Skip to comments.U.N. Finally Forced to Probe Its Pedophilia Scandal
Posted on 05/07/2002 1:25:02 PM PDT by nickcarraway
U.N. Finally Forced to Probe Its Pedophilia Scandal
NewsMax.com Wires and NewsMax.com
Tuesday, May 7, 2002
GENEVA, Switzerland The United Nations' massive pedophilia scandal has not received 1 percent of the media attention given to the Catholic Church's homosexual priest scandal. Finally some attention is being paid, now that the U.N.'s cover is blown. As world leaders converge on New York for the controversial conference on children this week, U.N. investigators and relief agencies say they are finally trying to stop recurrence of sexual abuse against West African refugee children by U.N. "peacekeepers" and aid workers.
The scale of allegations, partly revealed Feb. 26, sent shock waves through the "international aid community" and led to calls from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and governments for an urgent investigation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Calls were raised for measures to ensure that refugee children were protected worldwide from abuse.
About a half-dozen investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York, plus investigators from the office of the inspector-general of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees, were still examining the allegations, senior U.N. officials told United Press International.
The U.N. investigating team also includes a medical doctor, the same sources said.
It was unclear how long the investigation will last. "We're all waiting for the results of the inquiry to take action," said an official from one of the agencies under investigation.
After formal moves by UNHCR last December, a preliminary OIOS investigation was initiated in January, but it only moved into full gear in March, said a U.N. official.
Not Much Progress
The U.N.'s investigating arm, however, also came under heavy criticism by senior Western diplomats for the slow pace of its work on the ground in the three countries. The limited number of investigators at the oversight office, less than 20, partly explains the grinding pace of the inquiry.
"We can barely cope with the cases that are being referred to us," Dileep Nair, U.N. undersecretary general and chief of OIOS, told UPI.
In 2001, the burdened OIOS had more than 400 cases referred to it ranging from petty to serious alleged breaches linked to U.N. matters.
Some officials close to the investigation reckon a final report could be ready by the end of the month.
Parallel investigations in the field have also been initiated by many of the nearly 40 non-governmental organizations such as Save the Children-UK and Doctors Without Borders.
Brendan Paddy, a spokesman for Save the Children-UK, told UPI on Sunday that the agency has conducted its own investigation and sacked one staff member in Guinea and stopped two community volunteers from participating in its aid work.
Similarly, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders, Rafael Vilasanjuan, told UPI the group has also been conducting an investigation into the allegations but so far "we have not found any concrete evidence.
"If there is any evidence, we will take all the measures." He said Doctors Without Borders had "no tolerance" for such behavior.
In the meantime, U.N. agencies and many of the NGOs were busy at work putting in place new checks and balances in the field to prevent sexual abuse of refugee children.
Some of the measures have included beefing up staff by more than 35 in areas such as UNHCR emergency, protection and community services in the three countries, including 12 solely to respond to sexual exploitation.
Rotation of staff to different camps has also been expanded.
Moreover, the U.N. World Food Program has increased the number of female monitors and held meetings with all staff and NGOs to highlight the agency's "zero tolerance" policy over sexual abuse, said WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.
Reactionary U.N. Knew of Atrocities
However, the United Nations has not always been that proactive on this issue.
A full copy of the joint study sponsored by the UNHCR and SC-UK, obtained by UPI, notes that during debriefing sessions in all three countries:
"UNHCR staff, government representatives and the agency staff, including senior managers, acknowledged that they knew such practices happened. Regrettably, even in situations where such information had been brought to their attention in the past, no action had been taken to monitor or redress the situation."
The number of allegations documented "is a critical indicator of the scale of this problem," it said.
U.N. Workers Among 'Worst Sexual Exploiters of Children'
"Agency workers from the international and local NGOs as well as U.N. agencies were ranked as among the worst sex exploiters of children, often using the very humanitarian aid and services intended to benefit the refugee population as a tool of exploitation."
The assessment team listed sexual allegations and called for further investigation against workers from 42 agencies and 67 individuals.
"The details of these allegations were submitted to UNHCR in confidential lists as the mission was ongoing," the report said.
The U.N. agencies identified included UNHCR and WFP and the international "peacekeepers" from nine countries stationed in Sierra Leone.
United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) battalions whose "peacekeepers" are alleged to be involved in sexual exploitation include those from Britain, Kenya, Ghana, Guinea, India, Nigeria (Ecomog force before 2000), Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zambia.
In addition, the assessment mission report identified staff from 10 NGOs in Liberia, 10 NGOs in Sierra Leone and 16 NGOs in Guinea for alleged sexual abuse.
Besides Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children-UK, other NGOs listed for alleged abuses by their mainly locally employed staff included, among others:
The Red Cross in Trouble Yet Again
The American Refugee Committee; the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/Guinean Red Cross; Lutheran World Service/World Federation; Norwegian Refuge Council; Council of Churches, Sierra Leone; Germany's BMZ; and Medical Relief International (MERLIN); and Family Empowerment Program.
