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Peacekeepers Must Adhere To Conduct Standards

In Africa, Annan Stresses That Peacekeepers Must Adhere To Conduct Standards


Meeting African leaders at a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan sounded the alarm about peacekeepers who abuse civilians and reiterated his call for swift punishment of such egregious behaviour.

During a press briefing following the meeting, Mr. Annan said that he has been emphasizing "to Africa's leaders and people that I expect the very highest standards of professionalism and conduct from the tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers deployed in different parts of the continent." He said he was "proud" of the contributions they have made to the promotion of stability in several countries in Africa, and paid tribute to those blue helmets who have lost their lives in the service of peace. "I am deeply saddened to say, however, that an ugly stain is left on these heroic efforts by the appalling misconduct of a minority of peacekeepers," he said, repeating his outrage over revelations that UN personnel in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have sexually abused and exploited Congolese children.

"This cannot stand. We cannot tolerate even one UN peacekeeper victimizing the most vulnerable among us."

The allegations are being investigated thoroughly. One former civilian staff member of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) is now in detention in his home country facing charges. Another is no longer in the UN's employ.

The Secretary-General has appealed to the 20 top troop-contributing countries to ensure that swift disciplinary action and, where warranted, prosecutions are initiated whenever their military or police are found to have committed abuses.

"The time has come to overhaul our entire training, disciplinary, and investigative regimes to ensure that we do not again experience this abomination in any of our missions," he said. "I will be counting on the support of Member States in the coming months to help bring this about, and to treat this issue with utmost se certainly do."

Mr. Annan also said he is studying the report of an independent commission probing whether genocide has been committed in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

While not revealing its contents, he said he would transmit the report to the Security Council and voiced confidence that the 15-member body "will give most serious consideration to its recommendations." He noted that it is already clear that "serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights have taken place and this cannot be allowed to stand."

Sanctions against Sudan, he added, "should still be on the table." The Secretary-General set up the five-member panel of experts in response to a Security Council resolution. The independent commission is mandated to "investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable."

The African Union currently has more than 1,000 troops monitoring the situation in Darfur. Mr. Annan today said that number is expected to rise to up to 3,500 by February.

"We at the UN intend to work with them very closely and give the assistance and support that we can," he said.

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