RAMSI OFFICERS PROBED IN SOLOMONS SEX ABUSE

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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 22) – Only two days after the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) one-year report was debated in Parliament last Thursday, accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior towards local women and children by certain RAMSI officers have surfaced.

According to The New Zealand Herald, several members of the intervention force have been the subject of investigations into accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior towards local women and children.

The paper claimed that one man has been implicated for pedophilia while another was being questioned for a possible rape.

Other personnel had been sent home for allegedly "fraternizing" with local women. Australian authorities are understood to have been embarrassed by the incidents, and fearful about how they would affect the mission.

A top RAMSI police officer told the Solomon Star yesterday that RAMSI officials heard of the report but they were not in a position to comment. The official said only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, Australia would comment. A spokesman from Australia told the Herald that: "The other point we would make is that there have been more than 3,000 RAMSI personnel from 11 countries and this is obviously a very small number of incidents."

The revelation is sure to upset many quarters of Solomons society.

A Government minister told the Solomon Star last week that RAMSI officers who were involved in sexual relationships with Solomon Islanders should come out clean.

RAMSI personnel are immune from prosecution in the Solomons under the Facilitation of International Act, 2003, the Act that pave the way for the regional assistance mission to enter Solomon Islands.

Former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said if there is evidence that prisoners were abused, there must be consideration that the immunity given to RAMSI personnel be reconsidered.

December 23, 2004

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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