22 December 2017

Atul Khare
Under-Secretary-General for Field Support
United Nations
New York, New York 10017

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Dear Mr. Khare,

Thank you for writing in response to our questions regarding the UN’s policies, procedures, and practices related to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by its non-military, civilian personnel. We received your letter on 20 December and are grateful for your continued willingness to engage in a dialogue with us on this most pressing of issues. 

Your response to the 23 specific questions we set forth in our 1 December letter was provided in the form of an overview of the Organization’s approach and a compilation of relevant documents attached as annexes. The publicly available documents were familiar to us, but we will begin to comb through them now in search of each of the answers we are seeking and will resume and complete that comprehensive review after the holidays.  

Upon an initial examination, we were able to ascertain that the documents you provided do not contain answers to all of the inquiries we made. We would be grateful if you would forward the additional documents that respond to those inquiries about processes, procedures, and established practices. Although it is not an exhaustive list, we have so far identified nine of the original 23 questions for which answers cannot be found in the documents you have provided. We have reprinted them here for your ease of reference:

#8) With the rare exceptions that apply only to senior UN officials who hold diplomatic status, immunity does not apply when UN personnel are ‘credibly’ accused of sexual crimes. The sovereign states in which the alleged crimes occur have primary jurisdiction over the investigations and prosecutions of those crimes, as noted in question #1. Once the UN has determined that an allegation of sexual abuse warrants criminal investigation, within how many hours or days does the UN refer such cases to the host country? Is there a maximum allowable number of hours or days?

#9) If there are ever delays of hours or days between the UN’s determination that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a criminal investigation of a particular allegation, and the UN’s referral of that allegation to the host country with primary jurisdiction, what are the possible reasons for those delays?

#12) If UN personnel are detained during criminal investigations, where, by whom, and according to what conditions are they detained?

#13) Immediately following its receipt of any [report] allegation of sexual abuse by its international personnel, what steps does the UN take, if any, to ensure that the person or persons allegedly responsible do not flee?

#15) If it is the case that Victims’ Rights Advocates interact with alleged victims, what steps have been taken to ensure that these interactions do not prejudice any potential or ongoing criminal investigation and/or prosecution, or any administrative investigation?

#17) According to the UN, alleged victims have rights. Have those rights been codified? If so, where can we obtain a copy?

#18) How and by whom are alleged victims informed of their rights, and of any specific assistance and/or services they are entitled to receive, either directly from the UN, or through local entities supported financially by the UN to make those provisions?

#22) If an alleged victim, or that person’s legal guardian where he or she is a minor, believes that some or all rights and entitlements due to alleged victims of sexual abuse by UN personnel are not being provided by the UN, to whom can the alleged victim or guardian appeal?

#23) If there is such an appeal procedure, how and when are alleged victims informed and availed of it?

We appreciate your readiness to help facilitate our full understanding of the actions taken by the UN following allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against its civilian personnel. We feel confident of achieving that understanding through a combination of the UN documents you forwarded to us this week; your furnishing of additional documents to respond to questions—including the nine enumerated above—that remain unanswered; and original explanations and clarifications, should official UN documentation be unavailable at this time.  

We thank you again for your attention, and wish you a pleasant and restful winter holiday.

Yours sincerely,
Paula Donovan                                              Stephen Lewis
Co-Director, AIDS-Free World                      Co-Director, AIDS-Free World


Media contact:
Gill Mathurin, media@aidsfreeworld.org, +1-646-924-1710   


AIDS-Free World's Code Blue Campaign aims to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel. www.codebluecampaign.com


(Image: UN Photo / Manuel Elias)