UN confirms sex charges
114 Lankan troops in Haiti involved in child abuse
UNITED NATIONS-- After an investigation into pending charges against Sri Lankan troops in Haiti, the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has concluded that ‘acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and occurred usually at night, and at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed.’
“In exchange for sex, the children received small amounts of money, food, and sometimes mobile phones,” says the OIOS, the UN's investigative arm.
The charges of sexual exploitation have been made against 114 members of the Sri Lankan armed forces who were serving as peacekeepers in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). They were part of a larger 950-member Sri Lankan contingent in the politically-troubled Caribbean nation. Virtually all of the 114 troops were repatriated last November on ‘disciplinary grounds’. The repatriation, described as one of the biggest single withdrawals of soldiers from a UN peacekeeping mission, was done in close cooperation with the Sri Lankan Government.
Three officers, a Lt. Colonel and two Majors who were Company Commanders, were withdrawn for failure to exercise command responsibilities in accordance with military norms and standards.
The OIOS says it is assisting in the pending legal proceedings initiated by the Sri Lankan Government, to ensure that all military members found guilty, according to the relevant laws of the country, ‘are held accountable for their actions.’
The UN says charges should include rape-- because it involves children under 18 years of age-- which constitutes a ‘war crime’ in the context of military conflicts.
The UN may also seek the assistance of the Government to help provide compensation to victims of the crime.
Military Spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said “Investigations are still going on. Our team is also looking into it. If they are found guilty they will be punished accordingly,”