Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 6 News List

UN peacekeepers arrested

AP , UNITED NATIONS

The Moroccan mission to the UN has announced it arrested six UN peacekeeping soldiers in Congo accused of sexually abusing local girls and discharged the contingent's commander.

Fred Eckhard, the UN secretary-general's spokesman, on Monday said the announcement over the weekend showed "the Morrocan authorities attach as much importance to eradicating sexual abuse within UN peacekeeping missions as does the UN."

"The mission hopes that the vigorous and public reaction of Morocco will serve as an example and that other troop contributing countries will follow," he added.

There have been more than 150 allegations of sexual exploitation of girls as young as 13 by UN peacekeepers in Congo.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last Wednesday urged the Security Council to add at least 100 military police to the peacekeeping mission in Congo to help prevent sex abuse by the UN forces.

Eckhard said other measures had been taken, including improved surveillance around UN military camps, a curfew and the shuttering of local stores where soldiers interacted with locals.

Allegations of abuse first surfaced last year and the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services said abuse by peacekeepers was ongoing.

According to last month's report by the UN watchdog agency, peacekeepers regularly had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money. Sexual activities continued even while the investigation was continuing in the eastern town of Bunia between May and September, the report said.

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