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Daily Archives: May 28, 2008

Watchdog needed on abuse by peacekeepers: NGO

An international watchdog should be set up to urgently investigate child sex abuse by aid workers and peacekeepers, the British charity Save the Children said yesterday.
The group said action was needed after its researchers unearthed what they called "widespread" evidence that children as young as six were being traded for food, money, soap and even mobile phones in war zones and disaster areas.
Save the Children's findings was based on work with hundreds of youngsters from Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, said the charity's chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.
"This research exposes the despicable actions of a small number of perpetrators who are sexually abusing some of the most vulnerable children in the world, the very children they are meant to protect," she added.
"It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights."
The charity said "endemic failures" in responding to the abuse that was officially reported were letting down the abused, and better reporting mechanisms should be introduced.
Whitbread said the United Nations, the wider world as well as humanitarian and aid agencies have made important commitments to tackle the problem in recent years.
But most had failed to turn their promises into action, she added, calling for all agencies working in emergencies, including her own, to "own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on".
The reputation of UN peacekeepers has been tarnished in the past by cases of sexual abuse against women, notably in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Haiti.
In November last year, the UN said that more than 100 Sri Lankan soldiers were to be sent home over charges that they paid for sex while stationed in Haiti.
After turning a blind eye for decades to cases of abuse by its peacekeepers — the world body recommended in 2005 that erring soldiers be punished, their salaries frozen and a fund set up to help any women or girls made pregnant.
The "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual misconduct includes a "non-fraternisation" rule barring them from sex with locals.
It was brought in after revelations in December 2004 that peacekeepers in DRC were involved in the sexual abuse of 13-year-old girls in exchange for eggs, milk or cash sums as low as one dollar.


Top Naples official named in waste racketeering probe

Naples' chief officer has been named in a probe into suspected racketeering involving the area's dysfunctional waste management system, a local newspaper reported yesterday.
Alessandro Pansa, Rome's representative in the southern city, served as special commissioner for the chronic problem for six months last year.
The investigation deals with waste trafficking and fraud, the Naples daily Il Mattino reported, adding that Pansa was among 26 people named in the probe.
The other 25 were placed under house arrest, Il Mattino said.
Among them is Marta Di Gennaro, a national public safety official who worked with Pansa's predecessor Guido Bertolaso in 2006. Bertolaso, now head of the public safety agency, was made a junior minister responsible for the rubbish crisis last week.
"I am confident that the investigation will show that I have acted correctly," Pansa told the ANSA news agency, adding that he had no intention of resigning.
A "waste disposal state of emergency" has been renewed annually in the Naples region since 1994.
The crisis is widely blamed on the local Camorra mafia, who have infiltrated the lucrative waste disposal industry over the last 20 years, shipping in industrial waste from the north and dumping it illegally in and around Naples.
But other reasons for the chronic overflow include lack of space at existing dumps, the lack of an incinerator in the Campania region, and a dysfunctional system for sorting recyclable waste.
On March 1, the president of the Naples region, Antonio Bassolino, and 27 other officials in the Campania region were placed under investigation for suspected irregularities in the waste management system.
Charges include fraud, abuse of power and breach of trust in environmental matters.
Their trial began on May 14 in a Naples court.