In July 2001, children accounted for about 45 percent of the world's refugees and others of concern assisted by the U.N. refugee agency. The percentage of children, the report said, was even higher in Guinea and Liberia: at 63 percent in Guinea or 426,140; and 50 percent in Liberia, or 33,766.
The full 84-page report, written in January after a six-week mission to the three countries, has not yet been published.
BBC Exposes the Cover-up
It was only after the British Broadcasting Corp. revealed the contents of the assessment mission that UNHCR and Save the Children group revealed some of report's findings and recommendations.
The initial refusal by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK to furnish to other NGOs, confidentially, the names of the alleged 67 individuals created tensions among the normally close-knit "humanitarian community." The UNHCR cited legal concerns, fears about the safety of child victims still living in camps, and the limitations of anecdotal information, for its stance.
After a number of heated closed-door meetings, however, the NGOs were furnished with the confidential information they had been seeking in March.
But humanitarian officials familiar with the brief said many sex abuse victims are afraid to take part in a formal investigation and don't come forward for fear of vengeance and recrimination.
The report notes that most "incidents of sexual violence go unreported," and concludes that the incidence of the problem may be much higher than the numbers cited in the report suggest.
Indeed, sources close to the investigation said early indications were that they had difficulties to get firsthand accounts from victims.
Observations in the report highlight the problems victims face.
"In order for a refugee to make a report, they would have to go through the same persons who themselves are perpetrators of sexual exploitation. Most staff appear to connive to hide the actions of other staff."
Sickening Double Standard
So let's see: Senior U.N. officials knew of the widespread pedophilia. Not only did they not take action against the perpetrators, they covered up the atrocities.
And even after the scandal comes to light, most media give this major news event little or no coverage.
Imagine the screaming headlines and worldwide outrage if the Catholic Church or any other church allowed sexual abuse of children on such a massive scale. Could the media establishment's pro-U.N., anti-religious bias have anything to do with the stunning discrepancy?
Copyright 2002 by United Press International.
America can not longer afford "their" pleasures at taxpayer's expense and our reputations for decency.
The UN is the single greatest institutional enemy the Christian family has in the world.
GENEVA, Switzerland At a confidential forum, the United States and the international community castigated the U.N. Refugee Agency for the sex scandal surrounding the alleged mass abuse of West African refugee children by aid workers and "peacekeepers," according to senior diplomats.
Friday, March 8, 2002
The agency was firmly instructed to take urgent measures to deal with the crisis, the sources said Wednesday.
The U.S. delegation told a closed-door session of UNHCR's top executive committee Tuesday, "These allegations of abuse by the very people entrusted with care of refugee people are deeply distressing and utterly appalling to all of us."
Putting aside diplomatic speak, the United States said: "Protection is the core mandate of UNHCR. So, right here, right now, our objective is to ensure that immediate and parallel action is taken to establish the ground truth and to put measures in place to ensure that refugee children are protected from abuse."
Ironically, the storm is about the way UNHCR has dealt with governments and aid agencies after the disturbing findings of a joint survey it sponsored with Save the Children of the United Kingdom, to look into the problem of sexual exploitation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
At the end of a 40-day mission in late October and November, the experts returned with alarming allegations of widespread sexual abuse by many of its aid workers locally employed by more than 40 agencies, including U.N. "peacekeeping" forces, U.N. relief agencies, and national and international humanitarian non-governmental organizations.
Senior Western diplomats told United Press International that although the agency's inspector-general was notified of the serious allegations in late November and the United Nation's Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York in early December, governments and NGOs were kept in the dark.
"The fact that UNHCR knew about the contents of the report for some time without informing the members of the Executive Committee, raises some rather tough questions," Norway's Ambassador Sverr Bergh Johansen told delegates.
It was only after the British Broadcasting Corp. publicized contents of the survey report on Feb. 26 that UNHCR revealed some of the contents of the still classified study.
"We deeply regret that these allegations of abuse were not shared with UNHCR donors and partner organizations earlier," said the United States. A long list of African countries including Uganda, Kenya and South Africa took the floor and called for total transparency, and for harsh punishment of the perpetrators, diplomats said.
African delegates also pointed out "the deficit of support for Africa" and the Kenyan delegation emphasized the abuses were "crimes against humanity," the same sources said.
An African ambassador told UPI that "many other moral breakdowns might be happening in other areas of the world," and "there should be no limit in geographical scope."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the refugee agency's top official, Ruud Lubbers, said they were shocked and distressed by the reports of child abuse in the refugee camps.
Annan directed that the allegations "be investigated as thoroughly and urgently as possible," and reiterated the policy of zero tolerance for such acts.
Lubbers who also ordered an investigation, said, "There is absolutely no place in the humanitarian world for those who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable of the world's refugees."
But the belated reaction has not calmed the humanitarian community.
"Lask week, many of us expressed shock over the manner in which UNHCR and Save the Children-U.K. have dealt with the findings of the report," said Ed Schenkenberger van Mierop, coordinator for the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.
