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Paris prosecutor opens inquiry into CAR sex abuse claims

Jean-Pierre Campagne, AFP | French troops from Operation Sangaris guard the entrance to the town of Sibut on February 1, 2014.

French prosecutors on Tuesday opened a preliminary investigation into new allegations of sexual abuse committed by French UN peacekeeping soldiers based in the Central African Republic, a judiciary source said.

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The prosecutors' office said the alleged acts took place in the eastern town of Dekoa between 2013 and 2015.

The United Nations on Thursday announced 108 new alleged victims of sexual abuse, the vast majority of them minors, by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. The UN called "shocking to the core" a report that three girls said a French military commander forced them to have sex with a dog.

The revelations dramatically widened the scope of a sexual abuse scandal that has persisted for months. France's UN ambassador, François Delattre, last week called the allegations "sickening" and promised "exemplary disciplinary action" if they are proven.

The UN human rights chief on Thursday also described the new allegations of sexual abuse as "sickening" and called for investigations that "leave no stone unturned".

"We are taking these allegations – some of which are particularly odious – extremely seriously," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday that the UN can't confirm the allegations involving a dog at this point but that investigations continue.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over dozens of allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic, which has faced sectarian violence since 2013. There have been similar allegations against the French force known as Sangaris, which operates independently in CAR.

"We must face the fact that a number of troops sent to protect people instead acted with hearts of darkness," Dujarric said Thursday.

The UN rights chief said last week that governments must do more to stop the abuse and hold their troops accountable, "otherwise this awful cycle of abuse will never end".

Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed that UN actions must be matched by those of member states, "who alone have the power to discipline their forces with real consequences".

The United Nations has more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions around the world.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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