UN Member States 'Hypocrites' in Dealing With Sexual Exploitation & Abuse - Top Jordanian Diplomat (REPORT)
(HN, October 18, 2011) -- In astonishingly undiplomatic and candid language, senior Jordanian diplomat, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, said UN member states shoulder much of the blame for the lack of action on curbing abuses by UN peace keepers.
"To put it bluntly, we are cowardly hypocrites," he said.
Zeid, who has served as his country's ambassador to the US and as Permanent Representative to the UN, said that while the UN leadership often gets targeted for not taking action for abuses by UN peace keepers, UN member states often escape accountability.
Following allegations of widespread abuse being committed by UN peace keepers in the summer of 2004, Zeid was appointed as ‘Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.’ In the spring of 2005, he produced a report on this subject; praised subsequently by international civil society for having been ‘revolutionary’ in its approach. It provided, for the first time, a comprehensive strategy for the elimination of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peace Keeping Operations.
Zeid, who spent three years examining what he described as "every angle" of the topic, said "I know the script all too well" and expressed "intense frustration" when discussing the subject.
"The (UN) Secretariat over the last four or five years, has done as much as it can be expected to do...it's not perfect but has essentially hit a wall.
"It is us, the member states, who have created that wall. To put it bluntly, we are cowardly hypocrites.
"We go to the Security Council with our foreign ministers, and we speak of Resolution 1325 (the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women's contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace, but at the same time we are instructing our lawyers, who should be negotiating a convention to create a legal regime..to extend jurisdiction extra-territorially to our nationals. We tell our lawyers to basically usurp any result in that regard.
"And essentially no one holds us to account for it.
Zeid made the riveting comments at a panel convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following the screening of the film, The Whistleblower, which documents the true story of sexual exploitation and trafficking by UN peace keepers in post-conflict Bosnia (see story below).
"I am very pleased that a movie has been produced. Because unless a movie has been produced, or unless there is press comment on our conduct, we are not reliable, as member states, to do the right thing...all of the governments are responsible. There isn't one quarter or other that is more responsible than the other.
"And this effects the abuses across the board, in every area of illicit activity - by civilians and by military. And in actual fact, the civilians, the quality of their abuse was perhaps ever worse than the militaries."
Zeid referenced research that suggested the existence of an extensive pedophile ring in the eastern Congo. "God only knows how long the ring had been in place for."
Zeid said the UN is not a sovereign body, and hence, is limited in prosecuting staff - even for those commit murder, saying the worst penalty it can dish out is termination of service and revocation of pension contributions. "It is the member states that must exercise jurisdiction."
He complained that his recommendations made in 2005 were all rejected - for example, that court martials could take place in situ (in the country where the crime was committed) and that every peace keeper serving in the field give a sample of DNA for possible future legal action, that an independent investigative body be set up.
"We see a colossal failure of states to do the right thing," Zeid said, adding that even his own peace keepers have been found to have committed abuses.
"It is always very strange how when the UN has to answer to these questions (of abuse), the UN officials concerned has to field these rather testing inquiries..and the ambassador is no where to be found - hiding under that desk. And it's really shameful.
"You, members of the media, and members of the film industry, must keep lighting the fire under us. We are not reliable otherwise. You must do this."
Indeed, in the story portrayed in The Whistleblower, after stonewalling by UN officials, the allegations were taken to the BBC for public airing.
In a closing remark, Zeid said it was difficult for him to speak on the issue, and that he had given up a dinner with his mother-in-law to attend the panel. The Prince's remarks were made after the departure of Ban.
Because the panel was held in the evening and on a Friday, there were apparently few members of the media present.
- HUMNEWS staff