World

AP Report: Children Sexually Abused By UN Workers

| by Alex Scarr

Children in Haiti were found to be victims of a sex-trafficking ring among U.N. workers and peacekeepers. Multiple victims have come forward to describe the atrocities.

The Associated Press found that at least nine children were sexually abused and assaulted by more than 130 Sri Lankan peacekeepers from 2004 to 2007, with many of the victims of prepubescent age. The U.N. had stationed peacekeepers in the region to help stabilize the country, but reports of "suspicious interaction" between the Sri Lankans and the local children reportedly began to appear in 2007.

"The sexual acts described by the nine victims are simply too many to be presented exhaustively in this report, especially since each claimed multiple sexual partners at various locations where the Sri Lankan contingents were deployed throughout Haiti over several years," the report said.

Many of the accused were never jailed, and were often simply sent home as a faux-disciplinary measure.

During the AP's investigation of U.N. missions over the previous 12 years, nearly 2,000 allegations against U.N. workers or peacekeepers from several places around the world had been unearthed, signaling the sex-trafficking crisis is much more widespread than previously known.

In the investigation in Haiti, many of the victims have since come forward to describe what happened. One victim, known only as Victim No. 1, said she was just 12 years old when she was first forced into sex by a Sri Lankan peacekeeper. She said she did not even have breasts yet.

In March of 2017, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would ramp up efforts to control peacekeeper misconduct. The U.N. has made similar declarations in the past, however, and little has reportedly changed. More than a decade ago, the U.N. promised reforms to tackle the issue, yet much has remained the same.

"Every single allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. personnel, be it uniformed or civilian, is appalling," Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare said.

"Everyone, especially us, [is] aware of the shortcomings in the system. We believe we are advancing in the right direction, especially with the secretary-general's new approach."

It has been difficult to find anyone who worked in helping the victims of the sex ring, and many victims themselves are often unfound.

"If I heard that a U.N. peacekeeping mission was coming near my home in Chattanooga," Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told the AP, "I'd be on the first plane out of here to go back and protect my family."

Sources: AP via ABC News, AP via The Detroit News / Photo credit: Feed My Starving Children/Flickr

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