The United Nations has suspended two male staff members of its peacekeeping operation in the Middle East without pay after an initial inquiry found they had engaged in sexual misconduct in the Israeli-occupied territories.
The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services launched the investigation after an 18-second video clip was shared widely on social media last month, showing a woman in a red dress straddling a man in the back seat of a UN-marked vehicle, while another man dozes in the passenger seat as the vehicle drives down a coastal boulevard in Tel Aviv.
“Two male international staff members who were in the UN vehicle in Tel Aviv have been identified as having engaged in misconduct, including conduct of a sexual nature,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement.
Dujarric said the video involved staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which provides military observers to monitoring missions in south Lebanon and the occupied Golan Heights.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, Dujarric added, the two were placed on administrative leave without pay, pending the conclusion of the investigation by the UN’s internal investigations office.
There have been frequent allegations of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers in recent years, placing the forces under scrutiny over such claims.
In 2019, there were 175 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against UN staff members, a report said.
Of those allegations, 16 were substantiated, while 15 were unsubstantiated. All other claims are still being investigated.
Guterres has pledged to take a “zero-tolerance” approach against sexual misconduct within the UN’s ranks.