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UN launches sexual misconduct probe after incriminating car video emerges

‘The behaviour seen in [the video] is abhorrent and goes against everything we stand for.’

The UN says it is investigating a possible case of sexual misconduct by staff after a video surfaced of a woman straddling a man in a car with UN markings in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.  

The 18-second video, filmed at night from a building alongside a busy road, shows a female figure in red moving astride a man in casual clothing on the back seat of a Toyota 4x4 vehicle. Another man is visible in the front passenger seat. The driver cannot be seen.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told The New Humanitarian that the world body was “shocked and deeply disturbed by what is seen on this video”. 

“The behaviour seen in it is abhorrent and goes against everything we stand for and have been working to achieve in terms of fighting sexual misconduct by UN staff,” said Dujarric.  

By identifying landmarks and comparing the video with images of the street, TNH has determined that the video was taken on HaYarkon street in Tel Aviv.

Although the video is unclear, the number plate of the car appears to belong to UNTSO, which stands for the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, a UN body originally formed in May 1948 to monitor a ceasefire around the time of the establishment of the state of Israel. The UNTSO website says it manages 153 military observers, who are deployed to UN missions at the Lebanon-Israel border and the occupied Golan Heights.

The UN has strict rules about sexual abuse and exploitation, including a ban on paying for sex, but has struggled to stamp out sexual misconduct by its staff and peacekeepers. In 2019, the UN investigated 175 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by its own staff and soldiers serving in its peacekeeping operations, 16 of which it concluded were “substantiated”. It is not clear from the short video whether or not the activity shown is consensual or if it involved payment.  

The UN’s investigation by its Office of Internal Oversight – the body that probes misconduct, fraud and corruption – is moving “very quickly” and “the identification of the individuals in the video is close to being completed”, said Dujarric.

Dujarric said the investigation started two days ago and “we expect the process to be concluded very quickly".

TNH can not independently confirm the authenticity of the video, which was shared by an anonymous source later circulated on Twitter. One of the earliest postings was on 23 June by Inner City Press, a New York-based news blog. 

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