As stated in a report prepared for the UN Human Rights Council, 111 soldiers and 3 officers from MINUSTAH’s Sri Lankan battalion were repatriated due to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of Haitian minors. The UN’s then spokeswoman Michele Montas described the allegations as transactional sex with underage girls, and also stated that once returned to national jurisdiction, Sri Lanka would pursue the case.
On Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Montas’ successor Nesirky about the Sri Lanka case, after requesting an update on previous Nesirky responses about alleged abuse by Brazilian MINUSTAH peacekeepers:
Inner City Press: it is Haiti time now, the two year anniversary, is there any additional information about the incident in which the Brazilian peacekeepers were accused of beating the water delivery men; at the time it was said it was going to be looked into, I believe, by MINUSTAH, as well as the Brazilians. Is there any finding?
Spokesperson: I think as we mentioned, since the allegations were made the case and the allegations were referred to the Brazilian authorities. And I think it would be good for you to check whether the Brazilian authorities have any follow up on that. If we hear anything separately, then of course I will let you know.
Inner City Press: Does that mean the UN peacekeeping mission sends people out but even the investigation is outsourced to the TCC [troop contributing country] itself, what does it mean for the UN to say there is a zero tolerance, if it has no role in investigating, much less prosecuting alleged wrong doing?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, just as I have mentioned with regard to the case that involves the Uruguayan peacekeepers, MINUSTAH is actively engaged in liaising with the Haitian government to try to help the efforts of the Uruguayan authorities. Zero tolerance policy means what it says. Despite what you may think, Matthew, it means what it says. The troop-contributing countries do have the sovereign responsibility for their service personnel serving in UN peacekeeping missions. And the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations believes very strongly that zero tolerance means precisely that and there must be accountability. When allegations are made and people are found guilty, then there must be accountability for that.
Inner City Press: there was a repatriation of some 90 or some Sri Lankan peacekeepers. And it has never been said whether in fact anyone was ever prosecuted. Does the UN know whether, in fact, there was ever any prosecution brought in those cases, and is it possible to say publicly, so that zero tolerance would be assessed?
Spokesperson: Let me check. As you also know, there are rather extensive records kept on allegation cases, and then the follow up, it is as I have said on a number of occasions, including today, it is a matter for the troop-contributing countries; it’s a matter for them; it’s their sovereign responsibility. And it is under their national legislation. That doesn’t mean that the United Nations is not interested; and doesn’t follow up, but it does fall within the jurisdiction of national authorities. The zero tolerance policy really is a crucial facet of the peacekeeping role that the United Nations has and the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will continue to underscore that.
But how is it “zero tolerance” if no one is convicted, or even fully brought to trial?
The report continues that “despite the promises to investigate and prosecute the crimes in Sri Lanka, no information is readily available on the status of the investigation or prosecution there either. The organizations producing this report were unable to obtain further information upon inquiry to Sri Lankan officials. Nor is there any information on the extent to which the Government of Haiti has sought information on these statuses. The results of any investigations that might occur are certainly not made known to Haitian victims, thereby precluding possibility of reparative damages or sense of justice for these crimes.”
And so it goes with this UN.