26 Mar 2019

Fijian UN peacekeeper dismissed for sexual exploitation

5:03 pm on 26 March 2019

A Fijian UN peacekeeper was dismissed from duty last year after engaging in sexual exploitation while stationed in Lebanon, official records show.

A UN Peace keeper's beret

Photo: AF.mil

The incident, which has not previously been reported, is a rare stain on Fiji's peacekeeping operations, where it has made the largest per capita contributor since 1970.

It also came in the final months of 40-year stint in Lebanon's capital Beirut, with Fijian forces withdrawing in December last year.

Allegations were first made against the peacekeeper in September 2017, prompting a nearly year-long investigation by the UN.

The person was alleged to have engaged in transactional sex with two adults, according to a publicly available UN summary of the incident.

The investigation, which concluded sometime last year, found one substantiated count of sexual exploitation and the peacekeeper was detained for 28 days, dismissed from their role and repatriated to Fiji.

The peacekeeper's identity remains a secret but the US State Department identified them as a man.

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) later conducted its own investigation which substantiated the allegations and resulted in the person's dismissal from the forces, according to the US State Department's 2018 review of Fiji's human rights record released earlier month.

An officer and spokersperson for Fiji's military did not respond to requests for comment over the past few days.

New Zealand, which last year, through its defence force, began assisting with pre-deployment training and leadership development for Fijian peacekeepers, said it was unaware of the incident.

"New Zealand greatly appreciates Fiji's contribution to global peacekeeping and supports Fiji's ongoing presence in UN Peacekeeping Operations," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in an emailed statement."

Fiji's peacekeeping mission with the United Nations International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been there since shortly after its establishment in 1978.

Four weeks before the withdrawal announcement was made, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama visited the Cana Memorial in Lebanon to pay respects to the 36 Fijians who died as part of the peacekeeping force there.

According to the latest UN figures, Fiji has 265 peacekeepers deployed, mostly based at a mission in the Golan Heights, a flashpoint between Israel and Syria.