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November 13, 2009

Letter to UN for release of investigative reports on UN rape of Haiti women, children by those pledged to protect them

By Ezili Danto

The newly release UN data on abuse falls short, is reprehensible. UN investigation into the 114 Sri Lankan soldiers accused of sexually abusing minors and running a brothel in Haiti must be made public to the Haitian people and the victims offered assistance, especially minors whose childhood innocence cannot be returned. UN peacekeepers accused of rape and sexual abuse ought not be protected through organized UN secrecy.

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"I am the history of rape...
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it's about walking out at night
or whether it's about the love that I feel or
whether it's about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders...I know from my heart...
I have been raped." Poem about My Rights
by June Jordan
***

HLLN Letter to the UN asking for investigative reports, specific actions taken and punishment metered, reparations provided to Haitian victims of rape and sexual abuse by UN soldiers in Haiti

Hon. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General
The Honorable H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the sixty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly
Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti
United Nations
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017 and,

Hédi Annabi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

Hon. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, General Assembly President Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, Special MINUSTAH Representative Hédi Annabi, and Special Envoy Bill Clinton:

(cc:Suzan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Michelle Montas, Spokesperson to the UN Secretary-General; Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, Porte-parole de la MINUSTAH and Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the media.)
*

In 2005, the Ezili Danto Witness Project reported on a Jordanian soldier's brutal rape and sodomizing a Haitian mother of five in Haiti. The report was sent to the UN, the victim complained to the UN. The investigation process never led to a resolution that was ever revealed to HLLN or the victim. (Read the English transcript.)

In 2007, it was discovered and reported that girls as young as 13 were having sex with U.N. peacekeepers for as little as $1 in Haiti. Moreover, Sri Lankan soldiers were accused of systematically raping Haitian women and girls, some as young as 7 years old.

Today, the UN said that dozens of UN peacekeepers were punished for sexual abuses. (UN peacekeepers involved in abuse are being punished, world body says, UN News Center, November 5, 2009, and Dozens of UN peace keepers punished for abuses, CBC News, November 5, 2009.)

Indeed, what this UN statement reveals to Ezili's HLLN is that if only a dozen UN peacekeepers were punished for sexual abuse and rape, than that means, for instance, most of the 114 Sri Lankan soldiers deported back to Sri Lanka from Haiti in 2007 for sexual abuse and rape in Haiti did not get punished. The Jordanian and other perpetrators we are aware of through Haitian complaints also have not been redressed or punished.

The more important revelation is the UN's continued secrecy on this matter as “no data on the nationalities or identities of the peacekeepers were revealed.”

HLLN is again publicly and via cover of this note to UN authorities requesting the release of the findings of the investigation and report as to exactly what was happening in Martissant, Haiti and other locations at the brothels set up by the Sri Lankan and other UN soldiers in Haiti before they were deported in 2007.

Via-cover of this note, Ezili's HLLN again stresses that the UN should take a leaf out of Oprah's book and not run from the allegations of rape and abuse by their employees. When girls at Oprah's school in South Africa alleged sexual abuse, Oprah investigated, apologized to the students, their parents and the entire community that such depravity could have happened in her school, cleaned up the mess and set up new accountability standards and rigors so that such depraved assaults on children had a lesser chance of re-occurring.

The UN could at least do the same with all those international experts and PHDzzzs on its payroll. Investigate, apologize to the people of Haiti, fully and publicly report the result of the investigations, reveal the names of the culprits to the Haitian public, provide relief for the victims, set up new standards and accountability bars for the countries whose soldiers were involved in the rapes and sexual abuses in Haiti, not just release these diluted data where nothing is really revealed.

The UN's “zero tolerance” is lip service until it is backed up by actions that realistically assures Haitians they are truly concerned about these depraved assaults on minors and women by their UN soldiers, are providing counseling and assistance to the victims, have cleaned up all backlog of complaints and have stopped making the victims who come forward with allegations, for instance, of gang rape by three or four soldiers at a time, feel responsible, terming the acts "consensual" if money was exchanged and/or further making the victims feel responsible for the abuse and exploitation of power with appallingly racist statements to the effect that - “Haitians are natural prostitutes, used to trading sex for food, shelter and education.” What such moral actions, new standards and accounting procedures would signal to Haitians is that indeed this indecency is clearly marked very seriously as a zero tolerance zone by UN superiors.

The newly release UN data on abuse falls short of such responsibility and is reprehensible. The investigation into the 114 Sri Lankan soldiers accused of sexually abusing minors and running a brothel in Haiti must be made public to the Haitian people and the victims offered assistance, especially the minors whose childhood innocence cannot be returned.

Humanitarian aid workers and UN peacekeepers accused of sexually abusing and sexual trafficking children in Haiti should have their names and their country's identities exposed so that this matter may be cleaned up once and for all.

