations that were due to displaced people and refugees. Then, there were cases reported in Nepal. Now, it seems, there are cases in Liberia and Haiti.
These cases rightfully receive intense media attention.
Unfortunately, this is what the UN cares about more, and responds to more quickly — much more than to the real problems themselves, no matter how grave.
The UN is now saying that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has “tightened its procedures and put in place conduct and discipline teams, and other ‘investigators’ aimed at enforcing the Secretary-General’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.”
The UN Spokesman reports that since early 2004, “the UN has investigated 319 peacekeeping personnel in all missions.” As a result, he said, the UN has summarily dismissed 18 civilian staff — and these are the persons who, rightly or wrongly, have born the brunt of the UN’s wrath.
The UN’s investigation procedures are still secretive, adversarial, and woefully inappropriate and inadequate, due process does not exist, and its disciplinary procedures are unjust. UN staff members have inadequate defense or protection from a vindictive UN administration that is ready to throw its people to the lions in order to try to look good, and to placate public outrage.Â
On the other hand, the UN is unable to discipline the police or military forces that serve in its peacekeeping operations, because they are part of contingents sent under the authority of their own home governments. So, all the UN can do is to insist that such accused people leave the UN peacekeeping mission, and the country where they were serving. The UN reports that, in the same time frame, from early 2004, “17 police and 144 military personnel have been repatriated.”
The UN Spokesman said, after the BBC report was aired on 30 November, that “The UN is also working with the Member States that contribute troops to ensure that follow-up action is taken and that those guilty of misconduct are disciplined”.
He explained to journalists in New York that “the vast majority – about 80 percent – of the nearly 100,000 people who serve in peacekeeping operations cannot be disciplined by the UN system. They belong to the various troop-contributing countries, and we rely on those countries to discipline their personnel”.
But, that mostly hasn’t happened.
And, the UN says, it continues to take these cases — or, rather, the media attention they arouse — very seriously.
Agence France Presse (AFP) is reporting, in a story datelined London, 1 December, that the BBC, in its story on new allegations of abuse in Haiti, “aired a short film which, among other things, showed three white ‘Westerners’ visiting a bar in Haiti where young women could be taken home with them. The three men each paid for a girl to take home, and left in a clearly marked UN vehicle.”
AFP added that “The broadcaster [BBC] handed over details of the vehicle’s license to the UN mission in Haiti, which contested the assertion that it was a regular occurance. ‘I don’t know if it happens regularly … We have patrols on some of the streets where we know these things happen, and people who we discovered doing that, were punished severely,’ said Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN mission in Haiti. Mulet said that the men, if found guilty, would be sent home to be punished by their home countries.”