In Multipolarity

New Cold War.org, August 2, 2016

The right-wing government in Kyiv, Ukraine continues to lobby (unsuccessfully to date) for a military occupation force of the United Nations to be placed in the rebel Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Such UN forces are created under the direction of the Security Council; Russia has consistently exercised its veto against placing one in Donbass.

The following is a selection of recent news articles documenting the widespread revelations of UN military ‘peacekeeping’ forces acting as sexual predators against women and children in the countries where they operate.

The countries where examples have come to light in recent years of UN soldiers acting as sexual predators include Haiti, the Congo, Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan. Countries whose soldiers have been found guilty of sexual predation during UN military operations are varied and include France, Canada [story below], South Africa, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.

In the case of Haiti, sexual predation by UN forces is widespread. But even worse is the criminal and reckless conduct of UN forces in sparking a deadly cholera epidemic in the country in October 2010. The epidemic has killed more than 10,000 Haitians ands sickened hundreds of thousands. The disease was previously unknown in the country; it was brought to Haiti by soldiers from Nepal who are part of the so-called United Nations Mission for Stabilization of Haiti (known by its French acronym MINUSTAH). The office of the secretary-general of the United Nations has refused to accept responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

Needed - Safe and clean water in Haiti

Needed – Safe and clean water in Haiti

The story of the cholera epidemic in Haiti and the long, ongoing legal battle to compel the UN to accept accountability for its criminal conduct is told on the website of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, here: http://www.ijdh.org/cholera/. The IJDH works in partnership with the Bureau des avocats internationaux (Office of International Lawyers) located in Port au Prince. A profile of the lead lawyer of the IJDH in the Haiti cholera case, Beatrice Lindstrom, is published in CounterPunch on August 2, 2016, here.

Here is recent news of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, from April 2016. Here is recent news of the legal action against the United Nations compelling it to recognize its criminal conduct and compensate the victims, from May 2016.


Dozens of women raped by South Sudan soldiers near UN camp: witnesses

By Jason Patink, Associated Press, July 27, 2016

The following article was published on page one of the Toronto Star on July 28, 2016. The Star is the largest circulation newspaper in Canada. Like the rest of Canada’s mainstream media, the Star supports the deployment of UN “peacekeeping” forces in such countries as Haiti, the Congo and South Sudan.

UN soldiers in South Sudan (Jason Patinkin, Associated Press)

UN soldiers in South Sudan (Jason Patinkin, Associated Press)

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN—South Sudanese government soldiers raped dozens of ethnic Nuer women and girls last week just outside a United Nations camp where they had sought protection from renewed fighting, and at least two died from their injuries, witnesses and civilian leaders said.

The rapes in the capital of Juba highlighted two persistent problems in the chaotic country engulfed by civil war: targeted ethnic violence and the reluctance by UN peacekeepers to protect civilians.

At least one assault occurred as peacekeepers watched, witnesses told The Associated Press during a visit to the camp.

On July 17, two armed soldiers in uniform dragged away a woman who was less than a few hundred metres from the UN camp’s western gate while armed peacekeepers on foot, in an armoured vehicle and in a watchtower looked on. One witness estimated that 30 peacekeepers from Nepalese and Chinese battalions saw the incident.

“They were seeing it. Everyone was seeing it,” he said. “The woman was seriously screaming, quarrelling and crying also, but there was no help. She was crying for help.” He and other witnesses interviewed insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals by soldiers if identified.

A spokeswoman for the UN mission, Shantal Persaud, did not dispute that rapes took place close to the camp. The mission has documented 120 cases of rape and sexual violence against civilians throughout Juba since the latest fighting began, she said Wednesday.

“The mission takes very seriously allegations of peacekeepers not rendering aid to civilians in distress and the UNMISS force command is looking into these allegations,” Persaud said.

The reported assaults occurred about a week after rival government forces clashed in Juba, forcing opposition leader Riek Machar from the city and killing hundreds of people. As a ceasefire took hold, women and girls began venturing outside the UN camp for food.

