Accusations that German peacekeepers in Kosovo solicit the services of girls forced into prostitution aren't new. But now, non-government groups say the practice still continues unchanged.
German troops in Kosovo have been dogged by allegations
It's been alleged numerous times that German soldiers in Kosovo visit women forced into prostitution, some of whom are minors.
Monika Hauser, head of the non-government group Medica Mondiale in Cologne, told Deutsche Welle that ever since 1999 when the NATO-led multinational KFOR peacekeeping troops were deployed to Kosovo, bordellos housing minors working as prostitutes have sprung up all over the Balkans. Ever younger girls are offered there to the international soldiers stationed there, Hauser added.
Abuse of girls apparent to all
Medica Mondiale, which supports a facility for prostitutes in Djakovica in southern Kosovo, says all evidence points to the widespread sexual abuse of girls in the region.
According to Hauser, the stories of the girls who come to the gynecological clinic or the psychological consultations the clinic offers confirm Medica Mondiale's charges against German soldiers. The girls are often kidnapped or lured to the bordellos by false promises and are then locked up there under slave-like conditions, raped and abused.
"We're talking about bordellos where the women have grilled bars in front of their windows," Hauser said. "They have absolutely no chance of escaping from there. And that's apparent to the clients."
Medica Mondiale contends that the clients, German soldiers included, are complicit in the abuse of minors because they are obviously aware of how young the girls are and the prison-like conditions they live in.
Peacekeeping troops complicit
German soldiers of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
Medica Mondiale's charges are confirmed by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the UN women's organization, UNIFEM.
Earlier this year, a report by Amnesty International on the flesh trade in Kosovo, concluded that the NATO-led KFOR troops as well as the UN mission in Kosovo were responsible for the sexual abuse of women. The German arm of Amnesty also bemoaned that German soldiers solicited the services of the girls forced into prostitution.
Monika Hauser said she had heard of similar stories circulating in Kosovo. "A UN police official once told me in Pristina that German soldiers, in particular, visit the bordellos," she said.
However, the UN administration in Kosovo played down questions by Deutsche Welle on the issue. In a statement, it said that cases of international soldiers visiting bordellos were rare. It added that strict disciplinary measures had been taken against those few soldiers found guilty of visiting prostitutes. The UN administration however, refrained from detailing the nationalities or posts of the accused.
However, not everyone buys the charges.
Udo Schnittger, press spokesman at the German defense ministry in Berlin said that though the accusations against German soldiers aren't new, exhaustive investigations by the ministry had proven that the charges were false.
Soldiers are simply forbidden to leave the military base during their free time, Schnittger said. "And during duty, soldiers have so much to do on account of their responsibilities and the security situation that they have no opportunity to go and hunt for these bordellos," Schnittger added. But, Monika Hauser still sticks to her conviction that German soldiers do visit minors forced into prostitution. Members of the German KFOR troops based in Pristina would confirm the charges under the condition of anonymity, she claimed.