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Institutional Confusion at the UN Leaves a Hero Under Investigation

Bea Edwards, December 16, 2015

Miranda Brown, who served as the Acting Director of the Africa Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHHR), has written three times (here, here, and here) to the UN Secretary General about the UN’s guidelines on reporting child sexual abuse.  Dr. Brown directed the Africa Branch at OHCHR during the period when Anders Kompass, a senior official, transmitted allegations of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) by non-UN peacekeepers to law enforcement officials.

Eight months after Mr. Kompass transmitted the evidence of abuse to the French government (whose troops were implicated), he was placed under investigation at the UN for leaking confidential information.

In her series of letters, Dr. Brown asks that the UN investigation of Mr. Kompass be stopped:  She points out that:

…[I]n the absence of appropriate guidelines for situations of ongoing child sexual abuse, Mr. Kompass followed the best practice established in many states, including Australia, Canada, the US, most European Union member states, Brazil and South Africa, which have implemented mandatory disclosure and reporting requirements for child abuse.

In large measure, Dr. Brown bases her position on the opinion expressed by Dr. Ben Mathews, a widely-recognized international expert on child abuse reporting and confidentiality constraints.  Both Dr. Mathews and Dr. Brown argue forcefully that when child sexual abuse is ongoing, the welfare of the children is a first priority, and the requirement to inform authorities supersedes institutional concerns about confidentiality.

Both Dr. Brown and Dr. Mathews were witnesses before the Panel of Experts convened by the Secretary General to explore the matter in the CAR, but despite the obvious institutional confusion surrounding the reporting of child abuse, Mr. Kompass remains under investigation.

Dr. Brown has not received any substantive response to her request from the Secretary General or his Office.