SCRIPT:Congo: Peace at What Price?

This story aired on "20/20."

Now an investigation that is sure to send shockwaves around the world. This is a story of betrayal and abuse, of men working for the United Nations as so-called peacekeepers, preying on the very people they're supposed to be helping. Tonight, "20/20" Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross takes you into the African Congo and into the heart of darkness.

BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS

Saturday night in the Congo. In a country ravaged by war, it's still a party night. At least for members of the United Nations peacekeeping contingent, arriving at a place of drinks, dancing and plenty of prostitutes. A place where desperately poor women offer themselves for sex to the UN personnel sent to protect them. Oral sex is just $2 here, even less elsewhere in town. It's what human rights investigators call survival sex.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

We have heard cases where they have traded eggs for sex or bread for sex or a jar of peanut butter for sex.

BRIAN ROSS

A jar of peanut butter for sex?

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

Yep.

BRIAN ROSS

Paying for sex with food or cash is strictly prohibited by UN rules. Even being in a place where prostitutes are available is supposedly prohibited. But by 1:00 AM, we saw several young women loaded into UN vehicles and driven away. One example, on one night of what a "20/20" investigation found to be a much larger pattern of misconduct, sexual exploitation and worse, by UN personnel in the Congo.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

This has become one of the very nasty side effects of having peacekeepers in the Congo.

BRIAN ROSS

Anneke van Woudenberg went to UN refugee camps in the Congo to investigate for the group Human Rights Watch.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

The UN is for their protection. So when the protectors become violators this is particularly grievous, this is particularly bad.

BRIAN ROSS

What we found in this central African country, a century after colonial rulers first victimized it, includes widespread allegations of the rapes of young Congolese girls by UN troop, including this 14- year-old. An Internet pedophile ring, run out of the Congo by a UN official from France. Wide-open prostitution, just outside the gates of UN camps. A lieutenant colonel from South Africa, accused of sexually molesting his teenage male translator. And an estimated hundreds of underage girls with abandoned babies, fathered by UN troops who've been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

There is almost no peacekeeper who has been held accountable and who's had to face the courts because of what they have done.

BRIAN ROSS

UN Peacekeeping troops first came to Congo five years ago to stop a raging border war. Men from countries including Uruguay, Morocco, Pakistan and South Africa. The UN does no background checks on these men and they are exempt from prosecution in the Congo. The first reports of sex crimes began within a year of their arrival.

WILLIAM SWING, UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION

It pains us all. It's absolutely odious and we're determined to wipe it out.

BRIAN ROSS

The head of the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Congo is a former American Ambassador, William Swing. Swing says he is determined to end the sexual exploitation. But he describes it as a problem only recently brought to his attention. And he claims only a small percentage of the 11,000 UN troops here are involved.

WILLIAM SWING

The few people have managed to basically -to cause disgrace for the mission and for the UN and that's why we're determined to conquer it.

BRIAN ROSS

A few people?

WILLIAM SWING

A few people, yes.

BRIAN ROSS

You think just a few?

WILLIAM SWING

Well, I've sent a dozen home.

BRIAN ROSS

But human rights groups have reported scores of cases in this refugee camp alone. Desperate women sought protection from the sexual crimes of enemy militias. Some of the UN troops behaved no better, particularly targeting and tempting young girls.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

These are not people who have very much. So they hang around the outskirts of these UN bases in order to try and get a handout, a little food. Maybe they can try and sell some bananas or some peanuts. And it has become not uncommon that peacekeepers invite these girls in. And of course, the younger the better, because there's less chance that they will be infected by HIV/AIDS.

BRIAN ROSS

How young?

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

The UN themselves have documented cases where this has happened to girls as young as 11.

BRIAN ROSS

And young boys, too. This South African lieutenant colonel, Koos van Breda, is now awaiting trial, accused of sexually molesting his teenage male translator. And despite what the UN says is a crackdown, a zero tolerance policy, we saw teenage girls and this teenage boy waiting to sell sex just two weeks ago, outside the UN camp in the town of Goma. The boy recited some of the first names of the UN troops who he says have paid him for sex. James?

WILLIAM SWING

I think you're talking mostly about what's happened in the past.

BRIAN ROSS

No.

WILLIAM SWING

This is going to be cleaned up now.

BRIAN ROSS

This is two days ago ...

WILLIAM SWING

We're trying to remove ...

BRIAN ROSS

Two days ago, we were talking to working prostitutes who continue to be engaged by the troops.

WILLIAM SWING

But I'm telling you what the policy is.

BRIAN ROSS

This is going on now.

WILLIAM SWING

If it's going on now, it's being violated. And what I'm saying to you is, we haven't reached 100 percent compliance with 0 percent tolerance. We will be there, though. We will get there.

BRIAN ROSS

There's a long way to go. Congolese officials say scores of young girls in the Congo were somehow lured into sex with a senior UN logistics officer named Didier Bourguet, a French citizen who photographed his victims having sex with him. Some appear to be even younger than 11, based on what "20/20" saw in the hard drive in his computer. In one photo a tear rolls down the cheek of a victim. Congolese officials suspect Bourguet was sharing these computer images with others in the UN. But he was sent back to France to face prosecution before a full investigation could be completed.

WILLIAM SWING

I feel justice was served, yes. He's been sentenced for crimes that he committed. He is now no longer a threat to the Congolese population. He's no longer effacing the image of the UN here. And I think it showed that we took it seriously. We got him out of the country quickly. Got him before a court of law and put him where he belonged, which was in jail.

