Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2001 11:30 AM
Subject: Forced Prostitution: UN Police are 'Part of the Problem'
Forced Prostitution: UN Police are 'Part of the Problem'
Kathryn Bolkovac left her job as a veteran police officer in Lincoln, Neb., to take on a very different kind of law enforcement - a U.N. police post cracking down on forced prostitution in Bosnia. Bolkovac says, she began amassing evidence that some of her fellow officers were customers at Bosnia's illegal brothels and that others were more deeply involved in the sex trade. Last year, Bolkovac was demoted, and in April she was fired. The official reason: She allegedly falsified a time sheet. Bolkovac's explanation: She filed a report alleging that officers forged documents for trafficked women, aided their illegal transport through border checkpoints into Bosnia, and tipped off sex-club owners ahead of raids. "I was shocked, appalled and disgusted by what I saw going on," she said. "The mission supervisors prefer to turn their heads and close their eyes to the evidence." In interviews with the Associated Press, Bolkovac and other current and former members of U.N. missions described how international police monitors - sent to set an example for local police and to root out corruption - allegedly have been involved in criminal activities. The UN concedes that two dozen officers with the 2,000-member U.N. International Police Task Force, including 8 Americans, have been fired for offenses ranging from bribery to sexual impropriety. But it insists most officers carry out their duties well. Jacques Paul Klein, head of the U.N. mission in Bosnia, said: "Since 1996, nearly 10,000 police officers from 46 countries have served with the IPTF, including nearly 900 from the U.S.," Klein said. "The vast majority have performed in a highly professional manner." Charles Hunter, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, acknowledged "occasional disciplinary problems" with the American contingent. "When they have arisen, we have sought to respond quickly, fairly and appropriately." But David Lamb, a former Philadelphia transit police officer and for the last two years a U.N. human-rights investigator in central Bosnia, says he and others routinely forwarded evidence of wrongdoing to the mission's internal-affairs unit, only to be told "not to look too deep." Lamb said that near the end of his tenure in April he was conducting a major investigation based on information from six women who said they were forced into prostitution. "They gave us a whole list of IPTF people involved," he told the Associated Press. "It was just incredible to see the resistance we got from mission eadquarters."
Prostitution is illegal, but it thrives amid the presence of 21,000 NATO peacekeepers and thousands of international bureaucrats and aid workers. Lamb cited one case involving a Romanian IPTF officer whose wife managed a brothel; together, he said, the couple helped recruit young Romanian women. Other officials told the AP that numerous IPTF officers from the United States, Britain, India, Pakistan and Ukraine had been implicated in criminal and sexual misconduct. The phenomenon alarms many Bosnians, "I can't imagine peace without them," said Nezira Samardzic, 21, of Sarajevo. "They're only human. I'm afraid that talk about only the bad side might prompt somebody to think the U.N. mission in Bosnia should be terminated." In November, Bosnian police, aided by IPTF officers, raided three nightclubs in the town of Prijedor. Inside were 33 females working as prostitutes, including girls reportedly as young as 14. The next day, the club owner Milorad Milakovic told reporters that the IPTF ordered the raid after he refused to pay them $10,000 in protection. Milakovic said six IPTF officers, including two Americans, were frequent guests in his bars. The six left the agency before the United Nations completed its investigation, which concluded their behavior was "inappropriate." "It was one of the biggest cover-ups I have ever seen," said Madeleine Rees, head of he U.N. human-rights office in Sarajevo, which interviewed the women. "The girls said these guys have been using them - they have been regularly having sex with them." The United Nations has led a rescue effort that has sent more than 300 home. Police frequently raid the brothels, and U.N. investigators interview the women about their bosses and clients. The interviews have revealed that "about 30% of the users of the brothels are internationals," Rees said. Bolkovac, recalled in a phone interview that a colleague in December told her he bought a prostitute's freedom for about $3,500. The officer was furious that the woman had left him after he had taken her in. "The American contingent is certainly far from the worst," Lamb, the human-rights investigator, said. David McBride, a former Oklahoma City police chief who served as deputy IPTF commander from May 1998 to August 1999, said he knew of American officers investigated for falsifying time sheets or taking extra vacation, but nothing worse. But he said many of the officers under his command were unqualified. "I wondered how they were ever a policeman in their own countries, let alone as models for Bosnia," he told the AP. "I met some of the best police in the world - and also some of the worst." McBride himself became embroiled in controversy. U.N. officials say he was asked to resign when they learned he accepted an apartment, a car and a cell phone from a senior Bosnian official. McBride insists he disclosed the gifts to his superiors, and says he was allowed to end duties in the United States without resigning.
Source: Philadelphia Newspapers, 17.6.01