UN Peacekeepers and Human Trafficking
January 15, 2012 – The Guardian
The Whistleblower is a shocking film that reveals how Balkan peacekeepers turned a blind eye to kidnapping, torture and rape. But these abuses still go on.
We do not see the torture inflicted on one girl for trying to flee her captors, but we see the tears of her fellow slaves forced to watch. We see the iron bar tossed on to the cellar floor when the punishment is over, and we know what has happened.
The Whistleblower spares you little. It is a film about that most depraved of crimes: trafficking women for enslaved sex, rape and even murder.
As a dramatised portrayal of reality, however, The Whistleblower is “a day at the beach compared to what happened in real life”, says its director, Larysa Kondracki. “We show what is just about permissible to show. We couldn’t possibly include the three-week desensitisation period, when they burn the girls in particular places. We couldn’t really capture the hopelessness of life these women are subjected to.”
Starring Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower, released tomorrow on DVD, is the most searing drama-documentary of recent years and has won many prizes. But more important than the accolades is that everything in the film is true. The film deals with enslavement and rape in Bosnia, not during wartime 20 years ago but during the peace. Worse, not only were the enslaved women’s “clients” soldiers and police officers – so too were the traffickers, protected at the top of the United Nations operation in Bosnia.
Such was the crisis sparked by the ensuing film last year that the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was obliged in October to stage a special screening and to pledge action. But now it emerges that senior UN officials tried to belittle the film and play it down, while the whistleblower herself warns that, for all the UN’s professed resolve, “unfortunately, the widespread horror is already there. This is not going to be simple or a quick fix.”
Moreover, the UN has shut down effective anti-trafficking initiatives by its own gender affairs chief in Bosnia.
Kathryn Bolkovac, from Nebraska, was sacked by Dyncorp of Virginia, to which peacekeeping police work in Bosnia had been outsourced; her employer claimed she had filed erroneous time-sheets, but was challenged by Bolkovac and overruled by a British employment tribunal in 2002.
Speaking to the Observer last week, Bolkovac said: “The thing that stood out about these cases in Bosnia, and cases that have been reported in other [UN] mission areas, is … that police and humanitarian workers were frequently involved in not only the facilitation of forced sexual abuse, and the use of children and young women in brothels, but in many instances became involved in the trade by racketeering, bribery and outright falsifying of documents as part of a broader criminal syndicate.”
Video link: http://vimeo.com/60594944
In Bosnia in 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac, a U.N. peacekeeper whose post with the Intl. Police Task Force was arranged by DynCorp Inc., is assigned to run the IPTF office that investigates sex trafficking, domestic abuse and sexual assault. She ultimately alleges that peacekeepers, U.N. workers and international police are visiting brothels and facilitating sex trafficking by forging documents and aiding the illegal transport of woman into Bosnia. DynCorp responds by firing Bolkovac, who returns to the U.S. and files a wrongful termination case. She wins the suit but says she’s still blacklisted.