Thursday, January 03, 2008

Liberia: Sexual abuse allegations against UN personnel fall

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has released its latest report on sexual exploitation and abuse which reveals a decrease in the number of allegations against its own staff in the last half of 2007 as compared to the same period in 2006.

Only two allegations involving UNMIL personnel were reported from July to December 2007, the period covered by the latest report – which is part of UNMIL’s efforts to implement the Organization’s policy of keeping the public informed about measures taken to eradicate any incidents of such abuse by UN personnel. There were nine incidents reported during the same period in 2006.

UNMIL Military Police have completed their investigations into the two allegations, which are now being reviewed by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Mission said in a news release.

OIOS has finished investigating five of the seven allegations reported in the first half of 2007, and has recommended appropriate disciplinary action in the two cases that were substantiated.

While welcoming the decrease in allegations, UNMIL Officer-in-Charge Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Tahir stated that it would not lead the Mission to become complacent. “We will continue to exert every effort with the Government of Liberia, other local and international partners to ensure that any sexual misconduct involving UNMIL personnel is stopped.”

He added that UNMIL will continue to sensitize the local population, especially women and children, to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse throughout Liberia. “We take seriously our moral obligation to care for and protect the people of Liberia from any harm that may result from our presence here,” he stated.

Through its Conduct and Discipline Unit, UNMIL has been conducting outreach programmes in local communities targeting non-governmental organizations, women’s groups, community-based organizations, youth groups, traditional leaders and teachers. It also continues to provide compulsory induction training on sexual exploitation and abuse to new arrivals in the Mission.

Conduct units have been set up in all major UN peacekeeping operations as part of the world body’s efforts to stamp out sexual exploitation and abuse within its ranks.