Irish troops in prostitution scandal in Asmara

Seven Irish soldiers with the UN mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (Unmee) are under investigation in a prostitution scandal involving girls as young as 15 in Eritrea, according to officials.

The allegation specifically is that they were involved in solliciting women involved in prostitution,” said Irish defence force spokesperson Commandant Kieran McDaid.

“Apparently, the women have claimed that they accepted money from the Irish soldiers in return of sexual favours…

“If it is proved that a 15-year-old was involved in this, and if it is established there was knowledge of this (her age), this would be very serious.”

The alleged events happened “in an Unmee camp area” according to a UN mission report, he added.

According to that report, a 15-year-old girl was among a group of prostitutes involved.

An investigative team from the Irish army has been sent to Asmara to check the facts in the case which concerns events before the third contingent of Irish troops arrived in Eritrea last December, McDaid said.

“Our troops are educated to respect local communities, especially women who are often most vulnerable, before being sent on such missions,” he added.

“If there has been a breach of military law, it will require disciplinary charges against them.”

The 4 200-strong Unmee, which comprises UN soldiers and military observers, has been deployed in the buffer zone since Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace accord in December 2000.

Last year an international panel gave Ethiopia and Eritrea its ruling on the demarcation of their disputed border, two years after the end of the fierce war over the boundary which cost tens of thousands of lives. - Sapa-AFP

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