The camp houses over 30,000 civilians who are nearly all ethnic Nuer, the same ethnicity as Machar. They fear attacks by government forces who are mostly ethnic Dinka, the same as Machar’s rival, President Salva Kiir.

As the women and girls walked out of the UN camp, they entered an area called Checkpoint, in the shadow of a mountain on Juba’s western outskirts. That stretch of road along one side of the camp saw some of the heaviest fighting and is lined with wrecked shops and burned tanks. It is now inhabited by armed men in and out of uniform.

In interviews with The Associated Press, women described soldiers in Checkpoint allowing them to leave to buy food but attacking them as they returned.

“When we reached Checkpoint, the soldiers come out and called the women and said, ‘Stop, please, and sit down,’ so we stopped and sat down, and they took one woman inside a shop,” a woman said. “Four men went inside the shop and they raped the woman while we three stayed outside.”

In another incident, one woman said a group of soldiers pulled two women and two underage girls from their group and gang-raped them in a shop, with more than 10 men to each victim. One girl later died, she said.

“I saw the men taking their trousers off and the ladies crying inside,” said a middle-aged woman. As she spoke, she began to cry. “They said, ‘This one belongs to me, this one belongs to me,’” she added.

Multiple Nuer women said soldiers threatened them because of their ethnicity or accused them of being allied with Machar. The women identified the soldiers as ethnic Dinka because of the language they spoke.

“One soldier came and he turned the gun to us. He said, ‘If I kill you now, you Nuer woman, do you think there is anything that can happen to me?’” one woman said. She said the soldier slapped her before another soldier intervened, allowing her to escape.

The number of rapes that took place outside the UN camp was unclear. The Associated Press interviewed more than a dozen witnesses of rapes or people who spoke with victims, both one-on-one and in small groups.

The Protection Cluster, a group of aid workers that monitors violence against civilians in South Sudan, noted a “significant spike in reported cases was observed on 18 July when large numbers of women began leaving (the camp) to travel to markets in town in search of food.”

The Protection Cluster said at least two victims are known to have died as a result of their injuries.

Civilian leaders in the UN camp have given estimates ranging from 27 to over 70 rapes from the time that women started venturing out for food. The United Nations says it received reports of dozens of cases. A South Sudanese rights group, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said it is investigating 36 reported rapes.

Hospitals inside the camp received four rape cases last week, including an underage girl who said she had been gang-raped by five men and a woman who said she had been gang-raped by five men and beaten, according to medical staff who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The number of victims reporting to clinics is believed to be lower than the actual total because of the stigma in Nuer culture attached to rape.

The rape of civilians has been a near-constant in South Sudan’s civil war which began in 2013, with both sides accused of using sexual assault, based on ethnicity, as a weapon of war.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang did not deny that rapes occurred after the latest fighting but said the military has yet to receive any formal complaints from victims.

Witnesses and aid workers accuse the armed UN peacekeepers, who are mandated to protect civilians with lethal force if necessary, of failing to act.

This is not the first time that UN peacekeepers have faced that accusation.

Last year, more than 1,300 women and girls were raped by government forces and allied militias during a scorched-earth campaign in Unity state, according to the Protection Cluster. Doctors Without Borders accused the UN mission of “complete and utter failure” to protect civilians there. The medical aid organization also blamed the peacekeeping mission over a government attack on the UN camp in the town of Malakal in February that killed about two dozen civilians. A UN investigation found confusion in command and control by UN forces.

In the latest clashes in Juba, residents of the UN camp accused peacekeepers of running away when the camp was shelled. Two Chinese peacekeepers were killed.

Aid workers said they asked the UN to increase patrols July 17-18 along the camp where women were most vulnerable, but that patrols in the area did not begin until July 21.

The UN has said it has increased patrols outside the camp in response to reported rapes.

One local woman, Christmas David, who said she was beaten by government soldiers but not raped, said the limited patrols were not enough.

“When the UN is moving, (the government soldiers) just stop the women and tell them to sit down,” she said. “When the peacekeepers leave the road, then they do the things.”


