By Arul Louis
United Nations, Mar 5 (IANS): As the UN vowed firm action to root out sex abuse by peacekeepers, the Indian blue helmets have received a clean chit for 2015.
Calling the total of 69 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse recorded against peacekeepers last year an "abomination", Under Secretary-General Atul Khare told reporters Friday, "We will never, never agree to protectors turning into predators."
Twenty-two cases involved minors. Khare said that he felt "personally hurt" when he read about the case of a 13-child who became pregnant when she was raped by a peace-keeper. "I am ashamed to call myself a peacekeeper on some of these days when I see cases like this."
Of the total of 99 sexual exploitation and abuse allegations across all the units of the UN during 2015 compiled in a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon one was from the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. That allegation was "unsubstantiated," the report said.
For the first time the UN identified the nationalities of the peacekeepers facing complaints and there were no allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against the 7,798 Indian peacekeepers.
A similar report last year did not identify the nationalities of those involved the 51 allegations in 2014. But another report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services said there were three substantiated cases of sexual exploitation or abuse by Indian peacekeepers between 2010 and 2013.
India has declared that it would not tolerate sex abuse among the ranks of its peacekeepers. After a spate of such cases rocked the peacekeeping operations last year and this year, India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations last month, "We have a zero tolerance policy on SEA (sexual exploitation and abuse) cases and would like that there is zero tolerance on such issues across the UN too."
The 69 cases last year show a sharp increase from the 52 in 2014. Khare attributed it to the 22 cases -- the most of any -- reported last year by the mission in the Central African Republic which began operations only in September 2014.
However, there has been a steady, significant decline since 2007, when 127 cases were reported. In the first two months of this year, though, 25 cases were reported.
The UN differentiates the two categories of offences: Exploitation is when someone provides materials or other favours in exchange for sex and abuse occurs when force or intimidation is used.
Khare said that a trust fund was being set up to help the victims of abuse and one source to fund it would be docking the salaries of the offenders.
Outlining in his report measures to end the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse, Ban said he is "resolute in ensuring ever more effective means to prevent and address the profound betrayal through such acts by United Nations personnel against the people they are charged with protecting".
He called on countries to expeditiously try alleged offender and, if necessary, amend laws to extend national jurisdiction to places where their personnel are deployed. Another suggestion was to hold courts-martial in the place where the abuse is said to have taken place.
Other suggestions included enforcing strict rules against socialisation with local people, isolating the peacekeepers' camps and imposing curfews, and screening troops being deployed.
The UN is to introduce a multi-lingual e-learning programme on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Ban said evidence should be collected expeditiously and countries should provide the DNA of personnel accused of exploitation or abuse.
In the past India has tested peacekeepers when allegations abuse arose from a deployment in Congo during 2007-08.