The UN whistleblower who exposed the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic has been completely exonerated after an internal investigation.
Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, was suspended and faced dismissal after he passed confidential documents detailing the abuse of children by French troops in CAR to the authorities in Paris because of the UN’s failure to stop the exploitation.
The scandal was first reported by the Guardian in April last year, with the child sex allegations and the treatment of Kompass gaining worldwide attention. The UN repeatedly condemned his actions, insisting that he had breached protocols by sharing a secret internal document.
For nine months he was under a disciplinary investigation but a few days ago Kompass was informed in a letter that the internal investigation, run by the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), had cleared him of all charges.
His exoneration comes just weeks after an independent panel report – set up by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, into the child sex scandal in CAR – ruled Kompass had done nothing wrong in passing the internal document, which contained interviews with victims and descriptions of the perpetrators, to the French.
The panel report condemned the “gross institutional failure” of the UN in its inaction over the allegations of child sexual abuse in CAR.
Speaking for the first time about his ordeal, Kompass told the Guardian: “I feel relief and some sadness. It is still a mystery why most of the UN leadership decided to do this to me when they knew very well how badly the UN was handling these types of cases and they knew there was a big gap in terms of under reporting of these kind of cases.
“It is important for other staff to see that I was vindicated. That’s one of the reasons I had to go through this to give an example to the staff – in particular the younger staff – because otherwise the message was: ‘If you try to do something similar to what Anders has done these will be the consequences.’”
It was not until Kompass passed the report to the French that any investigation into the allegations began. French officials thanked him for what he had done, even as his employers pursued their investigation against him. The alleged abuses took place while French peacekeepers were supposed to be protecting civilians at a camp for internally displaced people near the airport in the capital, Bangui, between December 2013 and June 2014.
The confidential report – entitled Sexual Abuse of Children by International Armed Forces – contained details about the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeepers at the camp. The interviews with children had been carried out by a member of staff from the office of the high commissioner for human rights in 2014, and a staff member from Unicef, but no action had been taken by the UN and the information was not passed to the French until Kompass decided to act.
Last month, the independent panel’s report into the scandal was withering in its criticism of UN procedures when faced with the allegations that French peacekeepers – operating under the authorisation of the security council – were sexually abusing young children in CAR. The panel inquiry – led by the Canadian judge Marie Deschamps – found that children as young as nine were encouraged to take part in oral sex in exchange for food or money in the middle of the war zone.
Initial complaints in early 2014 were “passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple UN offices, with no one willing to take responsibility”, the report said. It said UN staff became overly concerned with whether the allegations had been improperly leaked to the French by Kompass, and focused on protocols rather than action.
Recognising Kompass’s seniority, extensive experience in field missions and the fact that human rights officials had not followed up the allegations despite the need for urgent action, the panel report said they could make no adverse finding against him. The panel criticised the then head of the OIOS, Carmen La Pointe, for abusing her authority by initiating the internal investigation into Kompass. She left her post last September after five years in office.
Kompass, who was allowed back to his post in May last year after an appeal tribunal found his suspension was illegal, has been waiting nine months with his career on the line. He has received no apology or acknowledgement from senior UN officials since he was exonerated by the disciplinary investigation on 8 January.
The ordeal has left him disappointed and full of sadness. Kompass said after 17 years working within the office of the high commissioner for human rights he was seriously considering his options within the UN.
“The CAR panel came out last month, and I then had wait for this investigation to report. Now I have got the letter from the OIOS and I am free,” he said.
“I had to stay because I wanted to see this through. But now that it’s over, it keeps being very difficult for me. No one has said anything to me, no one has apologised to me. I think many of us expected they might do so particularly after everything that has happened. But nothing has been said, and I probably just have to accept that, although it is very disappointing.
“And now I have to take a decision about my future and I confess, I am seriously considering all the options.”
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