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UN Investigates Allegations Of Child Prostitution

UN Investigates Allegations Of Child Prostitution Involving Peacekeepers In DR Congo

New York, Aug 17 2006

The United Nations is investigating a suspected child prostitution ring involving its peacekeepers and Government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN mission in the vast African nation said today, as it re-emphasized the world body’s zero tolerance policy against all forms of sexual exploitation.

The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) says that while most patrons are reported to be Congolese soldiers, early victim testimonies suggest that the suspected ring leaders cited the presence of UN troops in the region and their perceived financial resources to incite impressionable young girls to engage in prostitution.

MONUC takes these allegations very seriously and expressed “extreme shock” at the testimonies of the victims of this illegal activity, which allegedly took place in the northeastern province of South-Kivu, the Mission said in a press release.

“The Mission will uphold its staff policy of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and, should the allegations against UN peacekeepers prove well-founded, it will take all necessary disciplinary measures without delay,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

MONUC will now work closely with its local partners to fully investigate the matter, contribute to the eradication of this prostitution ring and to the arrest of its backers by the Congolese authorities, it said. It will also take great care in “ensuring the victims of this intolerable trafficking receive all the protection they need.”

The findings of the investigation will be made public by MONUC once it is over, as well as any disciplinary measures taken against staff if they found to have been involved in this criminal activity, the Mission said.

The UN imposed a policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse by its own staff, particularly peacekeepers in the field, following allegations in 2004 against blue helmets in the DRC. At the time the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) cited payments ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. Some victims were abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.

Since then UN investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse have resulted in the repatriation from the DRC of more than 100 military and 11 police personnel, the summary dismissal of seven civilian personnel, the reprimand of three civilians and the suspension of six civilians, Mr. Dujarric said.

MONUC currently has more than 17,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC helping to keep the peace in the strife-torn country and also assisting in the follow-up to last month’s landmark elections that the UN helped organize.

ENDS

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