2 November 2007 The United Nations today announced that it will repatriate more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) on disciplinary grounds.
Out of a total of 950 members of the Sri Lankan battalion (SriBat), 108 will be repatriated tomorrow, 3 November, with the cooperation of Sri Lankan authorities and following the receipt of a preliminary report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
The move comes in response to allegations which are “of a transactional sex nature,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters, adding that “there is a question of some underage girls.”
“The United Nations and Sri Lanka take this matter very seriously and reiterate their shared commitment to both the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to best practices in peacekeeping,” she said in a statement.
“The United Nations and the Sri Lankan Government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred, despite their efforts to ensure the highest standards of conduct and discipline.”
Among those to be repatriated will be the battalion’s second-in-command and two company commanders, Ms. Montas said.
The UN will follow up on the issue, she said.
After hearing of allegations of abuse and exploitation incidents by SriBat in several locations in Haiti, MINUSTAH asked for an immediate investigation by OIOS and Sri Lanka dispatched a high-level national investigative team, which includes a female officer, according to the statement.
Currently, MINUSTAH, Sri Lanka and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) are assessing the situation and considering how to assist the victims, Ms. Montas said.
She noted that “Sri Lanka is a longstanding and important troop-contributing country with a history of dedicated service with UN peacekeeping missions.”