U.N. Sex Scandal Hits Pg. 1
LA Times reporter Maggie Farley has been on this story for months, and her editors have given her the go-ahead despite the knowledge that it would drag the United Kumbayah Nations through the mud. So there is still some good journalism being practiced at One Times Square.
Be forewarned, the story is disgusting. A French official sets up a kiddie porn business abetted by his maid. Asian troops gang-rape a woman so visciously that she needs medical help. An 18 year old is beaten by Peacekeepers when she refuses to perform disgusting acts they show her in porno films ... then her family kicks her out. "They offered me love. I didn't have the strength to refuse," she said. In contrast, a UN official explaining an earlier UN sex scandal, brushed it off, saying, "Boys will be boys."
The UN is afraid that if the French official's photos get out, it will be "the UN's Abu Grahaib." There's that false moral relativity again. Abu Grahaib, as bad as it was, involved the embarassment of adult men who likely were in prison for a good reason. This involves the rape, HIV infecting, beating and impregnating of innocent girls women. As the father of three daughters, I certainly don't want to see the Frenchman's photos, but they must be published and the UN must feel the shame and pay the price, if it is to genuinely feel the need to reform itself.
That the UN is covering its shame is made evident in Farley's piece. She details internal discussions about what to do with this information, especially on top of the oil-for-food scandal and increasing calls for Kofi Annan's head. As a crisis communications specialist, the answer is evident to me: Start a true reform process that by necessity lays out what exactly is forcing the need to reform. Reform absolutely is needed because the current provisions may encourage such behavior:
There is little the United Nations can legally do. There is no U.N. tribunal in countries where there are missions that can mete out prompt and public punishment that would serve as a deterrent. Countries recovering from conflict often do not have a legal system capable of handling the cases.
Civilians and soldiers can have their immunity lifted and be deported to their home country, where they may face justice under their own national systems. But prosecution depends on the country and the culture, and there is little follow-up from the U.N.'s side.
Farley reports that there is one champion of reform, Jordanian UN ambassador Prince Zeid Raad Hussein, who is a former peacekeeper. He had to deal with sexual abuse cases involving Jordanian soldiers in East Timor, so has the kind of first-hand experience that is often key to meaningful reform.
Among Zeid's ideas are ways to administer justice swiftly and visibly in the field, so witnesses can testify and communities can see action being taken. It is also proposed that blood samples be taken from all incoming UN soldiers and civilians for future forensic testing use, and that female sex crime investigators be added to UN missions.
Finally, the UN is considering providing counseling and financial support for the victims. What's to consider?