"Without being informed as to whether or not our agencies are named or not in the report, these agencies are unable to take some of the responsible management decisions that are urgently needed," van Mierop told the executive session Tuesday.
"We call on UNHCR to inform the agencies confidentially of the names of the staff that were given to the assessment mission," he said.
In a similar vein, after a heated meeting with the No. 2 official at UNHCR, nine international NGOs including Care International, World Vision International and Caritas International wrote on Friday to Lubbers and the chief of Save the Children-U.K. to express dismay at the refusal to share information with them.
The nine agencies said they were also surprised that remedial measures, including internal investigations and action plans, had been taken without the participation of other partners.
The European Union's ambassador, Carlo Trojan, told UPI that he was concerned that the serious and detailed allegations "are still in the phase of in-house inquiries," and said, "There's a case to initiate a judicial mechanism.
"In many of our countries we prosecute and punish" such perpetrators, he said.
Trojan noted that the U.N. oversight office had so far conducted an investigation only in Sierra Leone.
"There's something substantially wrong when the fate of the victims is given less weight by UNHCR than concerns over legal liability," complained a humanitarian official.
Despite calls by governments and NGOs to provide them on a confidential basis with the names of the 67 individuals alleged to have taken part, the agency has declined, citing "legal concerns and fairness," as well as the limitations of anecdotal information.
UNHCR also insists that furnishing the names might put child victims still living in camps at risk. The organization is prepared to reveal confidentially which agencies and NGOs are implicated, but not the names of individuals, UNHCR officials said. The U.S. delegation insisted that where the report identifies individuals, "those people should be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Those found guilty must be fired immediately and brought to justice."
"This calls for a special investigation bypassing established procedures," said a U.N. affairs consultant, who declined to be identified.
A number of Western ambassadors, who requested anonymity, said - given the fragile political situation of the three West African countries and the fact that so many agencies are implicated - the only way to secure justice for the victims is by creating an international tribunal.
"There has not been adequate concern for the victims," the Holy See representative, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, told UPI.
Earlier, the archbishop stressed in the executive session that the victims are children "who have suffered trauma, the terrible trauma of sexual exploitation, which will remain with them in their future, long after the scandal has been forgotten by the mass media or indeed the diplomatic community."
He also said that because the crimes were committed in countries where conflict has made the judicial system weak, "[we] should not permit those guilty of such terrible offences to slip through loopholes in the international juridical network."
Deputy UNHCR chief, Mary Ann Wyrsch, conceded to delegates that the tragic testimonies "make it heartbreakingly clear that we failed. We must do more and we must do it now."
The United States has said it can help the agency, but told UNHCR, "Tell us what you will do and be quick, be decisive, be open."
One humanitarian group, Focal Point for East and Horn of Africa, speaking on behalf of a group of NGOs, said, "We must all take responsibility for this collective failure."
Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 22:33 GMT
The scale of the problem - revealed in an overview of a report by the UNHCR in conjunction with the British-based charity Save the Children - has surprised relief personnel.
National staff largely unregulated
Abuses of power unpunished
Absence of international staff at camps
Lack of female staff
An unspecified number of interviewees complained that they or their children had to have sex in order to get food and favours.
Over 40 aid agencies - including the UNHCR itself - were implicated, and 67 individuals - mostly local staff - named by
Some under-age girls said United Nations peacekeepers in the West African region were involved.
Most of those who said they were abused were girls under the age of 18, but the mission said it had heard from some who were much younger.
The report said that the practices were rife in locations with established programmes, including refugee camps in Guinea and Liberia.
We are going to sit down and look at what we do and how we do it and try to ensure children do not have to sell sex for services
Save the Children Liberia director Jane Gibril
But it said that poverty was the principle cause, with parents feeling compelled to offer their children to aid workers for sex in order to survive.
"They want us to love to them (sic) so they can give us money," one refugee told the BBC.
Another said she was continually sent to the back of the queue for aid because she had refused to have sex with one aid worker.
Sex could buy items of food, as well as such things as loans and scholarships.
Condoms were said to be rarely used by the staff involved.
Save the Children says it was determined to use the information obtained in the study to put a stop to the practices.
"The very people who are meant to be providing services are the exploiters themselves," said Save the Children Liberia country director Jane Gibril.
"We are going to sit down and look at what we do and how we do it and try and do things very differently... to ensure children do not have to sell sex for services," she added.
The charity has already sacked three employees.
The UNHCR has drawn up a package of remedial measures, including increasing security and the international presence in camps and the deployment of more female staff.
Other steps include establishing a mechanism to give refugees a secure channel for raising complaints with senior UNHCR staff.
But a spokesman for the agency, Ron Redmond, said the accusations were based only on testimonies from individuals and were so far unsubstantiated.
One senior aid worker said ending the sexual exploitation of under age refugees would be an uphill task because gender discrimination was deeply rooted in many cultures, not only here in West Africa but all over the world.
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