UN Aid Workers In Sex Abuse Allegations
A major sex scandal surrounding alleged mass abuse of West African refugee children has erupted at a United Nations Refugee Agency forum in Geneva.
The allegations are of widespread sexual abuse by aid workers employed by more than 40 agencies operating in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The allegations involve child sex abuse by 67 members including U.N. peacekeeping forces, U.N. relief agencies and national and international non-governmental organisations.
Outrage is building in the international community today as the UNHCR declines to release names of individuals citing " legal concerns and fairness as well as limitations of anecdotal information."
UNHCR also insists that furnishing the names might put child victims still living in camps at risk.
U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the refugee agency's top official Ruud Lubbers, said they are shocked and distressed by the reports of child abuse in the refugee camps and reiterated that there is zero tolerance for such acts.
Lubbers has ordered an immediate investigation and said; " There is absolutely no place in the humanitarian world for those who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable of the world's refugee's."
The U.S. and Norway delegations, along with other senior diplomats, have been joined by a long list of African countries including Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa in expressing outrage.
The U.S. has told the UNHCR top executive committee; "These allegations of abuse by the very people entrusted with care of refugee people are deeply distressing and utterly appalling to all of us."
Deputy UNHCR chief, Mary Ann Wyrsch, conceded to delegates that the tragic testimonies "make it heartbreakingly clear we have failed. We must do more and do it now."
An investigation ordered by Lubbers has not calmed diplomats or the humanitarian community and a U.N. international tribunal covering many geographical areas involving UNHCR looks likely. Some diplomats are calling the alleged sex abuses crimes against humanity.