“The Mission strongly condemns such behaviour which is not worthy of United Nations personnel,” MONUSCO said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nine members of the South African contingent have been detained and confined to barracks.

Assault and threats

The personnel involved were deployed at a MONUSCO base in the east of the country, said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, speaking on Wednesday during his daily briefing from New York.

MONUSCO had received reports that they were “fraternizing, after curfew hours, at an out-of-bounds bar known to be a place where transactional sex occurs,” he said.

The Mission’s military police and conduct and discipline personnel visited the premises to assess the reports. 

“After confirming their presence and attempting to detain the contingent members for breaching the UN’s standards of conduct and the Mission’s non-fraternization policy, UN Mission personnel were physically assaulted and threatened by the contingent members,” Mr. Dujarric told journalists.

“There is also evidence indicating a serious failure in the exercise of command and control by senior military officials belonging to that same contingent.” 

Zero tolerance policy

MONUSCO said the reports about the peacekeepers’ behaviour followed a series of measures that had been proactively implemented across the Mission area to ensure compliance with UN values and standards of conduct.

MONUSCO contacted the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and took “precautionary measures” in line with the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, and other serious misconduct.

“These initial measures include the suspension, detention and confinement of the peacekeepers involved, pending further details of these allegations, including a full investigation,” the statement said.

The relevant authorities are being informed of the allegations, including a request to deploy a National Investigation Officer to investigate jointly with OIOS.

Any identified victim will be referred for assistance in line with the UN strategy on support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Addressing misconduct

Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly underlined that the UN has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation, stressing that preventing and eliminating it is a top priority.

The UN has a three-pronged strategy to address all forms of misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse, covering prevention, enforcement of UN standards of conduct and remedial action.

In 2016, the UN appointed a Special Coordinator tasked with improving the response to sexual exploitation and abuse, followed by the appointment of a Victims Rights Advocate one year later. 

Source of original article: United Nations (news.un.org). Photo credit: UN. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.globaldiasporanews.net).

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