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Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 07:07 GMT
UN policemen disgraced in Bosnia

By Alexandra Kroeger in Sarajevo

The United Nations in Bosnia-Hercegovina has relieved six members of its international police force of their duties after an investigation into human trafficking.

Two weeks ago, the officers raided three bars in the northern Bosnian Serb town of Prijedor where they found 34 women from eastern Europe who had been forced to work as prostitutes.

The owner of the bars alleged that the raids were launched after he refused to pay protection money to the officers.

But the UN headquarters in New York has issued a statement denying the police officers were involved in racketeering.

It said the officers had exceeded their duties, but withdrew an earlier accusation of improper conduct issued by the UN Public Affairs Office in Bosnia.

The six officers have been sent back to their home countries - the United Kingdom, the United States, and Spain.

Investigation

The head of the UN mission, Jacques Klein, described the men as some of the best officers in the International Police Task Force (IPTF) and said he was sending them home more in sorrow than in anger. He said the officers went beyond their mandate by raiding the bar without the presence of local police.

The IPTF is supposed to be a non-executive force.

The Commissioner of the IPTF, Vincent Coeurduroy, has denied that his officers had any involvement in human trafficking and an internal investigation is now underway.

Since the raid on 13 November, there had been numerous allegations that members of the IPTF were involved in the trafficking.

The trafficking of women sold into prostitution is a growing problem in Bosnia.

More than 200 such women, mainly from the former Soviet Union, have been recovered and repatriated in the past year and a half.

The raid on the three bars in Prijedor was the biggest yet. Some of the women found there were as young as 14.

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15 Nov 00 | Europe
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