BRIEF: Probe in rocket attack from UN-run school in Gaza

NEW YORK CITY, United States – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon ordered an investigation into reports of rocket firing from a UN school in Gaza.  On October 29, an Israeli aircraft filmed militants firing mortars from a school in Beit Hanoun run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  The video shows militants entering the school grounds and firing several rockets.  During the time of the incident, the school was empty; its teachers and students were evacuated prior to the incident due to an Israeli incursion in the area.

The spokeswoman for the secretary general, Marie Okabe, said that “the secretary-general condemns this abuse of UN facilities, which is a serious violation of the UN’s privileges and immunities.” Also, that “he calls on all involved in this conflict to avoid actions that endanger the lives of civilians, especially children, and that put at risk UNRWA’s ability to carry out its humanitarian mission.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Mortars fired from UN Gaza school – 9 November 2007

International Herald Tribune – UN condemns use of Gaza school by Palestinian militants – 9 November 2007

AHN – Palestinian rocket attack launched from UN-run school in Gaza – 8 November 2007

Reuters – UN’s Ban orders probe of shooting for Gaza school – 8 November 2007

UN Investigates Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Ivory Coast

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

The United Nations is investigating allegations of sexual abuse and exploitations by Peacekeepers residing in Ivory Coast. Presently, Moroccan UN troops in Bouake have been confined to their base and have been banned from conducting routine peacekeeping activities. The allegations in the Ivory Coast were uncovered by internal inquiry, and the UN is currently conducting a full investigation. While the exact nature of the offense is undisclosed, troops are alleged to have had sex with underage girls.

In the past, sexual abuse scandals had provoked ex UN chief Kofi Annan’s “zero tolerance” policy to punish “utterly immoral” crimes. In 2003, six Nepalese troops in DR Congo were found guilty of sexual abuse. Moreover, in 2004, two peacekeepers repatriated after accusations of abuse in Barundi. In 2006, UN personnel were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan. Then in 2006, UN personnel were accused of rape and sexual assault in Haiti, and Liberia. In total, over 300 members of UN peacekeeping missions worldwide have been investigated for sexual exploitation since 2004.

The existing suspension in Ivory Coast “complies with the United Nations zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse.” In New York, UN Department of Field Support personnel and Moroccan officials are analyzing the current situation. The suspected Moroccan UN peacekeepers will be “held accountable to the highest standards of behavior” according to UN spokesperson, Marie Okabe.

For more information, please see:

AP – UN investigates peacekeepers in Ivory Coast – 23 July 2007

BBC – UN Probes Abuse in Ivory Coast – 23 July 2007

UN News Centre – Côte d’Ivoire: UN, Moroccan Officials Meet to Address Allegations of Sexual Abuse – 23 July 2007