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Moroccan UN peacekeepers arrested over sex abuse claims

NAIROBI, 14 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Six Moroccan soldiers serving on the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), known as MONUC, have been arrested in an ongoing sex abuse scandal, the official Moroccan news agency, the Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), reported on Monday.

Quoting a communiqué by the Moroccan permanent mission to the UN in New York on 12 February, MAP said the commander of the Moroccan peacekeeping contingent and his deputy were also dismissed.

The servicemen were identified by their victims.

"They were arrested and will be brought to justice," the communiqué said.

The arrests follow an investigation by the UN's internal watchdog, the UN Office of Internal Oversight, into allegations that UN peacekeepers in the DRC had sexually exploited and abused women and girls. Following the investigations, the UN introduced a no-fraternisation policy, banning its peacekeepers from having sex with local people.

"Morocco reaffirms its full commitment to [the] UN charter basic principles and to the enforcement of a 'zero tolerance' policy toward sex exploitation and abuse," the Moroccan permanent mission to the UN wrote. "It strongly condemns any act likely to jeopardise the UN's noble mission in Congo following the involvement of members of the MONUC, including elements of the Moroccan contingent."

MONUC immediately welcomed the Moroccan government's announcement of the arrests.

The UN cannot discipline peacekeepers. It can only send them home with it requests that the country of origin takes action.

Morocco sent 805 troops to the DRC as part of the UN peacekeeping force, which totals 14,000 men from 48 countries.

The UN's internal investigation also involved MONUC members from other countries.

[On the Net: Morocco strongly condems any act hurting UN noble mission in Congo:]

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