UNITED NATIONS — The United States faced opposition Thursday to what would be the first-ever U.N. Security Council resolution to confront the escalating problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers, a measure U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said is critical to held end sex crimes, especially against children.
Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said the issue instead should be addressed by the 193-member General Assembly, whose actions, unlike those of the Security Council, are not legally binding. He also said the issue shouldn’t be used “as a tool to attack troop-contributing countries” or undermine their reputation and sacrifices.
The comments came as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the council on his recent report detailing the 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitations by peacekeepers in 2015. For the first time, it named the home countries of alleged perpetrators, putting public pressure on states to bring abusers to justice.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been 26 additional allegations.
Ban apologized for the growing peacekeeper sexual abuse scandal that has tarnished the reputation of the United Nations. He also pledged to speed up investigations and expand the online tracking of allegations to cover all outstanding cases.
Power pressed the United Nations to go further and provide information on why numerous cases were not investigated. States often don’t follow up on allegations against the troops they contribute to U.N. peacekeeping missions. Of the 69 allegations last year, investigations were completed in just 17 as of the end of January, Ban’s report said.
Power also criticized the U.N. peacekeeping department for not quickly repatriating a Congolese contingent which had seven allegations of sex crimes in 2015, instead waiting until February for “operational reasons.” In the first two months of this year, she said, there were eight new allegations against the same unit.
Seven of the allegations involved children.
“How can we let this happen? All of us?” Power asked council members.
More than half of allegations against peacekeepers involve rape or sexual abuse of children, she said. “And these are just the cases we know about.”
Despite the opposition, the United Nation’s Twitter account posted this:
Join @SRSGVAC & support the call to #ENDviolence against children: https://t.co/9fcM3cT7UL #EndViolence2030 pic.twitter.com/Pm0N7YtNCh
— United Nations (@UN) March 10, 2016
All 15 council members stressed that perpetrators should be punished, but Senegal’s U.N. Ambassador Fode Seck and others stressed that the council “must ensure individuals do not fall victim to collective punishment.”
The latest draft of the U.S.-proposed resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, endorses the secretary-general’s decision to repatriate military or police units “where there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse.” It also asks the U.N. chief to replace contingents where allegations are not properly investigated and perpetrators not held accountable.
EDITH M. LEDERER