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Congo Abuse

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

Some United Nations peacekeepers serving in the Congo have been charged with sexually abusing the people they were sent to protect. A U-N report says, "Interviews with Congolese women and girls confirmed that sexual contact with peacekeepers occurred with regularity, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money."

According to news reports, six soldiers from Morocco were arrested by the Moroccan government for their involvement in the sexual abuse. Mamadou Bah, a Moroccan government spokesman, said he hopes the arrests will be an example to other United Nations peacekeepers that sex crimes will not be tolerated.

The South African government has already prosecuted two soldiers charged with sexual abuse in the Congo. A civilian U-N worker faces prosecution in France for rape, sexual aggression, corruption of female minors, and possession of pornographic pictures of female minors.

The U-N is investigating other allegations involving U-N peacekeepers from Uruguay, Tunisia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Jean-Marie Guehenno is the U-N undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations. He says, "When I see people being tainted by the actions of those who've committed abuse, it demoralizes the mission. It destroys the trust that the Congolese have in the U-N's peacekeeping mission in Congo and in the effort of the United Nations."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. is concerned about the situation with U-N forces in the Congo:

"The sexual abuse of vulnerable persons is reprehensible and intolerable. It's a violation of [the] U-N Code of Conduct as well as humanitarian law. . . .It's abhorrent to see those who are responsible for keeping the peace engaging in these kinds of human rights abuses."

The United States, says Mr. Boucher, expects countries sending troops to Congo and elsewhere "to investigate all alleged misconduct and to take appropriate disciplinary action."