HLLN looks forward to a response to this letter from the UN authorities and a copy of their investigation to share with our Network and the media.

To end, we attach a Final Call article on this same HLLN concern for justice, transparency and accountability from the UN, written more than a year ago: UN peacekeepers and aid workers accused of abusing children, Final Call, June 24, 2008

For a related concern which touches on the UN and other authorities non-transparency and irresponsibility in cases involving the sexual abuse and rape of Haitian people by aid workers, see: No More Secrecy -HLLN on Douglaz Perlitz's new motions asking for secrecy.

Sincerely,

Ezili Dantò/(Marguerite Laurent)
President, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network ("HLLN")
November 5, 2009
erzilidanto@yahoo.com
http://www.ezilidanto.com

*************************************

Recommended HLLN Links:

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UN peacekeepers involved in abuse are being punished, world body says, UN News Center, November 5, 2009

5 November 2009 – Dozens of United Nations peacekeepers implicated in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation have been disciplined and punished, a spokesperson for the world body said today.

The UN has imposed a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse and exploitation by its peacekeepers, and senior officials have reiterated in recent years that this means there is no impunity for blue helmets who engage in such practices.

UN spokesperson Michele Montas said that, since January, troop-contributing countries have reported that 33 military personnel implicated in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation while serving in UN operations have been disciplined and punished.

This is according to the Department of Field Support (DFS), which added that the punishments included forced retirement, withdrawal of officer's commission, various lengths of imprisonment and outright dismissal.

Last year, two military personnel received such disciplinary action and there were 15 such cases the year before, Ms. Montas told reporters in New York.

In addition, disciplinary action was taken, over the past three years, against 20 military personnel for cases involving other forms of misconduct, such as negligent loss of firearms, traffic-related violations and fraud or theft.

Some of the cases involved peacekeepers who served in Haiti, Lebanon, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which hosts the largest UN peacekeeping mission worldwide.

Deployment of UN peacekeepers is at a record high, with more than 113,000 personnel serving in 18 operations on four continents.

While not providing details about those engaged in misconduct, Ms. Montas said there have been a number of cases where people have been repatriated, with follow-up action by troop-contributing countries.

“When allegations of misconduct are substantiated against any military or police serving in UN peacekeeping, the UN repatriates the individuals concerned and then bans them from participating in future peacekeeping operations.”

She added that the UN tries to pursue cases of any misconduct as far as it can. Beyond that, national tribunals and national courts have a role to play.

“The UN is trying to get troop contributors to do more in prosecuting and punishing their nationals who engage in misconduct,” said the spokesperson.

Ms. Montas stressed that there has been an increase in the number of requests and responses to those requests in dealing with the issue.

In 2009, the UN sent 112 requests for action taken concerning all forms of misconduct, including but not limited to sexual exploitation and abuse, and received 14 responses as of 3 November.

By comparison, she noted, the UN sent 192 such requests in 2008 and received six responses on action taken, while 146 requests were made and nine responses received in 2007.

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UN: 50 peacekeepers punished for sex abuses By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER, Associated Press, November 5, 2009

GENEVA — At least 50 peacekeepers have received punishments ranging from reduction in military rank to eight months imprisonment for committing sexual abuses on United Nations missions since 2007, the U.N. said Thursday.

The data were released after media organizations asked what measures countries were taking against peacekeepers accused of rape and other abuses in conflict areas such as Congo. The U.N. can investigate allegations of misconduct, but prosecution is handled solely by governments contributing personnel to missions.

The figures show a significant increase in prosecutions and court-martials by national authorities this year. The disciplinary action against 33 peacekeepers in "cases involving sexual exploitation and abuse" through November included lesser penalties from dismissal, forced retirement and withdrawal of an officer's commission to prison sentences reaching eight months.

Only two military personnel were punished for similar abuses in 2008, and 15 in 2007, according to the U.N. data aggregated by the organization's field support department.

"When allegations of misconduct involving military and police personnel are substantiated, the U.N. can repatriate the individuals concerned and ban them from participating in future peacekeeping operations," the U.N. said.

Allegations of sexual exploitation and other crimes have dogged U.N. peacekeeping missions almost since their inception in 1948, with abuses reported in missions from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor, West Africa and Congo. The issue was thrust into the spotlight after the United Nations found in early 2005 that peacekeepers in Congo had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money.

In response, the U.N. adopted a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse and a universal code of conduct that required training for all peacekeepers. But it left punishment for wrongdoers to individual countries, which has been a continuing problem.

The figures show that the U.N. has referred to national authorities over 450 instances of misconduct — sexual and otherwise — since 2007. It received responses in only 29 of these cases.
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UN peacekeepers and aid workers accused of abusing children Posted: 2008/06/24
From: MNN

The Save The Children UK research involved hundreds of children in Cote d'Ivoire, southern Sudan and Haiti. The most shocking aspect was that the sex abuse went unreported and unpunished, with children too scared to speak out and little happening to perpetrators of the despicable acts when children did speak up.


