October 14, 2002 – Washington Times
GENEVA The United Nations’ investigating arm has cleared several U.N. workers of charges of sexual abuse against West African refugee children but has substantiated 10 new cases against aid workers, officials said.
The final report, already presented to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is expected to be released “in the coming days, or weeks,” said a senior U.N. official, who asked not to be identified.
One of the 10 new cases involved a volunteer working for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the preeminent world refugee agency, while the other nine cases involved personnel from nongovernmental agencies.
The probe was ordered a day after the UNHCR and a major children’s charity reported accusations in February of extensive sexual exploitation of refugee children in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone by local employees of more than 40 private aid organizations and U.N. agencies.
At the time, Mr. Annan and UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers said they were shocked and distressed by the reports. Mr. Annan called for a full investigation and stressed the policy of zero tolerance for such acts.
While no complaint against any U.N. staff member was substantiated in the investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the OIOS probe has been criticized by senior U.N. and Western diplomats as too limited in scope.
“They narrowed down [the terms] of the investigation,” said a senior U.N. official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
Mary Kallamur of the Geneva-based Humanitarian Accountability Project said her main concern was that the terms of reference of the OIOS investigation “have not been made public.”
Senior U.N. and Western diplomats familiar with the OIOS investigation said staff of the World Food Program and U.N. peacekeepers in West Africa, or UNAMSIL, were not part of the investigation. Both agencies had been listed in the original joint report by UNHCR and Save the Children UK, which has not been fully released.