The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Haiti is one of the longest running UN missions and has been marred by scandal. The mission, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, began in 2004 after the elected president was overthrown in a coup, and the country descended into chaos.
The UN was embroiled in significant scandal when the introduction of a destructive strain of cholera by UN peacekeepers in 2010 killed 9,000 and infected hundreds of thousands. Recently, the Associated Press has reported that approximately 134 UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uruguay engaged in a child sex ring between 2004 to 2007. Nine children were involved, the youngest was just 12 years of age. The children were lured with the promise of candy and small amounts of cash. Numerous women have added their voices, asserting that they too were raped by peacekeepers. The UN report obtained by Associated Press proves that the UN had knowledge of the incidents.
Former Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has recommended that the accused face trial in their country of origin, while the UN has already suspended payment to peacekeepers facing viable allegations. However, the accused have faced no repercussions and all nations continue to contribute troops to future missions.
This is not the first allegation of sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers, with high-profile cases in both Bosnia in the 1990s and more recently, in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The report was part of a wider Associated Press investigation into sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers and personnel. It was found that there were up to 2,000 cases of alleged sexual abuse, with 300 involving children, have taken place globally over the last 12 years. People living in conflict or disaster situations are particularly vulnerable, due to a scarcity of resources, unstable housing, displacement, and the lack of support networks. It has previously been reported that peacekeepers have attempted to legitimize non-consensual sex through the provision of cash, food, or other goods. Upon receipt of these goods, sex becomes “transactional,” thereby making it difficult for the victim to prove the true nature of the interaction. Equally as concerning is the violation of the duty of care by personnel who are designated to protect.
The UN has repeatedly been criticized for their failure to adequately address continued allegations of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers and other UN personnel. As peacekeepers are seconded to the United Nations, the organization has no legal jurisdiction to punish perpetrators who must instead be tried in their country of origin. Often, these nations are not willing to proceed with the prosecutions or lack either the funds or sufficient evidence. Ultimately, this leaves personnel accused of engaging in sexual abuse to be redeployed on future missions, again tasked with the protection of vulnerable people.
The UN withdrawal from Haiti is unrelated to the allegations and is instead the sign of both positive changes in Haiti, including stabilization after recent elections and pressure to reduce UN spending after the Trump administration announced it was reducing its funding to the UN. As such, a smaller deployment of 1,275 UN police personnel will remain for six months after the withdrawal to continue monitoring the situation.
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