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When Peacemakers Become Perpetrators: Kathryn Bolkovac Introduces The Whistleblower at the UN
an article by Lia Petridis Maiello, Huffington Post

Kathryn Bolkovac had a passion for doing what is right, representing an institution that symbolizes the culture of peace, humanity and international justice like no other in the world: the United Nations. After living up to the moral standards set by the very same institution, her career in international law enforcement ended in April 2001.

click on photo to enlarge

Bolkovac disclosed the horrors of sexual enslavement of young women, trafficked mainly from Russia and the Ukraine -- also performed by UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. According to a report provided by Human Rights Watch, the "clientele" in Bosnia consisted of International Police Task Force (IPTF) members, SFOR (Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina) staff, local police, international employees, and local citizens.

Recently Bolkovac returned to UN headquarters in New York City, introducing her book The Whistleblower, the testimony that inspired the film with the same name, starring British actress Rachel Weisz. It is a moving and enlightening scripture that serves as a crucial reminder that according to a document released by the UN in March 2010, titled "Sexual Exploitation and Abuse": "sexual exploitation and abuse, in a variety of different forms, has been found to exist to a greater or lesser extent in all duty stations."

Former Nebraska police investigator Kathryn Bolkovac joined the UN Police Task Force in post- war Bosnia in 1999 as an employee of the private military contractor DynCorp in order to train local police officers. She became a human rights investigator, and after blowing the whistle on the humanitarian crimes taking place, she was fired. Bolkovac sued DynCorp in a British employment tribunal, claiming she had been unfairly dismissed. The tribunal ruled in her favor.

As a consequence, the UN published a bulletin of a zero-tolerance policy for all UN personnel in 2003, one among many other initiatives implemented over the years. Despite the concerted efforts, however, sexual assaults in the field instigated by UN peacekeepers are still occurring, the victimized groups often including boys and minors.

In September of 2011 the New York Times reported, "This week, hundreds of Haitians protested in support of an 18-year-old who said he was sexually assaulted by peacekeepers from Uruguay on a United Nations base, eliciting a furious rebuke from Haiti's president and an apology from Uruguay."

A major underlying problem is the limited control that the UN has over individual peacekeepers. A 2007 vote in the General Assembly prevents the UN from taking the lead role in investigating wrongdoing by peacekeepers; that responsibility falls with the troop contributing countries (TCCs) themselves.

This was a problem that had already been clearly identified in a UN internal study in 2005. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in reaction to the scandal and the image damage the UN had suffered, had established the position of the Special Adviser on Sexual Exploitation in Peacekeeping in 2004, which he filled with the former Jordanian ambassador Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein who published a damning study in 2005, stating, "Member states are not reliable enough to do a good job on their own, especially in the early stages of a military investigation." The current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has never filled that position.

(This article is continued in the discussionboard)


Question(s) related to this article:

Protecting women and girls against violence , Is progress being made?

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Latest reader comment:

The 47 CPNN articles devoted to this theme suggest that indeed progress is being made.

This report was posted on February 25, 2013.