Sunday, February 13, 2005

lgf: United Nations: A Network of Pedophiles

lgf: United Nations: A Network of Pedophiles

From LA Times (registration required)
UNITED NATIONS — A scandal about the sexual abuse of Congolese women and children by U.N. officials and peacekeepers intensified Friday with the broadcast of explicit pictures of a French U.N. worker and Congolese girls and his claim that there was a network of pedophiles at the U.N. mission in Congo.

ABC News’ “20/20” program showed pictures taken from the computer of a French U.N. transport worker. The hard drive reportedly contained thousands of photos of him with hundreds of girls. In one frame, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of a victim.

The news report coincided with the U.N.’s new “zero-contact” rule banning any interaction between U.N. soldiers and locals in Congo.

The staffer, Didier Bourguet, 41, is facing charges of sexual abuse and rape in France. His lawyer, Claude de Boosere- Lepidi, said in court last week that there was a network of U.N. personnel who had sex with underage girls and that Bourguet had engaged in similar activity in a previous U.N. posting in the Central African Republic.

Bourguet’s case is the only one that has been prosecuted among 150 allegations against about 50 soldiers and U.N. civilian officials who have served in the Congo peacekeeping mission. At least seven cases of sexual exploitation and abuse have been documented against peacekeepers based in Bunia, a northeastern town. One civilian has been suspended until the investigation is complete, and another has resigned. The U.N. is conducting further investigations and expects to find more cases.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday announcing a set of strict measures designed to stem the sexual abuse that has haunted peacekeeping operations for decades. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the U.N.’s largest peacekeeping mission, with 13,950 soldiers and 1,875 civilian employees, and thus has the greatest potential for problems.

Peacekeepers are no longer allowed to have contact with Congolese except to carry out their official duties, and cannot even buy fruit from vendors; they must wear their uniform even when off-duty or off their base. A general curfew has been imposed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and bars and some cafes have been designated off limits to U.N. soldiers and civilians. Offenders will be repatriated.

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