(Final Call)

UNITED NATIONS - A European charity organization, Save The Children UK, accused humanitarian aid workers and UN peacekeepers of sexually abusing and sexual trafficking children in several war-torn and food-poor nations.

“It's hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights,” said Jasmine Whitehead, of Save the Children UK. In interviews, children said they engaged in prostitution, pornography, traded food for sex and were raped. The report was released in late May.

This report is a blessing, said attorney Marguerite Laurent, chairwoman of the Connecticut-based Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network. “In Haiti, children as young as six were sexually abused by peacekeepers and aid workers, according to the report; and by the lack of media coverage it would seem that the world doesn't care,” Ms. Laurent told The Final Call.

“Those of us on the ground in Haiti have been saying these things for years, but this report has credibility because of the group putting it out,” Ms. Laurent stressed. The activist attorney added that very little was being done to support victims of the reported abuses.

Some journalists have attempted to alert the international community concerning the persistence of gross human rights abuses in Haiti since the 2004 coup that ousted the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Center for the Study of Human Rights at Miami University's Law School published a report on the security breakdown in Port-au-Prince after the 2004 coup, which, according to Brian Conconnon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, was ignored by the UN and the international community.

“What the UN Mission In Haiti is doing is not a mission of stabilization,” said Mr. Conconnan. “It is a mission that engages in operations of massacres, assassinations and alleged sexual abuse of women and children more so than activities of reconstruction and peacekeeping,” he said.

The Save The Children UK research involved hundreds of children in Cote d'Ivoire, southern Sudan and Haiti. The charity organization said the most shocking aspect was that the sex abuse went unreported and unpunished, with children too scared to speak out and little happening to perpetrators of the despicable acts when children did speak up.

But, the report found there was an “endemic failure” on the part of the UN and others in responding to cases of abuse. “A better reporting mechanism needs to be introduced,” the report said.

Save The Children UK also noted that the international community has a policy of zero-tolerance toward child sexual abuse, but that stated policy was not being followed by action on the ground. A major part of the charity organization's critique was aimed at the lack of punishment of wrongdoers in blue helmeted peacekeepers.

“The United Nations has refused to accept moral responsibility for the action of peacekeepers under its control,” Ms. Laurent said.

At the United Nations there was a welcoming of the report. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the report was “very helpful” and would be studied closely.

The secretary-general's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, a Haitian, told reporters the report was “largely accurate,” but would not take reporters' questions concerning the charges it contained. Instead Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support Jane Holl Lute was sent as a “sacrificial lamb” before the press.

When reporters asked Ms. Lute about the outcome of the cases of the Moroccan peacekeepers repatriated from Cote d'Ivoire accused of rape; or the Sri Lanka contingent repatriated from Haiti on similar charges, she said, “I came down to speak about the report, not those cases.”

But several reporters would not let the issue go and Ms. Lute finally admitted that the Peacekeeping Department had asked the mission in Cote d'Ivoire to respond to charges they were given evidence in child sex abuse cases and did not act.

She said there might be accountability from the mission's leadership, but was unclear on whether it would be the departed leadership or the present group.

“Holding individuals accountable has been an ongoing problem, because none of the reports mentions names of the organizations the individuals work for; so they just leave one job and get hired by another aid group, and the cycle continues,” said Ms. Laurent.

Larry Holmes, UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs told reporters there was a need to boost efforts to make “zero tolerance” of sexual violence a reality by reversing the “continued failure” of peacekeepers and UN police officials to “take sexual violence seriously.”

Mr. Holmes also urged an end to ineffective investigations, minimal prosecutions and interference by the military and other officials in the administration of justice.

Ms. Laurent said the problem is corruption between the international community and local authorities, and whether or not the government takes action against a person depends on where they work.

Save The Children UK agreed, saying the international community is not “exercising sufficiently strong leadership and managerial courage.” It asked for an outside-sponsored watchdog to oversee peacekeeping operations.

Reports from missions continue. In early 2008 the Daily Telegraph in London reported that members of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Sudan were facing allegations of raping children as young as 12.
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Submitters Website: http://www.ezilidanto.com

Submitters Bio:

Human Rights Lawyer, Ezili Danto is dedicated to correcting the media lies and colonial narratives about Haiti. An award winning playwright, a performance poet, author and lawyer, Ezili Danto is founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, runs the Ezili Danto website, listserve, eyewitness project, FreeHaitiMovement, the on-line journal, Haitian Perspectives and Zili Dlo, an Ezili Network project for clean water, renewable power, cultural education and skills transfer for Haiti.

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