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Three Truths To Address Sexual Exploitation, Abuse & Harassment In The UN

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united nations

The U.S. Government has recently published ‘Engagement Principles’ on Protection from Sexual Exploitation Abuse & Sexual Harassment within International Organizations’, and while any involvement from Member States is to be encouraged, these principles do not address the fundamental need for either deterrence or for accountability.

 

 

The concept of a “survivor-centred approach” – sadly – is an irrelevant sound bite to appease a political lobby. Post-incident care and support for the victim is not only admirable but very necessary but serves no deterrent purpose, and any bearing it might have on the prosecution of an offender will be indirect at best

 

 

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Nothing done for victims after an incident will prevent future victims being similarly assaulted.
One of the accepted tenets of criminology is that criminal activity is not discouraged by procedures, committees, working groups or focal points, nor is there any deterrent effect in increasing the penalty for anyone convicted of the offence; criminal activity is minimised by maximising the likelihood of the perpetrator being held accountable for their actions. The UN choses to ignore that, and will not acknowledge three basic truths the Member States must recognise:

 

 

 

FIRST: that any sexual assault is a serious criminal offence that should be prosecuted as such.
In the real world, where both a criminal case and a civil one arise from the same event; the civil case will be sisted to give priority to the more important criminal prosecution. The UN, however, does the opposite and insists that their administrative investigation take priority over the criminal investigation of the same incident.

 

 

As a result, even where a rape is reported in the UN, the chances of the perpetrator being successfully prosecuted in a criminal court is minimised to the point where the risk is insignificant.

 

 

SECOND: that while UN personnel require and deserve the protection of the 1946 Convention on Privileges & Immunities, that Convention does not grant immunity for sexual offences.
Abuse of the concept of immunity has greatly influenced the evolution of the UN culture into one of narcissistic entitlement, where sexual predators believe they can act with impunity.

 

 

Functional Immunity was afforded to UN staff members under the Convention which states, very clearly, in Section 18:
Officials of the United Nations shall : (a) be immune from legal process in respect of words spoken or written and all acts performed by them in their official capacity; (Emphasis added.)

 

 

 

Given that any sexual activity – whether consensual, contractual, or coerced – is not part of the “official duties” of any UN staff member; it is self-evident that no immunity can apply in the case of any sexual offence. If such an offence appears to have been committed; the host nation must therefore have jurisdiction over the matter.

 

 

 

The Convention was adopted to protect UN staff against harassment by a hostile government, and in those conditions, there will always be a risk that criminal charges might be fabricated. There is no doubt, therefore that the UN must take an interest in any accusations against staff members, but as soon as their preliminary enquiries establish reasonable grounds to believe that a sexual offence has been committed; the matter should be handed over to local law enforcement immediately – for them to proceed with a criminal investigation.

 

 

The Convention was never intended to protect offenders from the consequences of their own criminality. That is made clear in Section 20 which reads:

Robert Tapfumaneyi