Thursday, March 17, 2005

UN disciplines scandal-tainted staff

AlJazeera - The United Nations has fired one employee and suspended six without pay among 17 civilian staff under investigation for sexual abuse allegations in Congo.

Over the past year, the United Nations has investigated 150 allegations of sexual exploitation of women and girls, including gang rapes by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Troop-contributing countries have been told to take action against military personnel but the world body is responsible for civilians.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard on Thursday said one person was "summarily dismissed" and was being prosecuted in France. French authorities several months ago jailed a UN staff member on charges of rape and making pornographic videos of children.

Another staff member resigned rather than face disciplinary procedures and six were suspended without pay, pending action, while another case was being reviewed, Eckhard said.

Five others under investigation are UN volunteers under the jurisdiction of the UN Development Program, which is handling those cases.

Allegations against three others, including the former chief of staff of the UN operation, Jacques Grinberg of Australia, had been "completed and no grounds for initiating disciplinary procedures were found", Eckhard said.

Getting tough

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month announced "non-fraternisation" regulations that banned peacekeepers from having sex or socialising with the local population.

The new rules so far apply only to Congo, which has the largest of the 17 UN peacekeeping missions around the world with 16,700 personnel.

Investigations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers are also ongoing in Burundi, Haiti and Liberia.