Swedish FM slams UN for suspending whistleblower who exposed child abuse by peacekeepers

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom (Reuters / Annika AF Klercker)
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has hit out at the UN for suspending Anders Kompass, who leaked documents about French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic allegedly being involved in child abuse cases.

“It hurts the credibility of the entire UN when something like this happens. You could question the whole treatment of the case in Geneva and the way they have handled Anders Kompass,” Wallstrom told the Swedish television channel, SVT, as cited by the Local.

Anders Kompass (AFP Photo / Orlando Sierra)

The Swedish foreign minister added she had received support for opening an independent investigation into how Kompass’s case was handled by the UN. Kompass was initially suspended on April 17, before the ban was lifted on May 6.

“It is good that there will be an independent and hopefully speedy investigation of what really happened. I spoke to some of the participants [at the meeting in Johannesburg] who also say they want to make a statement on this issue. Those who take part with troops in peacekeeping efforts and policing efforts need to show that they take these kinds of signals seriously,” she added.

The whistleblower’s suspension was eventually lifted following a UN Dispute Tribunal, which stated: “The harm done to the applicant’s reputation will be irreparable and could not be adequately compensated at a later stage.”

READ MORE: 'Rape and sodomy': Leaked UN report details French soldiers’ abuse against African boys

Kompass, a senior UN aid worker who has been involved in humanitarian work for over than 30 years, was suspended after passing documents to French prosecutors, He took the action because the UN had failed to do anything.

The damning report alleged that French soldiers had raped and sodomized starving and homeless boys in the Central African Republic, some as young as nine.

French peacekeeping forces were supposed to be protecting children at a center for the internally displaced near the capital Bangui, when the abuse allegedly happened, between December 2013 and June 2014.

A member of staff from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and a specialist from UNICEF interviewed the children between May and June last year. Some of the boys were able to give good descriptions of individual soldiers who abused them.

A UN tribunal subsequently ordered Kompass, who works for the (OHCHR), to be put on administrative leave, which led to the Swede being suspended from his duties on April 17.

READ MORE: HRW: Peacekeepers in Somalia rape women who seek aid and medicine

The UN tribunal said Kompass had received a copy of the report in July 2014 and brought the issue up a week later with a French diplomat. The Swede added that he had spoken to his bosses about the report and passed a copy on to the French authorities on August 7, 2014.

The UN hit out at the human rights worker, saying its office was only made aware of the leak on March 6.

“We remain extremely concerned that copies are circulating of the confidential unredacted preliminary notes of the interviews with the children,” the spokesman said.

Bea Edwards from the US-based Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, blasted the UN for what is little more than a witch-hunt against someone who sought to protect children.

“We have represented many whistleblowers in the UN system over the years and in general the more serious the disclosure they make the more ferocious the retaliation. Despite the official rhetoric, there is very little commitment at the top of the organization to protect whistleblowers and a strong tendency to politicize every issue no matter how urgent.”