Sexual abuse by U.N. Peacekeepers leads to both reform and moral outrage

Anthony Banbury, the United Nations assistant secretary for general field support, fought back tears as he revealed four new allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic at a press conference on Jan. 29. The cases join a long string of credible accusations against U.N., European and African troops and personnel of rape and soliciting child prostitution in the war-torn country. In an especially horrific instance, a 7-year-old girl said she performed a sex act on French soldiers in exchange for water and cookies.

In December 2015, an independent panel found the United Nations’ failure to prevent and respond to reports of abuse in the C.A.R. jeopardized “the credibility of the U.N. and peacekeeping operations.” To its credit, the world body appears to be making substantive reforms. For the first time, U.N. officials are publicly naming the home country of the accused and in the coming months will launch a website that documents allegations and disciplinary actions by country. The increased transparency and public pressure on responsible parties is welcome. But ultimately it is incumbent upon individual states to prosecute offenders—who under international law enjoy immunity in the country where the mission is taking place—but few ever do so.

Advertisement

Sexual exploitation is always and everywhere a horrendous crime; when committed by the very people charged with protecting desperate children, it is a moral outrage of the highest order. Bringing sexual predators to justice must now be one of the international community’s highest priorities. If the United Nations is not able to police its own ranks, how can it be trusted to restore a culture of lawfulness in the Central African Republic?

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

If you know nothing else about Lent, you probably know that people give things up.
James Martin, SJFebruary 19, 2018
Pope Francis has appointed 16 members (eight men and eight women) to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 17, 2018
This time the victims themselves are not having it. From the moment the first shots rang out, they captured the horror and broadcast it, forced the nation to confront it and talk about it.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 16, 2018

Given the moment we are in, you might think a lot of shows on television would be trying to talk about current events or “America” in some way. But in point of fact, there aren’t that many. And even fewer are doing it well.

Jim McDermottFebruary 16, 2018