Peace at What Price?: U.N. Sex Crimes in Congo

Swing said he had been unaware of such U.N. fraternization with prostitutes. "Well, perhaps my senior management there wasn't aware of it, and I will find out right away," he said. And when it was pointed out that several of the senior management were in fact leaving at the same time U.N. personnel left with the prostitutes, Swing responded, "I will look into it. It's not yet where we want to be but we will get there, I promise you."

U.N. peacekeeping troops first came to Congo five years ago to stop a raging border war, and the first reports of sex crimes began within a year of their arrival.

Men from roughly 50 different countries make up the U.N. forces in Congo, and the United Nations does not conduct background checks. Furthermore, U.N. troops are exempt from prosecution in Congo.

A contingent of South African troops was removed from Congo after numerous allegations of sex crimes against them. South African Lt. Col. Koos van Breda, accused of sexually molesting his teenage male translator, is now home awaiting trial in military court.

Crime and Punishment?

Congolese officials say scores of young girls in Congo were lured into sex with a senior U.N. logistics officer named Didier Bourguet, a French citizen who photographed his victims having sex with him. In one photo, on Bourguet's hard drive, which was obtained by ABC News, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of a victim.

Congolese officials suspect Bourguet was sharing these computer images with others in the United Nations, but he was sent back to France to face prosecution before a full investigation could be completed. He is currently in French custody awaiting trial.

"He is no longer a threat to the Congolese population," said Swing. "He's no longer effacing the image of the U.N. here. And I think it showed that we took it seriously."

Claude Deboosere-Lepidi, Bourguet's lawyer, said his client admits he was involved in systematic sexual involvement with minors that included other U.N. officials, and that the United Nations permitted an environment in which sex with young girls was tolerated.

Swing promised that the United Nations would make an effort to find the young women Bourguet photographed and include them in the U.N. victim support program. No such actions have yet been taken.

In fact, none of the victims interviewed for this story had received any help, of any kind, psychological or financial, from the United Nations.

A Culture of Fear

One 14-year-old girl from Bunia was on her way to the village well for water, local police said, when two blue-helmeted U.N. troops, from Morocco, stopped her. One of the soldiers raped her, she said.

"We know that these people came to bring peace to this country," Dieudonne Shabani, the victim's mother, told ABC News. "So how come the same men who come to bring peace are doing this to my daughter? It really revolted me."

The family took their devastated daughter to the police and a doctor from an aid group filed a rape report with the United Nations. The next day, the family said the Moroccan commander from the United Nations came and insulted them by offering money for the case to be dropped. Nothing has been heard since.

At this point, said the Rev. Alfred Buju, the town's Catholic priest, the people fear the U.N. personnel.

"They're saying even to young girls, be careful to not be taken by those peacekeepers," he said.

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