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UN and US urge accountability for victims of Sri Lankan peacekeeper abuse

The United Nations and the United States have stressed the need for accountability for sexual violence committed by Sri Lankan peacekeepers, as Sri Lanka prepares to send a fresh batch of blue helmets to Mali.

The call comes after an investigation by the Associated Press revealed details of sexual abuse against Haitian children, committed by at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley urged all countries that send troops to UN peacekeeping mission to punish soldiers who commit sexual abuse and exploitation, citing the abuse by Sri Lankan soldiers.

She said that "countries that refuse to hold their soldiers accountable must recognize that this either stops or their troops will go home and their financial compensation will end".

The UN also said it has pushed for greater accountability, but pointed to Sri Lanka for answers on continuing impunity for those crimes.

"The issue of impunity of peacekeepers who committed horrendous crimes, who violated the trust given to them and were not persecuted is one of the reasons, and one of the many reasons, this Secretary‑General and his predecessor have pushed for greater accountability and have pushed for greater partnership for Member States.  And Member States have not always given us the information we needed.  So I would urge you to check with, with the Sri Lankans," spokesperson for the Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric said to the press on Thursday.

Mr Dujarric said that all peacekeepers are vetted and that Sri Lanka has a responsibility to certify "that none of the soldiers that are being deployed from wherever they come from have ever been implicated in any sexual abuse". 

Responding to a question on continued deployment by Sri Lankan peacekeepers, in spite of continuing impunity, Mr Dujarric said, "I don't think they continue to deploy.  As you know, there was no deployment of Sri Lankan peacekeepers for a long time."

However earlier this month, Sri Lanka's military spokesperson said that 200 Sri Lankan peacekeepers would leave for Mali to join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in May. Military spokesperson Roshan Seneviratne told the Sunday Times that the 200 soldiers had undergone a vetting process in line with UN requirements. He also dismissed allegations that Sri Lankan forces had committed human rights violations during the last stages of the war here.