By Amy Lieberman
Sunday, October 23, 2011
A "Whistleblower" screening at U.N. headquarters recently turned heated. When the secretary-general cast the problem of peacekeeper abuse as a "dark period" in the past, the movie's director took issue, saying more movies are to be made.
Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom told Women's eNews that she keeps up-to-date with peacekeepers, but that this issue doesn't fall within her mandate.
Rees, now serving as the secretary general of the Geneva-based Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, disagreed with Wallstrom on that.
"This is part of her mandate. It's just men wearing different colored uniforms, that's all," she said. "There's just a general reluctance to take this issue on because look at what happens to people who do."
The United Nations condemns all forms of sexual exploitation and requires peacekeepers to undergo training in sexual violence and abuse before they begin their service. But international military immunity means the U.N. can only recall peacekeepers. From there member nations are often charged with investigating the allegations of abuse.
The duty is sometimes neglected, said Ivan Barbalic, permanent representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the U.N., during the post-screening discussion.
"There's a tendency to cover up and protect even in the fact-finding phase," he said. "There must be participation from headquarters to make sure this is partial and objective."
Movie director Kondracki also noted that top officials in U.N. headquarters should be scrutinized just as carefully as peacekeepers for their moral and legal conduct.
"This is not just about peacekeepers on the ground. We have videos of high-level diplomats walking around U.N. headquarters with people they purchased," she said during the forum.
By that point in the discussion period, Ban had left the room.
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Amy Lieberman is a correspondent at the United Nations Headquarters and a freelance writer in New York City.
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