28 April 2008 The United Nations has rebutted allegations that there was a cover-up of an internal investigation into alleged misconduct by UN peacekeepers working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Senior UN officials said that while the UN took the allegations very seriously, it believed the reports were misleading and false, and neglected to mention a number of important factors. Where allegations had been substantiated, action had been taken with the countries concerned, they added.
The reports, initially aired by the BBC, alleged that Pakistani troops with the mission to the DRC (known as MONUC) had engaged in illegal gold trafficking and re-arming of a militia group in eastern DRC, that the UN’s investigation into the case had been blocked for fear of alienating Pakistan, and that Indian troops were involved in illegally buying gold and using a UN helicopter to effect an exchange of ivory for ammunition.
A spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Marie Okabe, told a media briefing that the allegation that the UN had sought to cover up charges of weapons trafficking because of political sensitivities was false. She said the UN was following up with the Member States in question on the disciplinary action they had taken on the basis of the UN’s internal investigation.
Ms. Okabe said much of the information in the latest reports was based on hearsay or came from sources, including militia leaders, whose integrity and motivations were “highly questionable,” as they themselves had been arrested and imprisoned by UN peacekeepers.
The head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, addressed the allegations in detail in a letter to the BBC, saying there was no evidence for many of the charges, and that UN investigators had taken action against those involved when they had been able to substantiate allegations of misconduct.
Mr. Guéhenno said that while it was impossible to have no incidents of abuse among more than 110,000 UN peacekeepers, the UN was committed to zero tolerance, zero complacency and zero impunity. He added that the UN had asked the governments of Pakistan and India to take appropriate action against military personnel who were implicated in wrongdoing, and was waiting to hear what measures had been taken.
“We are committed to working with our partners in the troop and police contributing communities… to address incidents of misconduct when they do occur and to ensure that the unacceptable actions of a few do not undermine the good work being done by so many,” Mr. Guéhenno said.
Answering journalists’ questions, a senior official from the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) said that investigators had followed up every allegation against MONUC peacekeepers, but had been unable to substantiate most of them. He added that in some cases, investigators had interviewed the sources cited by the BBC, but had been given different information.
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