sudan darfur market 88.2.
(photo credit: AP)
UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan face several allegations of raping and sexually abusing children, some as young as 12, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Daily Telegraph, citing an internal report by UNICEF along with interviews with more than 20 victims of the purported abuse, reported that the alleged abuse began two years ago when the UN Mission in Southern Sudan, known as UNMIS, arrived to help maintain peace in the region after a more than two-decade civil war.
"The first indications of sexual exploitation emerged within months of the UN force's arrival and The Daily Telegraph has seen a draft of an internal report compiled by the UN children's agency UNICEF in July 2005 detailing the problem," the paper reported on its Web site. "Evidence suggests that UNMIS staff may already be involved in sexual exploitation."
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jane Holl Lute said that the allegations in the Telegraph report would be investigated.
"There could be truth. These environments are ones in which it is difficult to ascertain the truth. I do not believe these are new allegations. Nevertheless, we will treat them as seriously as we treat all other allegations," she told The Associated Press at UN headquarters in New York.
Lute said she has personally spoken to the force commander and chief of staff in the UN mission in southern Sudan "and I know they are very well briefed on what UN policy is and have taken steps to implement that policy across the board in that mission."
"But we don't have the facts yet in this case, and we need to ascertain the facts and follow it through to appropriate resolution and take action if necessary," she said. "We won't complacent and there will be no impunity to the full extent of the UN's authority."
UN policy prohibits all UN staff from engaging in sexual exploitation, abuse or prostitution.
Lute, who served in the US Army for 16 years, stressed that the UN has instituted a series of measures in terms of training, clarifying standards and reinforcing messages against sexual abuse.
But she said vigilance on this matter has to be "a constant factor of life when you're rotating through 200,000 troops in as diverse environments as we do."
"But I don't know the facts in this case, and I don't want to treat it as anything more than allegations being brought to the UN," Lute said.
The UN has some 10,000 personnel in the region, and the paper said that the allegations involved peacekeepers, military police and civilian staffers.
"I was sitting by the river the first time it happened," a 14-year-old boy identified only as Jonas told the newspaper.
Another 13-year-old boy told the newspaper he was lured to a UN car with the offer of cash, abused and dumped by the side of a road.