Thank you for taking time this morning at short notice.
I just wanted to inform you what the United Nations is doing about the terrible crimes of sexual violence by UN peacekeepers to civilians.
As you know, more serious allegations have been raised about the conduct of United Nations troops in the Central African Republic. I cannot put into words how anguished, angered and ashamed I am by recurrent reports over the years of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN forces.
When the United Nations deploys peacekeepers, we do so to protect the world’s most vulnerable people in the world’s most desperate places.
I will not tolerate any action that causes people to replace trust with fear.
Those who work for the United Nations must uphold our highest ideals. Yet the outrageous and indecent actions of a few people tarnishes the heroic work of tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers and personnel.
Every allegation must be thoroughly investigated.
As you know, I have appointed a high-level external independent panel to look into, more closely into the reports of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic and our systemic response. I look forward to receiving their findings soon.
I believe the disturbing number of allegations we have seen in many countries -- but particularly in the Central African Republic in the period before UN peacekeepers were deployed and since -- speaks to the need to take action now.
Enough is enough.
Today I have accepted the resignation of my Special Representative Mr. Babacar Gaye, Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA.
As I do so, I want to pay tribute to General Gaye’s tireless efforts in support of peace, security and reconciliation over the course of a long and distinguished career – most recently, in the Central African Republic under extremely challenging circumstances and throughout an unprecedented crisis.
I want to be clear that this problem goes far beyond one mission or one conflict or one person.
Sexual exploitation and abuse is a global scourge and a systemic challenge that demands a systemic response. I have informed the President of the Security Council and have requested a special session of the Security Council which will take place tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I will also convene a video conference with my Special Representatives, Force Commanders and Police Commissioners in all peacekeeping operations to underscore their responsibility. I will reiterate that leaders must report allegations immediately, investigate thoroughly and act decisively. Failure to do so will have clear consequences.
I will continue to press to do more. I want leaders to know that they are accountable for their troops, police and civilians. They must also ensure that all receive continuous human rights education and training.
I want Member States to know that I cannot do this alone. They have the ultimate responsibility to hold individual uniformed personnel to account and they must take decisive preventive and punitive action.
I want perpetrators to know that if they commit a crime, we will do everything possible to pursue them and bring them to justice.
I want victims to know that we will strive to uphold our institutional responsibility to safeguard their security and dignity.
To victims, I say we stand with you. Please come forward. Please feel safe in knowing that we will do all we can to respond to these outrageous crimes. You should not feel shame. Shame belongs to the perpetrators.
In addition to physical pain and trauma, victims of sexual violence suffer another grave injury if there is impunity.
Part of healing is denouncing crimes and punishing perpetrators. Women and children should not be victimized twice by a lack of justice.
Today and every day, my message is clear: Sexual exploitation and abuse of power have no place – least of all in the United Nations which stands for the rights of the world’s women and children.
Q: Secretary-General, thank you so much for this; just a clarification: General Gaye, is his resignation linked specifically to the scandals you are addressing this morning? And in addition, sir, if these allegations are confirmed and you had the opportunity to speak with this 12-year-old girl that was raped and the other victims, what would you say to them?
SG: The second question – who?
Q: The second question is: What would you say to the victims, to the alleged victims of these crimes?
SG: First of all, I made it quite clear that I will ask for responsibility of those leaders, SRSGs and police commissioners and other United Nations leaders. When serious human rights violations take place, I made it clear to the UN Security Council several years ago -- then I will ask for institutional responsibility. And we have seen the recurrent crimes taking place in the Central African Republic during the last many months, several months, and I have made it quite clear that there should be some accountability on the part of our leaders. And in fact, General Gaye has [taken] his own responsibility and he submitted resignation; that’s why I have taken his decision and his quite, I think, decisive, responsible attitude, and that is why I am commending his leadership. And for all other crimes which may happen in other places, I will take the same position. That is why I am convening the meeting with all the SRSGs and police commissioners and force commanders tomorrow -- to make sure that they should take a firm, responsible action, first of all to prevent all these crimes and educating and training them; and when unfortunately it happens, there should be immediate, decisive, thorough investigation, including justice process.
To the victims, I have already said that I stand with the victims and families. That is why I have been often asking Member States to provide more female police officers, because many victims they feel very shamed in coming out to bring these crimes, so we really need to have these victims come out. As I said, shame belongs to perpetrators, not to the victims. And there should be care, human care and very kind care by the members of society, including family members, for those people.
Q: Sir, just to clarify, did you ask General Gaye to resign? And tomorrow when you meet with your SRSGs, what are going to say to them, what should they do specifically when an allegation of sexual abuse or exploitation is made known to them?
SG: He has tendered his resignation at my request yesterday. And I, of course -- this may look [like a] very strong action for SRSG who has been working so honourably during many, many years in the UN system. But I really wanted to show a strong example and message to all the international community. I will continue to make sure that there should be training and education, so that we will be able to effectively stem this kind of crimes.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what are you going to do about trying to get the countries that these peacekeepers and other UN mission members who are committing these acts to do to take action against those who actually commit the crimes? Obviously, under the way the system is set up, unless they are straight UN employees, this goes to the governments; so what can you do to ensure that the governments and the militaries of peacekeeping contributors actually do take action?
SG: As I said in my earlier remarks, the ultimate responsibility rests with governments who send their people, personnel. Before they are being deployed, they should educate and train them properly for the importance of human rights and human dignity. When it happens, unfortunately, when they are informed, the perpetrators are found and repatriated, then they should take necessary domestic punitive action. They should be brought to justice in accordance with their national laws. We have been discussing this matter with the Member States all the time. And whenever we repatriate these soldiers and police officers, then we make sure that they have taken action.