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A Year Later, a Sex-Video Inquiry Tied to the UN Mission in Israel Remains a Mystery

In Jerusalem, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization participated in Earth Hour, March 27, 2021, a global movement in which people switched off their lights as a bow to nature. Three personnel from the UN mission, established in 1948, were accused last June of taking part in a sex video, prompting an inquiry by the UN. The findings will not be made public.

Almost a year ago, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization released a statement characterizing as “abhorrent” a video in which a man and a woman appeared to be having sex in the back seat of a four-wheel drive vehicle with UN logos on it. The video’s content, apparently shot on a major road in Tel Aviv, goes against “everything we stand for in terms of the values of the United Nations,” the mission, known as Untso, said on June 26, 2020, two days after the video surfaced online.

The 18-second recording, filmed at night from a building alongside HaYarkon street, The New Humanitarian reported, shows a woman in red saddling a man in the back seat of the Toyota vehicle. Another man is visible in the front passenger seat. The driver cannot be seen. The video surfaced on social media on June 24, 2020, but as the vehicle drives away in the recording, the UN logos on the car seem to vanish.

The video was first posted on June 23 on the Twitter account of Inner City Press; it was echoed the next day by Mattea Merta, a Canadian anti-abortion activist who described herself as a “Pro-Family NGO United Nations Rep.” With the video, she wrote: “I present to you…..the UN.”

At the time, however, a few other tweets suggested it was a “fake” or “doctored” video.

Asked if the UN deemed the video a fake, Judy Hylton, Untso’s senior adviser, told PassBlue recently, “Not to my knowledge.”

The recording emerged the same day that UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on Israel to stop plans to annex portions of the West Bank. Annexation and illegal settlement activities remain a continuing controversy domestically, regionally and internationally. The recent 11-day Gaza war was mainly rooted, some foreign affairs analysts and journalists have said, in Israel’s attempt to seize the homes of numerous Palestinian families in East Jerusalem in favor of Israelis.

“If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” Guterres said on June 24, 2020. “I call on the Israeli Government to abandon its annexation plans.”

Guterres’s call on the West Bank actions was preceded by nearly 50 independent human-rights experts asking countries to oppose Israel’s plan “to annex significant parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank beginning as early as next month,” the UN reported at the time.

The proposal would have extended Israeli sovereignty to roughly 30 percent of the West Bank, the UN noted. In response, Palestinian leaders cut ties with Israel and the Trump administration, which backed the plan. It was dropped by Israel, though that could change.

As for the UN’s reaction to the June 24, 2020 sex tape, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Guterres, is quoted two days later in a UN News report as saying, “As part of the UN’s commitment to transparency, the UN will provide updates on the conclusion of the investigation, and any further action.” The UN News item also said that the video’s “provenance and authenticity has not been confirmed.”

“We became aware of the video a little bit more than two days ago,” Dujarric said in the report. “We know the location of the incident with the identification of individuals in the video. We expect the process to be concluded very quickly and intend to take prompt appropriate action.”

Nearly a year later, however, neither the final report nor its conclusion is publicly available. The UN said in June 2020 that upon receipt of the video, “the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] immediately launched an investigation to ascertain the facts.”

In a continuous follow-up by PassBlue over the last year with Untso, which recently directed this reporter to seek more information from UN headquarters about the investigation, a UN peacekeeping department spokesperson said in an email on May 6, “The final report into the OIOS investigation will be issued shortly to the Office of Human Resources [OHR] for further action as appropriate.” The Human Resources department “is where a decision is made on appropriate disciplinary/administrative sanctions,” the spokesperson added.

Untso was the first peacekeeping mission established by the UN, in 1948. It supervises the implementation of the Israel-Arab Armistice Agreements. Its military observers monitor cease-fires, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region, its website says. Headquartered in Jerusalem, Untso’s liaison offices are located in Beirut, Cairo and Damascus. With 153 military observers and 153 national staff members, according to UN figures, the mission counts 91 international civilian personnel from more than two-dozen countries. The mission was not involved in the recent 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, Hylton told PassBlue in an email, writing, “Untso did/does not have a role in the recent violence between ISR/PAL in connection with Gaza/OPT.”

Alan Doyle of Ireland has been the acting head of the mission since November 2019, after Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund of Norway retired a month earlier. In its original statement on the tape, Untso said, “Any appropriate actions will be swiftly taken,” and reiterated the UN’s commitment to its “zero-tolerance policy against any kind of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse, and reminds its personnel of their obligations to the UN Code of Conduct.”

Moreover, it added: “As part of the Secretary-General’s commitment to transparency, we will keep the media informed upon conclusion of the investigation.”

The OIOS reached early conclusions regarding certain aspects of the investigation. On July 3, 2020, Untso confirmed that the two males shown in the video were indeed UN international staff members. On July 27, 2020, the mission announced: “A third male international staff member who was in the UN vehicle in Tel Aviv has also been identified as having engaged in alleged misconduct. The staff member has been placed on Administrative Leave Without Pay, pending the results and conclusion of the ongoing OIOS investigation.”

The two other men were placed on administrative leave without pay as well, pending the probe’s results. It is unclear who the woman is in the vehicle on the lap of one of the men.

Almost six months later, there were “final OIOS interviews to be held,” Hylton said in an email to PassBlue on Jan. 12, 2021. “The investigation process is almost complete. Once it is, the information will be posted on the public database,” she added a day later. “It did take longer than expected. . . .”

The investigation, however, will not be available through the OIOS public database.

“Our investigation reports address individual staff misconduct and are therefore not made available to the public,” said Ben Swanson, the director of the Investigations Division of the OIOS. As to why the probe was apparently taking so long, he said, “Investigations are expected to be completed in a timely fashion.”

Is the video a fake? Swanson said: “We obviously had a line of enquiry to try to determine when the video was made and who by. Further than that I can say no more. . . .”

The article was updated on June 4, 2021, to correct where the alleged video was first reported on Twitter.

Maurizio Guerrero was the bureau chief in New York City and the United Nations for 10 years of the largest news-wire service in Latin America, the Mexican-based Notimex. He now covers immigration, social justice movements and multilateral negotiations for several media outlets in the United States, Europe and Mexico. A graduate journalist of the Escuela de Periodismo Carlos Septién in Mexico City, he holds an M.A. in Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies from the City University of New York (CUNY).

1 thought on “A Year Later, a Sex-Video Inquiry Tied to the UN Mission in Israel Remains a Mystery”

  1. Israel can not “annex” any land for a simple reason: the last legal entity, the Ottoman empire, does not exist. Additionally, there has never been a nation called Palestine.

    Reply

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