‘I begged them to kill me instead’: women in South Sudan raped under nose of UN

By Simona Foltyn, The Guardian, July 29, 2016

JUBA, South Sudan – It was just before noon on 18 July when the soldiers grabbed Theresa*. She was only metres away from safety, a short dash from the UN gate that marked the entrance to her home, a camp for internally displaced people in Juba, the South Sudanese capital.

Even though they were in plain sight, the soldiers took their time, discussing Theresa’s fate before offering her a choice between two cruel options. “I could choose the one who would rape me, or they all would,” Theresa, not her real name, recalled. “I begged them to kill me instead.”

The five men, all members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the national military force, dragged her a few metres to the side of the road. Then they raped her – in broad daylight, right there on the side of the road.

Theresa is not the only woman to have suffered such a fate. In the immediate aftermath of deadly clashes earlier this month between government and opposition forces in Juba, dozens of women were reportedly raped in close proximity to the UN Protection of Civilians (POC) site, home to more than 30,000 displaced people.

Gender-based violence has become a defining feature of South Sudan’s civil war over the past two years. A culture of impunity within the armed forces and a limited peacekeeping presence outside the UN’s own bases are largely to blame.

As lawlessness descended on some parts of the capital in the aftermath of the most recent clashes, soldiers preyed on women driven out of the POC by hunger, exploiting the vacuum left by an international community whose focus had shifted to evacuating its own staff.

Community leaders told reporters that more than 120 women were raped over the course of a few days, a figure that tallied with the number of cases documented by the UN. Several rape survivors recounted how soldiers who had set up shop along the road leading past the UN camp attacked women in what appeared to be systematic, ethnically driven violence against civilians. Most of the women were members of the Nuer community, the ethnic group of opposition leader Riek Machar, who fled Juba amid the most recent fighting.

“The objective is to impose punishment on a [segment of] society that is perceived to be sympathising with a particular group,” said Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, which lobbies for government accountability.

With young Nuer men often suspected of being rebel supporters, they rarely leave the camp’s perimeter. When the UN’s food supplies were looted, it was the women who set out to nearby markets in an effort to feed their families.

One of them was Nyanene, a quiet 15-year-old. “I saw that many women were going outside that day to get food,” she recalled. “I thought if I went along with the others, I’d be safe.”

As Nyanene made her way back from the market, two soldiers quietly pulled her away from the group. She was dragged into a nearby hut and raped by both men.

The army spokesperson, Brig Gen Lul Ruai Koang, blamed attacks near the POC on “bad elements” within the force, denying widespread violence against civilians by SPLA forces.

Wary of being ostracised by their husbands and the wider community, rape survivors rarely report incidents or seek professional help.

“In our culture it’s very difficult to admit that you have been raped. Often I have to guess what really happened to the women,” said Angelina John, a community leader who has been trying to gauge the scale of the attacks.

Many women would claim they were beaten but managed to escape. Others pretended to be witnesses of rape, recounting incidents in the third person, but with a level of excruciating detail that left little doubt about the truth.

Since the beginning of July, only 20 survivors of gender-based violence – a number that aid workers believe to be the tip of the iceberg – have registered with the International Rescue Committee to receive psychosocial support in the POC.

Yet even women who did seek help didn’t always get it. Theresa was brought to a clinic run by the International Medical Corps (IMC) the same day she was raped, but was only given painkillers, not the antiretrovirals she needed to reduce her risk of contracting HIV.

Mounting reports of mass rape so close to UN premises have sparked renewed outrage among the displaced population, who already blame peacekeepers for abandoning their posts when the camp came under fire.

The UN mission in South Sudan, Unmiss, maintains that it has protected civilians to the best of its ability but been thwarted by restrictions on movement imposed by government forces. “We were going as far as we could but, both around the POC site and inside the compound, there was still a robust level of patrolling going on,” said spokesperson Shantal Persaud.

The idea that Unmiss required permission to patrol from the very authorities that were responsible for perpetrating atrocities against civilians cast doubt on the effectiveness of its mandate. “If Unmiss doesn’t have the capacity to move beyond its bases in times of crisis, then the whole concept of protection of civilians is pointless,” said Yakani.

