Investigator Charges UN Personnel Raped or Abused 60,000 Women and Children
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1 (C-Fam) “An estimated sixty thousand women and children have been raped or abused by UN personnel over the last ten years, and the UN bureaucracy is not interested in bringing anyone to justice,” former UN corruption investigator Peter Gallo told an audience in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted in February that the “UN will not claim immunity,” in such cases, but Gallo remains skeptical. The attorney says that the UN system of recourse is fouled by a culture of denial and a filtering system that prevents most cases from going forward. Gallo co-founded Hear Their Cries, a legal assistance organization that helps whistleblowers access justice.
In one case a whistleblower had lodged a complaint when a Chinese human rights defender was detained in China and died from injuries. Her government jailed her after UN staff gave them her name and the names of other Chinese human rights protesters who were seeking visas for a UN conference. The whistleblower said UN staff retaliated, resulting in the loss of employment. The threat of losing a UN job is a major barrier to reporting abuse since the salaries can be eight times more than a local salary. Gallo says that the UN should offer employees permanent contracts to limit such a threat.
Along with retaliation, the UN bureaucracy falls back on a 1946 agreement giving them immunity for violations of the law during official duties. But Gallo says rape of a 12-year-old girl, one of his clients, is never in the line of duty. He says the immunity clause must be reexamined, and that cases should be referred to local authorities not UN bureaucrats. As it stands a UN office, the Conduct and Discipline Unit, filters which complaints, including rape and other serious crimes, go forward to the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
No criminal proceedings can begin while the office investigates, which can be two or three years. By then a rape case becomes extremely difficult to prosecute. Even if a case is decided in favor of the whistleblower, seventy percent of them are overturned on appeal by the UN, while only seven percent of whistleblower appeals end in their favor.
The reason there is so little reporting on the abuses, Gallo says, is that the UN tightly regulates press credentials to only those who are “consistent with the principles of the [UN] Organization.” In other cases, they quash reporting with UN funds. In one case, a Liberian radio journalist who criticized a UN mission in Africa was hired by the UN radio station at sixteen times the salary and put in administrative job to end the reportage.
Gallo said there are national security considerations as well because the waste is likely going to fund terrorism. At just half a percent of what it spends on defense, U.S. spending on UN peacekeeping may seem like a good value, he said, but of the $3.4 billion the U.S. spends on the UN, a third goes to procurement of goods and services in places plagued by corruption. In three countries where the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) funds NGOs, seventy to seventy-nine percent of UN aid went missing to fraud. Somalia ranks highest on Transparency.org’s corruption index with virtually no functioning government that is run by groups associated with international terrorism such as al-Shabaab.