AP uncovers numerous sexual abuse allegations against UN peacekeepers

For years, the United Nations (U.N.) has grappled with incidents of sexual abuse during peacekeeping missions.

Earlier this year, a news release by the organization announced the creation of "a diverse High-Level Task Force...to develop as a matter of urgency a strategy to achieve visible and measurable improvements in the way the Organization prevents and responds to sexual exploitation and abuse."

A recent Associated Press, or AP, report highlights the extent of the problem. The news outlet uncovered 2,000 sexual abuse allegations made against U.N. peacekeepers over a period of 12 years. Hundreds involved children, and in a number of cases, those living in the impoverished nation of Haiti.

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Sri Lankan peacekeepers are said to have established a sex ring there in 2004, notes the AP.

Between that year and 2007, an estimated 134 individuals from the Asian nation exchanged money or food for sex with children as young as 12 years old.

An internal U.N. report reviewed by the AP indicates that in connection to the ring, "114 [Sri Lankan] peacekeepers were sent home. None was ever imprisoned."

As the New York Times notes, "In cases of soldiers who are accused, the United Nations itself cannot investigate the allegations. That is up to the peacekeepers' home countries, which vary widely in their willingness to hold their troops accountable, and to inform the world body of the results of any inquiry."

While Haiti's cases are numerous and tragically grim, the nation is not the only one to describe excessive victimization at the hands of the United Nations' peacekeepers, nor is Sri Lanka the sole country implicated.

In another instance, the Washington Post reported in January of 2016 that peacekeepers said to hail from Gabon, Burundi, Morocco and France and stationed in the Central African Republic paid between 50 cents and $3 to have sex with girls barely in their teens.

Back in 2015, Ban Ki-moon, then U.N. Secretary-General, called the persistent sexual exploitation and abuse allegations a "cancer in our system."