BRIAN ROSS

The local officials say there's evidence on the hard drive that he was sharing this pornographic material of the young girls with other UN employees.

WILLIAM SWING

It's possible. I don't know that.

BRIAN ROSS

But Bourguet's French lawyer says his client admits he was involved in a network of UN personnel who had sex with underage girls in the Congo and elsewhere. Something he claims had previously been tolerated by UN officials.

BRIAN ROSS

And what about the young women who he raped and photographed?

WILLIAM SWING

They're -again ...

BRIAN ROSS

Have you made any effort to find them?

WILLIAM SWING

They're young women. We will make an effort to find them and we will make an effort to include them under our victim support program. That's what we have to do -try to do ...

BRIAN ROSS

But none of that's happened yet?

WILLIAM SWING

I'm not aware that it has.

BRIAN ROSS

Why not?

WILLIAM SWING

Perhaps we don't -perhaps they don't know where they are. I don't know.

BRIAN ROSS

In fact, none of victims we talked with in the Congo had received any help of any kind, psychological or financial from the UN. Including this 14-year-old rape victim. Police say she was on her way to village well for water when two blue helmeted UN troops from Morocco stopped her. One raped her.

ACCUSER, FEMALE

He asked me not to shout and when I start to shout, he put his hand over my mouth.

BRIAN ROSS

The family took their devastated daughter to the police and a doctor from an aid group filed this rape report with the UN.

MOTHER, FEMALE

I'm really sad all the time. Just imagine, you send your daughter to get some water and she comes back completely different. All of a sudden, she's an adult and what you've done before as a parent doesn't count anymore.

BRIAN ROSS

The family says the UN Moroccan commander showed up the day after the rape and insulted them by offering money for the case to be dropped. They have not heard anything since.

FATHER, MALE

These people came here saying, "we are going to help the Congolese people." But now, they are here doing this? They have really come to punish us here in Congo.

BRIAN ROSS

The UN insists it is cracking down on sex crimes, with steps that include a tough curfew for UN personnel and a strict enforcement of UN code of conduct, which prohibits prostitution and even the presence of UN employees in places where prostitutes are available.

WILLIAM SWING

This is a zero tolerance policy we have.

BRIAN ROSS

You're saying you do not tolerate any prostitution?

WILLIAM SWING

No prostitution at all.

BRIAN ROSS

But it was just two days earlier that we had seen UN civilian personnel putting prostitutes in their UN vehicles in the Congolese town of Goma. It was 1:00 AM, well after the new strict midnight curfew for UN civilian employees.

BRIAN ROSS

Is that zero tolerance?

WILLIAM SWING

No, and that's what we're determined to fix. And I thank you for giving me the information so I can follow up on it.

BRIAN ROSS

You did not know about that?

WILLIAM SWING

I did not know about that, no.

BRIAN ROSS

How is it you weren't aware of that? I mean, we could go there and see it and there was -appeared to be no effort by anybody in the UN ...

WILLIAM SWING

Well, perhaps my senior management there wasn't aware of it. And I will find out right away.

BRIAN ROSS

We saw some of the senior management in the restaurant at the time, leaving at the same time some of the UN people did with the prostitutes.

WILLIAM SWING

I appreciate the information. I will look into it. It's not yet where we want to be but we will get there, I promise you.

BRIAN ROSS

There's one final problem that the UN has also failed to deal with ... the babies. The infants fathered by UN troops and now abandoned. This 5-month-old child, Dieu Donn', French for "God given," was born to a mother who is 15, and a deaf/mute. The father, she says, was a UN soldier from Uruguay, who raped her. The grandmother says she was turned away at the gates of the UN camp when she went for some kind of help.

GRANDMOTHER

The UN is not able to give me money or food for my grandson. But if the UN did not bring this soldier here my daughter would not have become pregnant and I would not be going through this suffering.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

What's going to happen to those children? They stand out because a number of them are only half Congolese and are half-white or half- Asian. These are not women who are likely to find a lot of support for their children. So this is creating a different level of problem in Congo.

BRIAN ROSS

As of now, the UN will not take direct responsibility for babies abandoned by its troops. That is the official UN policy.

WILLIAM SWING

We have a lot of reflection and thinking to do to come up with a policy that is more effective than the policy we have right now. And that would include an aspect on paternity policy.

BRIAN ROSS

In this local newspaper -have you seen this?

BRIAN ROSS

Finally, we showed Swing the Congo newspaper we bought on the morning of our interview, calling for UN troops to be withdrawn because of all the sex crimes and questioning Swing's commitment to solve the problem.

BRIAN ROSS

"How can one explain the passivity of William Swing, who has learned to tolerate this sexual behavior?"

WILLIAM SWING

Well that is -people obviously are entitled to their opinion ...

BRIAN ROSS

How do you answer that?

WILLIAM SWING

I will tell you how I'll answer it.

BRIAN ROSS

Have you tolerated this sexual ...

WILLIAM SWING

I'll tell you how I'll answer it. When you have -when you have an issue as serious as sexual exploitation and abuse of poor people you're trying to help, the answer is no, one can never do enough. Did I do enough? No. Do I need to do more? Yes. And I will.

ANNEKE VAN WOUDENBERG

I think at senior levels in the UN, we hear the words but we don't see the actions.

BRIAN ROSS

To date, of the hundreds of allegations of sex crimes involving UN personnel in the Congo, only two have faced any kind of prosecution.

MOTHER

What do you want me to do? Just let it go like that? I can't. Even if they're the powerful ones. The United Nations is supposed to stand for human rights.

ELIZABETH VARGAS

We'll be right back.

Copyright © 2005 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.