Theresa has lost her faith in the UN’s ability to protect her. “The security guards and the peacekeepers at the gate saw me being captured,” she recalled. “But they did nothing.”

* Some names have been changed to protect identities


Ottawa may help alleged victims of UN [Canadian] peacekeepers in Haiti

By Alex Boutilier, Ottawa Bureau Reporter, and Kathleen Davis, Special to the Star, Toronto Star, page one, July 30, 2016

Three more Canadian peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation or assault in Haiti, documents show.

The Canadian government is considering support for victims of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers after a damning UN report brought the number of Canadian offenders — whose names are being kept secret — to five, the Star has learned.

The news of potential victim support comes just days after it was revealed two Quebec provincial police officers retired before they faced disciplinary hearings for alleged sexual exploitation or abuse while on a UN mission in Haiti. By leaving, the officers avoided being disciplined by the force.

Documents prepared in February by the deputy minister of foreign affairs for Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion show Ottawa was aware of five separate cases of alleged sexual exploitation or abuse by Canadian peacekeepers in Haiti dating back to 2013. In two incidents, Canadian peacekeepers have been accused of fathering children with Haitian women.

Currently, Ottawa has no policy or legislation to address paternity claims for victims abused by Canadian peacekeepers sent to protect them.

Global Affairs told the Star the Canadian government is examining the way it handles complaints of abuse against Canadian peacekeepers, particularly when paternity claims are made.

“(Canada) is considering how best to address the issue of paternity claims as well as victim assistance generally in the UN context,” Global Affairs spokesperson Diana Khaddaj said in an email.

But when asked what specifically the government is considering, and when a decision is expected to be made, Global Affairs refused to offer any details as the Liberal government intends to “reengage” in a UN peacekeeping program.

The total of Canadian peacekeepers who were linked to the allegations climbed to five when the UN reported earlier this year that two more Canadians had allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of women while on mission in Haiti.

Dion was told in February in the information memorandum — which summarizes the UN investigation and was obtained by the Star under an access to information law — that women can pursue justice themselves if they have the resources to launch a case in Canadian courts.

Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue Campaign, said that for many women support remains “out of reach.”

“Even if a woman knows the identity of the perpetrator and is able to launch a paternity claim in a national court, staff rotation makes it likely that the father will have already moved to another post, and may not be compelled to return to the mother’s country to appear in a child support case,” Donovan said.

“What’s more, the UN is not an honest broker in this process . . . . They cannot advocate for the rights of the mother and child while also defending and protecting one of their own.”

A UN peacekeeping spokesperson said it makes medical, psychosocial and legal services available to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse “through a network of partners to ensure immediate assistance and support. The spokesperson also said that the UN “will take action to facilitate paternity claims by liaising with member states” and is encouraging these nations to do more to facilitate paternity and child support claims.

The spokesperson added that in one paternity case “the father has agreed to pay child support and is still currently paying on a monthly basis together with the school fees.”

“In the second case, the UN is in touch with the Canadian government on the matter, including what assistance the authorities can provide to claimants to facilitate the resolution of a paternity claim and ensure that child support is provided, “ the spokesperson said.

Emma Phillips, a Toronto lawyer who worked on an independent UN panel reviewing the international body’s response to sexual exploitation, said that “as a country that does contribute troops and police, we have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute these cases in a meaningful way.”

“Within the bounds of the Canadian legal system, we should take creative measures to ensure that victims are able to testify and participate in our legal process, so that the victims can see justice being done,” she said.

The UN did not respond when asked to provide the name of the peacekeepers and the forces they worked for. Asked about the identities of peacekeepers and potential criminal charges, Global Affairs Canada referred questions to the RCMP, which did not respond Friday afternoon.

The Star is not aware of any criminal charges in the five cases.

According to the UN’s peacekeeping website, the agency “has a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual exploitation and abuse.”

“UN rules forbid sexual relations with prostitutes and with any persons under 18, and strongly discourage relations with beneficiaries of assistance (those that are receiving assistance food, housing, aid, etc. . . . as a result of a conflict, natural disaster or other humanitarian crisis, or in a development setting),” it reads.

