Sexual Abuse: The Dark Side of Bangladesh Army’s (Thief) UN Peacekeeping Operations

The United Nations maintains various peacekeeping operations in Africa and many other places of the world, employing more than 100,000 combatant and civilian people on the continent, and the abuses by the peacekeeper threaten to erode the organisation’s legitimacy. Sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers represents a catastrophic failure of protection in Mali, Haiti, South Sudan, Liberia and Congo in recent years.

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For nearly three decades, UN-mandated peacekeepers—both military and non-military personnel—have been embroiled in sexual abuse scandals that have tarnished the U.N.’s reputation, and shattered vulnerable lives. Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers are no exception to other UN peacekeepers. As of December 2017, there were 7,246 Bangladeshi troops and police personnel in 10 missions around the world.

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After Associated Press published its investigation into the Haiti child sex ring, former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the U.N. Security Council that “countries that refuse to hold their soldiers accountable must recognise that this either stops or their troops will go home and their financial compensation will end.”

Since the inception of peacekeeping operations, the United Nations has been grappling with so many sexual abuse allegations involving its peacekeepers that former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called them “cancer in our system.”

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Bangladeshi Army used raped as tactics during Chittagong hill tract conflict. There are recorded incidents at the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission that Bangladeshi Army used raped as a tactics.

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Bangladeshi news paper bdnews24  reported that Five members of Bangladesh Army namely Sepoy Mostafiz, Sepoy Aminul, Sergeant Litu, Warrant Officer Kashem and another army officer were working for the UN mission’s Sakalpia camp in Liberia.

The source said the five paid for having sex with local women and took pictures of sexual acts. They later went to a local photo studio to print the pictures for $25 (Liberian).

The photo shop later demanded $600 for the prints, prompting the five to get back to the camp without the photos. The shop owner later leaked the incident.

In the year 2018, Bangladeshi army officers were working in Sudan under the UN peacekeeping mission were sent back home on charges of sexual torture.

London newspaper The Telegraph carried a report on January 3 on the basis of spot interview with the 20 minor children in South Sudan who were victims of the incidents in 2005.

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A UN spokesman admitted the incident, while the Sudanese government described it as “extremely embarrassing”. Thirteen other Bangladeshi peacekeepers were also interrogated.

British newspaper the independence reported that there are cases include an investigation into an allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse in June 2006 against a Bangladeshi peacekeeper in southern Sudan. While the the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services in Sudan (OIOS) investigation is continuing, the department said the peacekeeper was sent home and dismissed from the army.

In addition, three Bangladeshi guards on duty when the alleged incident took place, and two officers, were repatriated for poor supervision or poor command. The Bangladeshi army dismissed one guard, lowered the rank of the two others, and severely reprimanded the two officers, the Peacekeeping Department said.

Investigators discovered that the U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic allegedly paid girls as little as 50 cents in exchange for sex.

The case is the latest to plague the U.N. mission in the Central African Republic, whose employees have been accused of incidents of alleged sexual abuse or sexual exploitation in the past. At the time of accusations of sexual assault, former Secretary Ban’s efforts to implement a “zero tolerance” policy for such offences.

With each new expose, we learn more dumbfounding details about sexual abuse and exploitation committed by Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers against Haitian women, men and children during the 13 years of rule by the peacekeeping operation known by its French acronym MINUSTAH.

In the case of the Haiti sex ring, children told U.N. investigators of being lured into having sex in exchange for food and then those children were being passed from soldier to soldier.

The peacekeeper is often sent to places where prostitution is openly practised. The United Nations currently issues one condom per day to peacekeepers and urges them not to patronise brothels or engage in sexual activity that is not locally permitted.

The medical testing is not mandatory in Bangladesh nor can the Security Council order mandatory testing, because it exceeds the authority of the United Nations. That is not something U.N. can obligate member states to do.

At the root of the problem is, the U.N. has no meaningful authority to investigate or prosecute crimes; nor should it. The UN acts as police, prosecutor, judge and jury—to itself.

The Associated Press cited an internal U.N. report revealing that Bangladeshi peacekeepers exploited many children in a sex ring from 2004 to 2007. In the wake of the U.N. report, several Bangladeshi peacekeepers were quietly sent home.

Under Bangladeshi Law, sexual exploitation is punishable by civil penal code 1860, the Army Act 1952, the Navy ordinance 1962, the Air Force Act 1962. The UN can refer a soldier for the prosecution to the country sending troops to the UN mission for violation of the code of conduct; however, none was ever prosecuted and imprisoned.

In a 2005 UN internal report recognising the problem of “peacekeeper babies,” U.N. officials wrote that “there is a need to try to ensure that fathers, who can be identified, perhaps through blood or DNA testing, bear some financial responsibility for their actions.”

Even if victims know the names of their abusers, armies in many nations have proved uncooperative in pursuing DNA tests, U.N. officials say.

Several Bangladeshi peacekeepings contacted deadly AIDS virus while posted in a peacekeeping mission in Africa, the Middle East and Western Sahara.

Africa has the highest number of HIV/AIDS infections in the world, with an estimated 28.5 million people living with the disease, including about 2.6 million children under the age of 15.

The BBC has cited the official UN reports that Bangladesh military has tested a blood sample of 90000 troops returning from peacekeeping mission. A large number of Bangladesh Army and Air Force personnel were tested positive to Sexually Transmitted Infections such as AIDS.

The United Nations does not offer health care for the peacekeeping, countries that contribute troops to U.N. missions are expected to ensure the health of their soldiers.

The risk of peacekeepers transmitting AIDS to host populations and significantly contributing to national epidemics is probably low; however, the peacekeeper themselves contracting to HIV is very high.  Allegations of sexual misconduct including contracting HIV, have however brought disrepute to some missions and defeat the purpose of the words “peacekeeper” and “peacekeeping”.

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