The UN has found that its peacekeeping troops from India may have been engaged in abuse and exploitation while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply troubled by the findings. He has sought “disciplinary action to the maximum degree permitted by Indian law” against these peacekeepers.
The Indian Army said that they are investigating the allegations and the vice chief of the Indian army had visited Congo in May to look into them.
One anonymous UN official said the case involved abuse of young girls and boys by at least 100 Indian peacekeepers over several years.
A UN statement said an internal investigation “revealed prima facie evidence” that the Indian troops in the UN’s Congo mission Monuc “may have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse”.
Ban said the Indian government had assured the UN that the allegations would be promptly and thoroughly investigated and, if proven, strict and exemplary action would be taken as per the law.
Stressing that he highly valued India’s long-standing and valuable support for UN peacekeeping, the secretary-general expressed his respect for all those peacekeepers from India and other troop-contributing countries who served with honour and commitment. “The misconduct of a few should not diminish the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the large number of blue helmets who serve the cause of peace.”
The allegations surfaced after the UN mission in Congo came under heavy scrutiny due to a report by Human Rights Watch earlier this year, which accused it of covering up allegations of Pakistani and Indian troops’ involvement in alleged arms and gold smuggling in eastern Congo.
MONUC, which was established in late 1999, is one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world. The vast majority of MONUC’s nearly 18,000-strong force is based in Congo’s east, which has remained a violent patchwork of rebel fiefdoms and militia-controlled areas despite the official end of a 1998-2003 war. Over 100 UN peacekeepers and personnel have been killed.