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Zero Tolerance Of Sexual Abuse By UN Peacekeepers

Annan Further Enhances ‘Zero Tolerance’ Of Sexual Abuse By UN Peacekeepers

New York, Oct 13 2006 2:00PM

Reinforcing further his “zero tolerance” policy for sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping forces, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed a second group of legal experts to ensure that the rules are binding on contingent members and applicable to all categories of peacekeeping personnel.

The problem surfaced in 2004 with the revelation that what a UN report called a “shockingly large number” of peacekeepers had engaged in such practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with payments for sex sometimes ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. Some victims were abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.

Mr. Annan immediately instituted the policy of zero tolerance and it has been progressively fleshed out ever since to fill in any gaps in the procedures.

The group, which held its first meeting at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday, consists of four experts from Australia, Nigeria, Singapore and the United States, and will work in close cooperation with UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the UN Office of Legal Affairs on two issues.

Troop-contributing countries are now responsible for the conduct of their troops, and UN rules can be made binding only with their agreement. A contingent is not generally bound by the policy on sexual exploitation and abuse until the country has concluded a signed agreement and a significant period of time between deployment and such an accord often means that accountability is unsatisfactory during this gap period, DPKO said.

UN peacekeeping operations may also have several categories of personnel, including civilian, military, and police components, governed by different rules and procedures, it added in a news release. Therefore consistency is needed in the standards of conduct that apply to peacekeeping personnel.

The new group is part of a range of actions recommended by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, Mr. Annan’s Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel, in a report adopted by the General Assembly in June 2005.

It is expected to submit a report to Mr. Annan in November and he will then send it to the General Assembly.

A first group of experts, set up in October last year, prepared a comprehensive report in March, entitled “Ensuring the accountability of United Nations staff and experts on mission with respect to criminal acts committed in Peacekeeping Operations.”

The new group’s members are: Diana Boernstein of the United States, Secretary for the Group, who formerly worked in the UN Office of Human Resources Management; Oluyemi Osinbajo of Nigeria, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice for Lagos; Susan Sellick of Australia, a Principal Legal Officer in the Attorney-General’s Department in Austῲalia; and Lionel Yee of Singapore, Senior State Counsel in the International Affairs Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers in Singapore.

Ends

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