(New York) - Following its investigation into alleged gold smuggling and arms trading by UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations should ensure accountability for those involved, Human Rights Watch said today. In a letter to Jean-Marie Guehenno, the under-secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, Human Rights Watch took issue with Guehenno’s comments that the matter is now “closed.”
“A report confirming illegal acts by UN peacekeepers is not the end of a process, but surely only the beginning,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The UN should follow through on the results of its own investigations.”
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly acknowledged the important and positive role played by the UN peacekeeping force in Congo in recent years. Nevertheless, the slow process of this investigation and the continued lack of action raise important questions about how the United Nations investigates itself.
In the letter, Human Rights Watch raised questions about the conclusions of the report, which said only one peacekeeper had been involved in illegal gold smuggling and failed to include new information about alleged arms trading.
Human Rights Watch first brought information about gold smuggling by peacekeepers to the attention of the United Nations in December 2005, and an investigation was begun. The BBC conducted its own investigation, broadcast on May 23, 2007, which quoted a UN official as saying that there was a desire to “bury the result” for political reasons.
The conclusion of the UN investigation was announced on July 13, 2007, but the results were not made public. The report was given to Pakistan, which has previously denied wrongdoing by its peacekeepers. In an interview with the BBC, Guehenno declared the matter to be “closed.”