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UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ at more sexual abuse allegations against troops in Central African Republic

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UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ at more sexual abuse allegations against troops in Central African Republic

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

29 January 2016 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today said he is extremely alarmed at continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in the Central African Republic (CAR) by members of foreign military forces.

The alleged crimes mostly took place in 2014, but only came to light in recent weeks. A joint UN team in CAR recently interviewed a number of girls who said they had been sexually exploited or abused by foreign soldiers.

“These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a news release.

According to his Office (OHCHR), four of the girls said their abusers were attached to contingents operating as part of the European Union operation (EUFOR/CAR). Two of the girls interviewed said they were raped by EUFOR soldiers, and the two other girls said they were paid to have sexual relationships with other EUFOR soldiers.

While the nationalities of some of the soldiers remain unclear, three of the girls said they believed their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent. The four girls were aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the alleged abuse.

UN human rights staff also interviewed a girl and a boy, aged seven and nine respectively when they were allegedly abused in 2014 by French Sangaris troops. The girl said she had performed oral sex on French soldiers in exchange for a bottle of water and a sachet of cookies. Both she and the nine-year-old boy said that other children were abused in a similar fashion in repeated incidents involving several French soldiers.

All six cases involving non-UN foreign military forces took place in, or near, the M’Poko camp for displaced people next to the airport in the capital, Bangui.

High Commissioner Zeid last week raised the cases with the European, Georgian and French authorities, as well as with another country on a similar allegation for which additional corroboration is needed. All four authorities have promptly responded to the High Commissioner and stated that they have already begun investigations or referred the cases to relevant judicial authorities in their respective countries.

“I am heartened at the initial responses we have received from the countries concerned, as well as from the European Union, which show they take these terrible allegations very seriously,” said the High Commissioner, noting that his Office will continue to closely follow up on these cases and any others which emerge as the UN team on the ground continues its investigations.

“Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity. This simply encourages further violations. States have an obligation to investigate, prosecute and ensure that the victims receive the redress to which they are entitled. As more and more cases emerge, implicating more and more national contingents, it is also clear that all foreign military forces, whether UN or non-UN, must employ much stronger and more effective actions to prevent further abuse and exploitation – and not just in CAR,” he stated.

While the cases raised by the High Commissioner relate to non-UN military forces, OHCHR also reported that a number of cases involving UN peacekeepers came to light during the interviews carried out by the joint UN team. Those cases are being raised separately by the UN departments dealing with peacekeeping with the relevant countries that contribute troops to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA), in accordance with standard UN policy.

UN News
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