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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 08:23 GMT
'Zero tolerance' for UN sex abuse
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan said sexual abuse by peacekeepers was "utterly immoral"
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has reiterated his commitment to "zero tolerance" of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

Speaking at a high-level conference on the issue, Mr Annan said nobody should be above the law.

He said the UN was working on a binding treaty on the prosecution of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers.

The UN says about 80% of 100,000 people serving in its peacekeeping operations cannot be disciplined by it.

The conference comes a week after a BBC report highlighted claims of children being subjected to rape and prostitution by UN peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia.

Retribution fears

Mr Annan said all UN personnel, whether civilian or uniformed, had to understand that sexual exploitation and abuse was "utterly immoral", at odds with the UN mission and would be punished.

"There have been crimes such as rape, paedophilia and human trafficking," he said.

UN soldiers in Bunia, DR Congo
The UN has investigated more than 300 peacekeeping personnel

"My message of zero tolerance has still not got through to those who need to hear it - from managers on the ground, to all our other personnel."

Mr Annan said it was essential that the UN create an environment in which people felt able to report allegations of sexual abuse without fear of retribution.

Participants at the day-long conference approved a statement committing themselves to implementing 10 strategic goals.

They include policies on improving training for personnel, preventing those who commit abuse being re-hired and taking action to prevent retaliation after allegations of sexual abuse are made.

The UN's own figures show 316 peacekeeping personnel in all missions have been investigated, resulting in the summary dismissal of 18 civilians, repatriation of 17 members of Formed Police Units and 144 repatriations or rotations home on disciplinary grounds.

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