India demands data on UN staff misconduct, use of immunity
United Nations: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and misconduct by UN staff and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.
Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India's UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.
"It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments," he told the General Assembly's committee on legal affairs.
"Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world," he added.
His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.
Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.
He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN's request to waive their citizens' immunity.
The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.
After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.
Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.
However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.
While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that "at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases".
He attributed it to "the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction", the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.
He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.
While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.
Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added.