Feel ashamed to call myself peacekeeper: UN official on sexual abuse

United Nations: With UN peacekeepers facing growing allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, a senior Indian diplomat, who is a top UN peacekeeping official, said he at times feels “ashamed” to call himself a peacekeeper and will not tolerate “protectors” turning into “predators”.

Briefing reporters ahead of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, marked annually on May 29, Under-Secretary- General for Field Support Atul Khare vowed to take action against those bringing dishonor to UN peacekeeping.

“I have been a peacekeeper, I have been in the field. There are days when I feel ashamed to call myself a peacekeeper because this is not the job of peacekeepers,” Khare said, adding that he will “never accept a protector turning into a predator.”

“I do believe that the morale to some extent is affected, but I think it is affected in the right attitude of peacekeepers. We are all committed to getting the bad sheep out of our midst,” Khare said.

He said the world organisation is committed to taking action against the scourge which dishonors the sacrifices of the 129 peacekeepers killed last year.

He added that the allegations of sexual abuse against some peacekeepers brings dishonor to all the 175,000 peacekeepers who work “under extremely difficult circumstances.”

Khare underscored that UN peacekeeping is focusing on the policy of “say something when you see something” to help nip the problem of sexual abuse by the UN Blue Helmets in the bud.

No Indian peacekeeper faced any allegations of misconduct as the United Nations received 44 allegations of sexual abuse in all peacekeeping and special political missions so far this year, according to the latest update on sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers.

In 2015 also, when 69 allegations were recorded against peacekeepers, no Indian personnel was accused of any wrongdoing.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said the allegations do not bring anything but shame to UN peacekeeping “but at the same time it is of course more than ever a necessity to do everything to prevent, to eradicate, to sanction.”

He added that it is a “shared responsibility” of the member states as well as of the UN to tackle these allegations and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The top peacekeeping officials stressed that among the topics that have been discussed to penalise such actions is for the alleged perpetrator to face a court martial in the country where the purported act occurred, as opposed to him being repatriated back to his home country.

Another idea is for criminal sanctions against the home country of the peacekeeper, with the aim of increasing checks on who is allowed to wear a UN uniform and his actions during that time.

The UN Secretariat is expediting guidance that will set out factors relevant to the decision to repatriate a military or formed police unit when there is credible evidence of widespread and systemic sexual exploitation and abuse, officials said.