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French judges to investigate CAR 'sex-for-food' scandal

© AFP I French soldiers on patrol in the streets of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic | Miguel Medina, AFP | A French soldier on patrol in the Central African Republic

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-08-12

Judges in France will investigate claims that French soldiers raped children in exchange for food in the Central African Republic, the state prosecutor announced Thursday.

Fourteen soldiers have been placed under investigation, following statements by six children aged between nine and 13 that some were sexually abused by French peacekeepers between December 2013 and June 2014.

The abuse reportedly took place at a centre for displaced people near the airport of the Central African capital Bangui between December 2013 -- when the French operation began -- and June 2014.

The announcement came a day after the Central African Republic government said it would launch its own legal action against the French soldiers.

"We regret the fact we were not brought into these investigations despite the cooperation agreements we have with France," said Justice Minister Aristide Sokambi.

Devastating sex scandal

France's defence ministry has said it immediately launched a probe into the rape allegations when they were first received in July, sending police investigators to the former French colony on August 1.

But the damning allegations only became public after The Guardian newspaper broke the story last month.

The allegations were first collated in an internal United Nations report and only reached French authorities when it was leaked by a senior UN official.

Both the French government and UN have denied trying to cover up the potentially devastating scandal, but the UN official was suspended from his job over the leak.

If proven, the allegations will not only affect the French army but also the Central African Republic, which is trying to find a way out of a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 900,000 people.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2015-05-07

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