Subject: SMH: UN acts at last on sex crimes in Timor
UN acts at last on sex crimes in Timor
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
August 30, 2006
FOR years the United Nations tried to cover up perverted and outrageous behaviour by uniformed and civilian personnel who have served in East Timor since 1999.
But as a new wave of more than 2000 UN-employed police and staff prepare to travel to the capital Dili, Sukehiro Hasegawa, the top UN official in East Timor, has acknowledged for the first time that the UN system failed to bring anybody to justice for crimes that included sexual abuse of children and bestiality.
Dr Hasegawa declared that the UN's Integrated Mission in East Timor, which officially became operational on Monday, would enforce a "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse committed by uniformed and civilian UN personnel.
He said several UN staff would be employed solely to enforce the policy, which will include briefings for all staff at which "they will be made aware of the consequences of any activity they may carry out that could blacken the authority of the United Nations".
Dr Hasegawa, a special representative of the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said the UN "places a great deal of importance" on the efforts to prevent the abuse of East Timorese. The latest mission will be made up of 1608 international police, including 130 Australians, 34 military liaison officers and about 500 civilian staff.
Among deeply religious East Timorese, the behaviour of a small number of the 18,000 UN personnel from 113 countries who have served in the country in the past was spoken about only in whispers.
But the UN establishment in New York was shocked when it received an internal report last month exposing a culture that covered up behaviour that enraged many UN staff, several of whom resigned in disgust.
The report revealed that peacekeepers left behind at least 20 babies they had fathered to poverty-stricken Timorese women who are now "stigmatised" and in some cases "ostracised" by their communities.
It revealed that one UN peacekeeper from an unnamed country sexually abused two boys and two girls in the enclave of Oecussi.
In early 2001, two Jordanian soldiers were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats.
The report warned that the UN's credibility can be "seriously compromised" by its inability to ensure prosecutions of UN personnel who commit sex crimes.
A resolution passed last Friday by the UN Security Council, which established the integrated mission, urged countries sending personnel to East Timor to conduct pre-deployment awareness training about sexual exploitation and abuse of the local population.
It also urged countries to "take disciplinary action and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel".