An internal report reveals UN staff members were sacked after they shared child abuse images on the organisation’s computers
Four UN staff members have been sacked for distributing and storing child abuse images on work computers and email accounts in the last 18 months, while ten more have been fired for child rape and sex abuse cases in the last decade, according to an internal UN report.
But the UN has no record of any criminal actions having been brought against the members of staff. Commentators suggest that the way the cases have been dealt with raises questions about how the UN responds to sex abuse allegations.
The cases are among several hundred cases in an internal annual report on disciplinary matters and cases of criminal behaviour in the organisation for the period July 2014 to June this year.
The staff, who are not named, are accused of distributing “pornographic material involving a minor” using their UN email accounts, as well as storing material on the organisation’s computers.
Reports going back to 2007 reveal that four more staff members have been disciplined for distributing child abuse images in the last eight years.
In 2007-8, a member of staff was found to have “repeatedly used UN laptops to download and view paedophile material”. The staff member is reported to have “persisted with such conduct even after being formally warned for misusing UN property”.
As punishment, the individual was “separated from service with compensation in lieu of notice, without termination indemnity”. Three more staff members were dismissed in 2011 for distributing child abuse images. A further ten cases going back to 2004-5 were found where UN staff members engaged in sexual activity with minors, including several rape cases.
None of the reports refer to any criminal action being brought against the personnel.
A spokesperson from the UN said the organisation has referred all “credible allegations of criminal conduct, including those relating to sexual exploitation and abuse and the distribution and storage of child pornography images, by officials and experts on mission” to the states of nationality since the General Assembly adopted resolution 62/63 on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission in 2007.
However, the spokesperson also said the UN was “not aware of any criminal convictions relating to cases of sexual exploitation and abuse and child pornography”. He said that the organisation “has not been requested to cooperate in any national proceedings”.
The reports also highlight other criminal acts committed by UN officials, including one staff member who was dismissed for using an official vehicle “to transport approximately 173 kg of marijuana”. One member of staff was disciplined for trying to transport a chainsaw on UN passenger plane without authorisation, while another was reprimanded for stealing $2,200 from the luggage of a passenger travelling on a United Nations flight.
The UN has been dogged by sexual abuse allegations against staff members and officials throughout this year. In April, the Guardian revealed that a UN official had been suspended for leaking a report detailing sexual abuse committed against street children in Central African Republic to French authorities. Weeks earlier, an internal report described sexual abuse as a “significant risk” to UN peacekeeping missions.
The organisation has also faced criticism for failing to pass all rape allegations made against its staff on to the relevant national authorities. Secretary general Ban Ki-moon has described sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping as “a cancer in our system”.
Brian Concannon, executive director at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, an advocacy organisation which advocates for human rights in the country, which has a significant UN peacekeeper presence, said that the way the UN has handled these cases is far from ideal.
“The UN’s response shows just how deeply the UN’s head is buried in the sand regarding sexual abuse,” said Concannon.
“An organisation seriously committed to reducing abuse would track the cases it refers to the staff’s home countries, so it knows how well its own investigations are working, and whether it needs to require improvements in accountability before accepting more staff from that country.”