United Nations Should Be Accountable For Peacekeeper Crimes
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.
The UN investigated some of the claims in 2007, but said it could not substantiate claims of arms dealing.
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.
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?
IMMUNITY FROM INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
Why is the UN exempt from war crimes?
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?