Indian Army probing sexual abuse charge against UN peacekeepers

August 13th, 2008 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Close on the heels of taking action against three of its UN peacekeepers in the Congo, the Indian Army said Tuesday it was probing charges of sexual exploitation and abuse by another group of its soldiers in the African nation. “Some reports of Indian peacekeepers being involved in sexual exploitation, including child abuse, have been received by the Indian Army,” a statement issued late Tuesday said.

“In keeping with the efforts to ensure the highest standards of discipline and conduct by the Indian peacekeepers, the vice chief of army staff (Lt. Gen. M.L. Naidu), during his visit to the Indian brigade in Monuc May 27-30 had directed that an internal inquiry be carried out by the commander there, Brigadier Inderjeet Narayan, to examine the allegations and identify the defaulters, if any,” the statement said.

“The inquiry is under judicial scrutiny and strict disciplinary action will be taken should any individual be found guilty,” the statement added.

“It has also been learnt that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) of the UN has also conducted an inquiry into the matter. We would seek the details of this inquiry to corroborate/augment the internal inquiry being conducted by the Indian Army.

“The Indian Army is committed to ensure that necessary disciplinary action is taken against the individuals, if proved guilty,” the statement added.

The Indian Army had earlier last month taken disciplinary action against three of its UN peacekeepers in the Congo for their “aberrant behaviour”.

After the “aberrant behaviour” came to light, the Indian Army “recalled the concerned individuals and ordered detailed investigations” headed by an officer of three-star rank, an Indian Army statement July 14 said.

“Subsequent to the investigations, disciplinary action against the three Indian peacekeepers has been initiated under the provisions of the Army Act,” the statement added.

The statement was headlined “Clarification regarding disciplinary action against Congo defaulters” but turned out to be an admission of guilt on the part of the three Indian Army personnel, comprising two officers and a soldier.

The army had hitherto kept under wraps the details of the investigations and the action taken against the trio.

Detailing the “aberrant behaviour”, the statement said its genesis lay in a soldier of the Indian peacekeeping contingent “being lured into purchasing a small quantity of counterfeit gold dust and thus being cheated by an anti-social person.

“Investigations have revealed that the concerned soldier with his immediate superior officer, on becoming aware of having been cheated, detained the cheat to recover the soldier’s money.

“Irrespective of the gravity of the incident, it may be noted that the Indian Army recalled the concerned individuals” and had taken action against them, the statement added.

The incident had come to light during a larger probe into allegations that members of the Indian contingent had run guns and peddled drugs to the warring factions in the Congo.

The probe, and another one committed by the UN, had cleared the Indian contingent of any wrongdoing, the statement said.

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