06/04/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Peacekeepers Abusing Children In Post-Conflict Areas

A leading UK charity, Save The Children, has issued a report saying that peacekeepers are abusing children in post-conflict areas such as the Sudan and Haiti:

Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the very people drafted into such zones to help look after them, says Save the Children...

...Save the Children says the most shocking aspect of child sex abuse is that most of it goes unreported and unpunished, with children too scared to speak out.

A 13-year-old girl, "Elizabeth" described to the BBC how 10 UN peacekeepers gang-raped her in a field near her Ivory Coast home.

"They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me... I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing," she said.

After research involving hundreds of children from Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, the charity said better reporting mechanisms needed to be introduced to deal with what it called "endemic failures" in responding to reported cases of abuse.

The deputy chief investigator with the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services in Congo from 2005 to 2007 addressed the issue of who will watch the peacekeepers in an op-ed in the New York Times just 4 days ago:

The BBC and Human Rights Watch have both brought forward evidence that the United Nations covered up evidence of gold smuggling and arms trafficking by its peacekeepers in Congo. The peacekeepers are said to have had illegal dealings with one of the most murderous militias in the country, where millions have died in one of the bloodiest yet least visible conflicts in the world.

Last month, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations, told the BBC that her investigators drew the right conclusions based on the evidence they found: that there was little that warranted prosecution or further investigation.

I wish that were true. I was the investigator in charge of the United Nations team that in 2006 looked into allegations of abuses by Pakistani peacekeepers in Congo and found them credible. But the investigation was taken away from my team after we resisted what we saw as attempts to influence the outcome. My fellow team members and I were appalled to see that the oversight office's final report was little short of a whitewash.