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Dec 15, 2017

Report questions UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka (video) Featured

Two human rights groups have issued a joint report titled ‘Sri Lanka’s UN peacekeepers - let the punishment fit the crime’ as the Sri Lanka Army is to send its latest team of 200 men to Mali later this month, says radiogagana.com.

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and Journalists for Democracy (JDS) in Sri Lanka say in the report that Sri Lanka has yet to hold any of its 134 peacekeepers against whom a UN inquiry found prima facie evidence of child sexual exploitation in Haiti a decade ago, accountable.

In its 2016 submission to the UN, Sri Lanka further states that a military court of inquiry was set up to investigate allegations against some members of the 6th contingent deployed to Haiti, says the report posted on the itjpsl.com website.

Problematic

This is problematic because the OIOS (UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services) inquiry report makes it clear the violations didn’t just start in 2007, they had been going on since 2004 from the arrival of the first contingent of Sri Lankans in Haiti. It appears that only one contingent was disciplined by Sri Lanka, not six.

There is also the responsibility of the Contingent commander to discipline his men. The OIOS report says there were “clear indications of red flags” of sexual exploitation and abuse at the Sri Lankan bases but the Sri Lankan commanders failed to take action.

Questions govt. statements

Of the 10 officers convicted, the Government says one had his commission withdrawn, one was retired and eight were given punishments “based on the gravity of the offences committed”. Given the allegation was child sexual exploitation it’s hard to understand how any punishment without jail time fits the crime.

The Government said it had established a military court of inquiry. But in a November 2017 article, the High Commissioner to Canada, Ahmed A. Jawad, said there were two courts of inquiry conducted by the Sri Lankan army and the navy respectively.

Sri Lanka’s submission to the UN states that in June 2015 the UN Secretariat noted the outcome of its military court process and confirmed the matter closed. Sri Lanka’s Hugh Commissioner to Canada later said that the UN Secretariat wrote to the Government to say that as of 29 September 2014 it considered the matter closed. It’s not clear why different dates are given.

UNSG’s zero tolerance policy

No statement has been issued by the UN to contradict the Sri Lankan assertion that the issue is closed. This seems extraordinary the lack of criminal accountability for what is organised child sexual exploitation committed over many years by multiple contingents in the face of the “zero tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse advocated by the Secretary General.

The report tells the United Nations, DPKO, OHCHR to disclose what action was taken in ensuring that Sri Lanka complied with their obligations in terms of the 134 soldiers repatriated and the UN OIOS Inquiry to ensure accountability.

It also wants the disclosure of the standards and criteria utilised by DPKO to ensure that sexual predators and paedophiles are not allowed into peacekeeping troops i.e. is there now a register of those implicated in such crimes across the world?

The ITJP and JDS wants the Government of Sri Lanka makes a full disclosure on how it dealt with the 134 soldiers allegedly implicated in the sexual exploitation and abuse including of minors in Haiti, including the names, ranks and command units of the 134 soldiers.

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