Of the five Canadian peacekeepers, two were sergeants in the Sûreté du Québec. Both have since quit. Another is a Mountie but the RCMP will not reveal details for privacy reasons. And the Star could not determine what forces the other two belong to.

The Star found little transparency about what happened in the five cases against Canadian peacekeepers — or exactly what consequences the police officers faced. According to the UN, four of the officers were barred from future UN service and one was suspended for nine days.

On Thursday, Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Capt. Guy Lapointe confirmed two of the service’s officers were accused of “sexual misconduct” while working as United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti.

Both quit before their internal disciplinary hearings, Lapointe said. “So, the disciplinary committee lost jurisdiction,” he said.

Lapointe said the men could not be identified because neither matter had been tested in a Canadian court. Police can lay charges but only if an accuser comes forward.

The first case took place in January 2013 when one of the officers allegedly solicited the services of a sex worker at a bar that is off limits to peacekeepers, Lapointe said. “When the officer returned to Quebec, the situation was brought to our attention.”

An internal hearing was scheduled for April 2015, but the officer quit before it could take place.

The second case took place between September 2014 and January 2015, and came to light when an officer was reported by colleagues to have been engaged in a sexual relationship with a Haitian resident, said Lapointe. The sergeant also quit before his disciplinary hearing.

The five cases are not isolated incidents, but fall within a broader spate of sexual exploitation or abuse that has embroiled the UN in controversy and caused some to question the viability of peacekeeping.

After disturbing revelations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers against children in the Central African Republic came to light last year, the UN has been trying to strengthen “zero tolerance” policies against exploitation. Ongoing reports of violations, however, have undermined the confidence in the organization’s efforts to address the issue.

Canadian peacekeeping has been a source of national pride, even as Canada’s commitment to UN peacekeeping has shifted from boots on the ground to funding operations.

Another set of documents obtained by the Star show that as of November 2015, Canada had 116 personnel deployed to five UN operations. The documents, also prepared for Dion, show that while Canada is the ninth-largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping at $240 million a year, we rank 68th among 124 countries in terms of police and troops actively engaged in peacekeeping.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said his government will reengage with peacekeeping efforts — a centrepiece of the Liberals’ foreign policy platform in last year’s federal election. In July, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan the government is considering deploying Canadian troops to UN missions in Africa. One mission reportedly being considered is Mali, where Canadians’ ability to speak French would be an asset — as it was in Haiti.

If Canada plans to increase peacekeeping operations, Phillips said it’s crucial to do so “with eyes wide open.”

“Canada has an important role to play [sic] in trying to preserve (peacekeeping) for current use and future use and to rebuild trust and regain effectiveness,” Phillips said. “If we are going to reengage with peacekeeping we need to do so with an appreciation of the fact that peacekeeping is in crisis.”

With files from David Bruser, Verity Stevenson and Bruce Campion-Smith

Further reading:

South Africa peacekeepers are worst sexual predators on UN missions, United Nations report says, by Morgan Winsor, International Business Times, June 24, 2015

UN: Dealing with rape in Central African Republic, by Catherine Wambua-Soi, Al Jazeera, July 11, 2016

‘As the UN debate kicks off for a new secretary-general in New York on Tuesday, the new chief will have to deal with the ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct by its forces. A UN report leaked to media last year found troops often paid for sex with cash, dresses, jewelry, perfume, and mobile phones.

‘UN peacekeepers, as well as French and European troops, have been repeatedly accused of human rights abuses, including sexually assaulting women and children in Central African Republic (CAR).’

Canada’s African peacekeeping plan unlikely to offer easy wins, by John Ivison, National Post, Aug 2, 2016

OTTAWA — Harjit Sajjan is heading to West Africa this month on a fact-finding mission impossible. The defence minister will search for an elusive United Nations peacekeeping mission that will maximize Canada’s chances of winning a seat on the UN Security Council but minimize the potential cost in Canadian lives and resources…

 

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