Whistleblower: United Nations Must Act to End Sex Abuse ‘cover-ups’

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The United Nations is guilty of covering up dozens of cases of sexual abuse against women and children by its global workforce and needs to break an unspoken culture of silence, according to a senior United Nations. human rights official and whistleblower.

Anders Kompass, director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), was suspended briefly last April after raising the alarm over child sex abuse by French soldiers in Central African Republic and passing on confidential documents when no action was taken.

He was exonerated completely this month after two panel hearings but, in one of his first interviews since being cleared, said the U.N. urgently needed to address concerns that staff fear losing their jobs if they speak out about sex abuse.

Kompass, who is Swedish, said he had received more than 100 messages from colleagues in the first three days after his name was cleared, some saying they had been “similarly mistreated”.

Many refer to having experienced reprisals or even dismissals after witnessing sexual exploitation and abuse within the United Nations
“I am receiving 30 or 40 messages per day from people in U.N. peace missions,” said Kompass, whose exposure of the abuse involving boys as young as nine prompted a criminal investigation in France that is ongoing.

“Many refer to having experienced reprisals or even dismissals after witnessing sexual exploitation and abuse within the United Nations,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The revelations in Central African Republic, along with similar complaints from other countries, have put pressure on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reform the way the world body handles misconduct by peacekeepers and civilian staff.

United Nations peacekeeping officials said the organization’s leadership had been making “intensive efforts” to ensure greater accountability and transparency among its 120,000-strong workforce, including speeding up the process of investigation.

“U.N. Peacekeeping does not and will never accept a ‘culture of tolerance’ with regard to both misconduct and the reporting of misconduct,” a New York-based spokesman said.

FEARS OVER SPEAKING OUT

But Kompass said the emails he received – dictated to the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone – showed this was a problem entrenched throughout the global organization that last year had 94,000 troops and military peacekeepers on its books.

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