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Alarm at fresh child sex abuse allegations by European troops in CAR

AFP file photo | United Nations peacekeepers patrol on January 2, 2016 in CAR capital, Bangui.

The United Nations has uncovered fresh allegations of child sexual abuse in Central African Republic (CAR) by European Union troops, with six more cases now being investigated.


A UN team recently interviewed five girls and a boy who claimed their abusers were part of French and European Union military operations in the troubled African country, the office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said.

The claims included one from a 7-year-old girl who said she had to perform sexual acts on French soldiers in exchange for water and cookies. The 7-year-old is the youngest alleged victim so far in any of the CAR cases.

Other children were allegedly abused in a similar fashion in repeated incidents involving several French soldiers, according to the statement.

The latest allegations bring the number of sexual abuse cases involving UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic to over 30.

The abuse allegedly took place in 2014 in or near a camp for displaced people near M’Poko airport in CAR’s capital, Bangui, but only came to light in recent weeks.

France, Georgia to investigate

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has ordered an immediate investigation aides said Friday.

The minister instructed French investigators to pursue the probe "as soon as he became aware of documents issued on January 19 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights", an aide told AFP.

The UN is under pressure to act more quickly after an independent panel last month described the world body’s “gross institutional failure” in handling similar allegations in CAR against French and other peacekeepers. The report said the months-long delay in addressing children’s accounts of abuse had led to even more reported assaults.

The UN can report the allegations but countries themselves are responsible for prosecuting their troops over such crimes.

‘Rampant’ abuse

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for Zeid’s office, estimated that troops from “something like ten” foreign military contingents in CAR have now been embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations. He said it was difficult to estimate how many individual soldiers might have been involved.

“What is abundantly clear in the CAR is that it’s been rampant,” Colville told reporters at a UN briefing Friday in Geneva. “What this does show is this is a problem with armies, with the military forces, and for whatever reason not enough is being done to stop this happening - the message doesn’t seem to have got through.”

He said he was unaware of any convictions so far by judicial authorities in any of the cases that have been brought to light.

The country is struggling to recover from deadly sectarian violence that exploded after a 2013 coup, pitting largely Muslim rebels against Christian militias.

France deployed several thousand troops to the country – which was previously a French colony - in late 2013 to assist the government in restoring order. An African Union mission that began in April 2014 was taken over by a UN peacekeeping force five months later, while the EU force ended an 11-month mission in March last year.


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