KINSHASA (Reuters) - A mobile South African military court has arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo to try 32 South African peacekeepers accused of misconduct, the U.N. mission in Congo said on Friday.
U.N. peacekeeping missions have been dogged by accusations of sexual abuse. The United Nations reported 99 such allegations against staff members across the U.N. system last year.
Friday’s statement said none of the 32 cases to be tried in Congo involved alleged sexual abuse. It said that the mobile courts, which South Africa first used in 2001, represented an important tool in the fight against impunity.
“Holding the trial in DRC is indeed more practical, less costly and, above all, more attentive to the circumstances of victims who are not able to travel to another country,” the statement said.
It added that the mobile court, which arrived this week, consisted of a judge, a lawyer, a prosecutor and a clerk. It will hold hearings in the capital Kinshasa and in the conflict-torn east before returning to South Africa on March 22.
The statement said the alleged infractions dated back as far as May 2015, but did not specify the charges.
“We’re trying to clamp down on all elements of ill-discipline wherever they are,” military spokesman Xolani Mabanga said in South Africa.
U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called this month on troop-contributing states to allow prosecutions inside countries where the alleged crimes took place and for the creation of a DNA registry of all peacekeepers.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is the world’s largest, with about 20,000 uniformed personnel. South Africa has contributed more than 1,000 troops and experts.
South Africa has in the past tried its soldiers in Burundi, Congo and South Sudan, Friday’s statement said.
Additional reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg; editing by Andrew Roche