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Child rape impunity no bar to UN peacekeeping deal with Sri Lanka

The United Nations has signed a ‘routine’ agreement with Sri Lanka so that resources can be accessed when needed for peacekeeping.

This is despite 20% of a Sri Lankan peacekeeping force in Haiti being sent back in 2007 after UN investigations confirmed reports of sexual exploitation of children, and there having been no prosecutions against the soldiers once repatriated.

“[This] was a routine agreement, which the UN has already signed with 89 other member states," Martin Nesirky, the UN spokesman, told a news briefing. "It is meant to speed up the provision of resources to the UN when necessary."

Since 2004 Sri Lanka has contributed to the UN mission in Haiti, with about 950 personnel serving there.

A scandal in 2007 saw 114 troops sent back to Sri Lanka after a UN investigation found evidence of sexual exploitation of children.

The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) concluded that “acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and occurred usually at night, and at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed,” the Sunday Times reported.

“In exchange for sex, the children received small amounts of money, food, and sometimes mobile phones,” OIOS said.

The UN said Sri Lanka had responsibility for punishing the troops. It added that  charges should include rape because the sexual exploitation involved children.

But there have been no investigations, let alone prosecutions, of any soldier accused of sexual abuse on whilst UN peacekeeping duty.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, responding at the time to the reports, said of the troops: “I respect them profoundly and consider them as the most disciplined Forces in the world. They have not killed or raped anybody.”

This week, when asked whether there was any concern over the signing of a peace keeping agreement while there are allegations of war crimes against the country, the UN spokesman said the primary responsibility of ensuring that serving peacekeepers meet the highest standard of integrity required by the UN clearly lies with member states themselves.

"We insist with Member States that they should contribute personnel that have not committed human rights violations," Nesirky said adding that the UN carries out individual screening for uniformed personnel deployed as senior military or police personnel staff officers or experts on mission.

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