The United Nations is withholding more than 40 new cases of sexual violence by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) in direct contravention of its promise to disclose all information to the public, an NGO has said.
The US-based NGO AIDS-Free World said on Wednesday that it received information that the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) had documented 41 additional cases of sexual violence by peacekeepers in the country.
The NGO, which has also been running the Code Blue Campaign to End Impunity for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, said that a cable leaked to them showed that MINUSCA had informed UN headquarters on April 7 that an “integrated team” sent to the town of Dekoa from March 25th to April 4th interviewed 59 women and girls and found 41 new cases had never been previously reported.
“These exercises in evasion, after the cable had been received, are deeply disappointing. It’s clear that the culture of suppression of information is still alive and well at UN headquarters,” the statement released on Wednesday read.
‘Meticulous as possible’
The UN immediately denied the charge and said that it was suppressing no information.
“I don’t think we’re withholding information […] we’ve been trying to keep reporters, the public and officials, including Troop Contributing Countries, up to date,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said during a midday briefing in New York on Wednesday.
“I think, with allegations of sexual abuse that we take extremely seriously, one also has to be very… as meticulous as possible in handling numbers, in handling and interviewing victims, and it’s exactly what we are doing,” Dujarric said.
AIDS Free World reserved special criticism for Jane Holl Lute, Special Coordinator on Improving United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, accusing her of failing to live up to her mandate.
“It’s quite a commentary on the way in which the UN works when the coordinator becomes the lead dissembler,” the NGO said.
— UNIC Washington (@unicdc) April 11, 2016
The UN has been in the spotlight after dozens of allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in CAR.
In March, it said it learned of 108 new sexual abuse cases in CAR.
AIDS Free World said the leak showed that the UN “is clearly unable to handle sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. There is no plan, and there is absolutely no leadership.”
On Monday, Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS Free World, said the UN was not in a position to investigate claims of sexual abuse committed by its own peacekeepers.
Donovan said the onus was now on member states to create an independent and impartial body made up of prosecutors and judges to monitor and rule on these crimes.