The United Nations mission in Mali has received allegations of serious misconduct by its peacekeeping troops last week, including an alleged incident of sexual abuse.
"The Secretary-General is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness and, in line with established procedure, is in the process of notifying the troop contributing countries," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told a news briefing in New York today.
"The troop contributing country has primary responsibility for investigating the matter and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary and judicial measures are taken should the allegations be well founded."
The Security Council established the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in April with a targeted strength of 12,600 to support the West African country's recovery from a coup and the occupation of its north by Islamist fundamentalists, its transition back to stability and democratic governance and the promotion of human rights and provision of humanitarian aid.
The UN has long had a policy of zero tolerance against sexual abuse or any other misconduct by troops or other personnel in its peacekeeping and other missions.
Mr. Nesirky said the alleged misconduct occurred in the north-eastern town of Gao on 19 and 20 September and the Mission acted immediately to determine the facts being alleged and to preserve evidence. The Mission has also provided assistance to the alleged victim.
MINUSMA will offer all necessary support to the troop contributing country to ensure that it is able to fulfil its responsibilities in taking appropriate action should the allegations prove true, he added.
"The UN Mission in Mali is committed to the highest standards of conduct by all its personnel, military, police and civilian. The Secretary-General has a policy of zero tolerance for any form of sexual exploitation and abuse, and will do everything possible to see that a thorough process of investigation and, as appropriate, accountability takes place," he declared.
As of 31 July MINUSMA had a total of 6,294 uniformed personnel, 5,494 of them military and 800 police.