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United Nations Should Be Accountable For Peacekeeper Crimes

April 27, 2008

The UN has covered up claims that its troops in Democratic Republic of Congo gave arms to militias and smuggled gold and ivory, the BBC has learned.

UN troops ‘armed DR Congo rebels’

The allegations, based on confidential UN sources, involve Pakistani and Indian troops working as peacekeepers.

The UN investigated some of the claims in 2007, but said it could not substantiate claims of arms dealing.

UN insiders told the BBC’s Panaroma they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons.

an 18-month BBC investigation for Panorama has found evidence that:

Pakistani peacekeepers in the eastern town of Mongbwalu were involved in the illegal trade in gold with the FNI militia, providing them with weapons to guard the perimeter of the mines.

Indian peacekeepers operating around the town of Goma had direct dealings with the militia responsible for the Rwandan genocide, now living in eastern DR Congo.

The Indians traded gold, bought drugs from the militias and flew a UN helicopter into the Virunga National Park, where they exchanged ammunition for ivory.

The UN looked into the allegations concerning the Pakistani troops in 2007.

It concluded that one officer had been responsible for dealing in gold – allowing traders to use UN aircraft to fly into the town, putting them up at the UN base and taking them around the town.

But the UN decided that “in the absence of corroborative evidence” its investigators “could not substantiate the allegation” that Pakistani peacekeepers supplied weapons or ammunition to the militia.

UN insiders – close to the investigation – told the BBC they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons.

The BBC’s Martin Plaut says that in short, the Pakistanis, who are the largest troop contributors to the UN in the world, were too valuable to alienate.

These are not the only allegations to have been brought against peacekeepers in DR Congo.

In December 2006, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Moroccan troops had been involved in widespread sexual abuse.

“There have been crimes such as rape, paedophilia and human trafficking,” he said, shortly before leaving office.

Now and then there would be a story about UN Peacekeeper crimes. These were treated as isolated and rare cases by the news media. BBC has gone the extra mile to pursue the terrible allegations about Palistani Peacekeepers trading arms for gold and ivory. Until now this was taboo because Musharraf may have played a role in supressing investigations. Why are more Pakistani UN troops than other countries?

UN PEACEKEEPERS EXEMPTED FROM WAR CRIMES PROSECUTION – 2003

SECURITY COUNCIL REQUESTS ONE-YEAR EXTENSION OF UN PEACEKEEPER

IMMUNITY FROM INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Why is the UN exempt from war crimes?

Report on Abuse Urges DNA Tests for Peacekeepers

UN Peacekeepers and the Abuse of Children

‘The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo’ Illuminates and Devastates

As underreported as the horrific genocide in Darfur, Somalia, has been, it’s front-page, headline news compared to the untold, unbearable and far vaster suffering of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Civil war began there in 1997 and has never really ceased. Further fueled by neighboring rebels from Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, this is the deadliest conflict since World War II, with four million killed in a decade of fighting and an estimated more than 250,000 women and children raped.

In the words of UN Peacekeeper Colonel Roddy Winser, “There is no doubt that rape is a method in this environment to create a continued instability and dominance… This is without question the worst environment that I have seen.” Classic British understatement.

The rebels aren’t the only ones guilty. Members of Congo’s own military are culpable, too, and even some of Winser’s 17,000-member United Nations peacekeeping force have been accused of trading milk and eggs for sex with girls as young as ten.

Where armies go, there will be crimes. Armies watching armies will take advantage of the disenfranchised as a matter of course. There are few restrictions because fellow soldiers will remain silent, no one listens to the victims anyway. Soldiers fall into the mentality of ‘I am protecting you, so you owe me’. Oversight is negligible until they are caught ‘red handed’ by some brave reporter with a camera. Officials distance themselves from crimes, only after there is no where to hide. Soldiering is dangerous, but soldier criminal recreation should always be held accountable by a world court. Why are laws and human rights such an expendable commodity?

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4 Comments
  1. June 21, 2008 5:40 am

    Thank you Cassandra, I enjoyed you blog and put you in my blogroll. Our missions are alike. Unnecessary violence, especially against children, must become top priority. Too many despicable traits are tolerated by all armies. The mental illness that drives soldiers to commit atrocities must be addressed on a global scale. I am convinced that there is an underlying mental health epidemic that has infected our leaders and their armies. Sociopathic behavior must be recognized before it can be treated.

  2. June 18, 2008 3:21 pm

    Thank you for keeping an eye on the situation and referring it to your readers. Additionally thank you for referring to my post UN Peacekeepers and the Abuse of Children. Please also see my post earlier this month Abuse by UN Peacekeepers at http://children.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2008/06/01/abuse-by-un-peacekeepers/

    Best
    Cassandra

  3. April 28, 2008 8:27 pm

    Opit, how right you are. Why do nations feel it is easier to shoot someone rather than talk to them? Is this a perverted way to depopulate an over-populated planet? Why do (western) societies always want more than they need?
    My theory is that society has been mesmerized by marketing geniuses. Market driven societies will always need to extort the less fortunate to do their bidding. “If you want what I’ve got, do as I say”. This strategy is backfiring. Personal satisfaction has contorted a world view, consequences be damned. Somewhere, humans lost touch with Mother Nature and have been lured into the trap of consumerism.
    Sorry for getting distracted, the UN seems to have recruited unsavory “peacekeepers”. What angers me is the cover up and insistence on immunity for its criminals. Honor and veracity lost, the UN has exacerbated problems they are sent to diffuse.

  4. April 27, 2008 10:41 pm

    The UN is at least purportedly ‘keeping peace.’
    NATO provides spotters for air assaults on civilians if I follow the end results of their ativities correctly – just like U.S. forces in Iraq.
    As you say, “corruption follows armies” – logical since corruption sends them.

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