India peacekeeping troops accused of committing sex crimes in Congo News
India peacekeeping troops accused of committing sex crimes in Congo
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JURIST] The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said on Tuesday that the organization has found significant evidence that Indian peacekeeping troops have committed sex-crimes [press release] while stationed with the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) [official website]. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) [official website] began the investigation in May after receiving reports that some troops had paid for sex with Congolese minors. Condemning the alleged abuses if true, Ban's spokesperson stated:

The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the outcome… He reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, that such behaviour, if substantiated, is wholly unacceptable and that disciplinary action to the maximum degree permitted by Indian law should be taken as soon as possible against those found to be involved in such misconduct… The Secretary-General highly values India’s long-standing and valuable support for United Nations peacekeeping. He expresses his respect for all those peacekeepers from India and other troop-contributing countries who serve with honour and commitment, and stresses that the misconduct of a few should not diminish the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the large number of Blue Helmets who serve the cause of peace.

In response to the report, the Indian army has begun its own internal investigation [PTI report] into the allegations, a move praised by the UN. The alleged abuses were exposed during an earlier UN investigation into reports [UN News report] that some Pakistani and Indian troops had been involved in gold and arms smuggling in the African country. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The allegations of child exploitation made against the troops are particularly egregious given that the use of child soldiers [HRW materials] by militia leaders in the country was one of the primary human rights violations the forces have tried to remedy. One such leader, Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile], is currently being held in the Netherlands as the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] hears a prosecutor's appeal [PDF; JURIST report] against his release [JURIST report] which was ordered after alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Lubanga had been the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], and is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] and other human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder].