A French court on Thursday sentenced a former UN employee to nine years in prison for the rapes of two girls, aged between 12 and 18, while he was posted in Africa between 1998 and 2004.
Didier Bourguet, a 44-year-old French national, was employed by the United Nations as a mechanic and posted in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo during that period.
Bourguet, who was responsible for the maintenance of UN peacekeeping vehicles, had been charged with raping about 20 African girls.
He was also charged with abuse of minors and possession of pornographic material against him. Together, the charges carried a maximum 20 years in prison.
During the trial, Bourguet admitted to having paid for sex with the girls, but he insisted that they had consented.
French state prosecutor Pierre Kramer rejected Bourguet's defence and said he had showed "an absence of compassion for his victims" living in harsh economic conditions.
While Bourguet said he did not force the girls to have sex with him, Kramer argued that they were "under duress given their age and the economic context" of their countries.
Prosecutors told the court that Bourguet sought out girls through go-betweens during his postings in the Central African Republic from 1998 to 2001 and in DR Congo from 2001 to 2004.
One of the victims, a Congolese girl now aged 16 and living in Canada, told the court she had been abused after being served a cup of tea that made her dizzy.
A police officer testified that Bourguet had engaged in sexual acts with about 24 girls, paying between 10 and 20 dollars (seven to 14 euros) each time.
Lawyer Emmanuel Daoud, representing one of the victims, said the case was symbolic. Between 15,000 and 20,000 rapes are committed each year in the DR Congo by soldiers, rebels and, sometimes, UN personnel, he said.
DR Congo police arrested Bourguet in the eastern city of Goma in October 2004 and turned him over to French authorities.