UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- A report to the United Nations Thursday proposed forcing peacekeepers to submit to DNA tests to establish whether they have sexually abused women or girls and to ensure that those who have fathered children while on a mission pay child support.
The proposal reflects mounting concern that large numbers of "peacekeeper babies" are being abandoned, tarnishing the reputation of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers in the communities they were sent to help. The issue has come to light through investigations into sexual exploitation by U.N. personnel in Congo.
The initiative is part of a broader set of reforms aimed at halting a sexual abuse scandal reaching U.N. operations in Congo, Liberia, Burundi, Haiti and other parts of the world.
The 41-page report was written by Prince Zeid Hussein, Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations and a former U.N. peacekeeper. It calls for establishing a trust fund for women victimized by U.N. personnel, garnishing the wages of culpable peacekeepers and compelling countries that provide peacekeepers to prosecute soldiers responsible for sex crimes.
"The founders of the United Nations did not intend that the privileges and immunities of [U.N. personnel] should constitute a shield from national prosecution for crimes committed in a state hosting a UN operation," Zeid wrote.
Investigators have documented more than 150 allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. personnel in Congo. In July, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asked Zeid to travel there and undertake a review of U.N. policies on sexual exploitation. Annan endorsed the report's proposals, and Zeid said he will now focus on persuading governments to support his reforms.
The United Nations' blue helmets were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 and have long enjoyed a reputation as peacemakers in some of the world's most dangerous and traumatized countries. But the United Nations, which has about 80,000 peacekeepers on 17 missions, has been shadowed by sexual abuse scandals the past 15 years in Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere.
"The history of peacekeeping has been one of distinguished collective accomplishment and personal sacrifice," Annan wrote in an introduction to the report. But, he said, "The revelations in 2004 of sexual exploitation and abuse by a significant number of U.N. peacekeeping personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have done great harm to the name of peacekeeping."
The report calls for the creation of a permanent U.N. investigative team, which would include a lawyer or prosecutor from the offender's country, to investigate sex abuse cases. And it urges nations that supply peacekeepers to establish courts-martial at crime scenes to prosecute individuals from their own countries.
It also calls for the creation of a data tracking system for following investigations into abuse and determining whether perpetrators have been prosecuted.
The United Nations does not track the population of children abandoned by its peacekeepers. But one recent investigation into sexual exploitation in the Congolese town of Bunia cited "a growing number of babies allegedly fathered" by U.N. soldiers and civilians.
The confidential July 15 report, obtained by The Washington Post, recounts the story of an unidentified American employee of the United Nations who has allegedly fathered children in Haiti, East Timor and Congo.
The U.N. mission interviewed a Congolese woman who alleged that after providing initial support, he abandoned her in their child's first year.
"At first he paid the hospital delivery fee and then $400 to the mother," the report states. "Then he paid approximately another $300 but for the last year, he had no contact with the mother or child and paid no money."