On 27 July as part of "Really Damaging the UN's Image, Respectability and Credibility - II" I included a piece about UN Peacekeepers from Pakistani involved in arms smuggling:
UN Peacekeepers from Pakistan - Illegal Arms SalesPakistani UN peacekeeping troops have traded in gold and sold weapons to Congolese militia groups they were meant to disarm, the BBC has learnt.These militia groups were guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses during the Democratic Republic of Congo's long civil war.The trading went on in 2005. A UN investigative team sent to gather evidence was obstructed and threatened.
The team's report was buried by the UN itself to "avoid political fallout". - BBC
There is now a leaked report on the smuggling claim and it seems that I had this activity described backwards - in that it was the gold-smuggling that was the main operation, not weapons smuggling. (They are still not sure how big a problem any UN-aided/enabled weapons smuggling might have been. The weapons claim is that rebels bought back weapons they surrendered to the UN with gold.)
This report does make clear that this was not some rogue officers trading gold on the side. This was a major operation, which included armed escorts. Now that is service.
And:The BBC has obtained an internal UN report examining allegations of gold smuggling by Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It concluded that Pakistani officers provided armed escorts, hospitality and food to gold smugglers in east Congo. - BBC
The report quoted witnesses as saying that Indian gold traders were at the Pakistani camp in Mongbwalu "on a regular basis... consuming meals in the officers' mess and socialising with UN personnel".
Others said that when the gold traders landed at the airstrip they were greeted by the Pakistanis "as if they were old friends" and that they were transported from the airfield in UN vehicles.
Details of the flights used by the smugglers were not entered into the Civil Aircraft Register maintained by the Pakistanis, and the investigators concluded that they considered it likely this "was a deliberate cover-up of this group's arrival in Mongbwalu, whose mission was to purchase gold".
Human Rights Watch, which first raised these concerns in late 2005, described the gold smuggling operation as a mafia-like organisation. - BBC
There is a weakness in the UN Peacekeeper system in that prosecution of crimes like this are the responsibility of the soldier's home country. This reduces the chances that anything will happen as those entrusted to press the issue back at home would probably be the soldier's superiors and there is nothing to say that they did not benefit from the smuggling as well. Even if they are not, keeping the issue alive by publicly punishing the criminals might not be in the best interest of the country.
One issue that should be examined is how peacekeepers are acquired in the first place. In some cases they are paid to participate. Perhaps they are being paid too much. Perhaps instead of being paid, they can get credit against future UN dues. At any rate, a good percentage of peacekeeping forces, while serving their intended purpose, create too many problems of their own to ignore.
UN troops 'helped smuggle gold' - BBC