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'Preventing Sexual Abuse by U.N. Peacekeepers' by Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous

29 May 2015
Hervé Ladsous

To the Editor:


Re “Keeping the Peace, but Accused of Abuse” (Memo From the United Nations, May 26):

United Nations peacekeeping has put in place a number of measures to address the issues raised. And we are seeing progress: In 2005 there were 340 reported cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. There were 51 cases reported in 2014.

While this is encouraging, each case is one case too many. The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that must rely on the sovereign jurisdiction of our member states, including the exclusive criminal jurisdiction of those countries that contribute peacekeeping troops.

Since 2006, the United Nations has made concerted efforts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse; to enforce measures to report and prosecute sex crimes; and to remediate the suffering of the victims. Any immunity that United Nations police and civilian personnel enjoy is for their official acts, not for their private acts, and certainly not for any sexual crimes.

In most cases, it is the United Nations itself that refers credible allegations of sexual crimes by its personnel to the appropriate national authorities for criminal investigation and prosecution. It would also be wrong to ignore the due process rights of those who are accused of sex crimes or to ignore our duty to protect the identity of the vulnerable victims.

Crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation are abhorrent regardless of who commits them; they are even more repugnant when committed against children and worse yet when they are committed by the very soldiers sent to protect them from physical harm. The United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse is integral to the core values held by our personnel across the globe.


New York

The writer is under secretary general for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations.

[ A version of this letter appears in print on May 30, 2015, on Page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Preventing Sexual Abuse by U.N. Peacekeepers. ]