France’s state prosecutor announced Thursday that judges will investigate claims that French soldiers raped children in the Central African Republic while on peacekeeping missions.
Authorities arrested 14 soldiers following statements from six children between the ages of 9 and 13 gave testimony the abuse they faced or witnessed at the hands of French soldiers.
The case was cited to have opened in order to investigate “the rape of minors under 15 years old by persons who had abused the authority conferred upon them by their roles, and complicity in this crime”.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said through a statement that the case was opened “against unnamed persons for carrying out the rape of minors” who had “abusing the authority conferred by their functions.”
“Investigations will now continue under the authority of an instructing magistrate in order to get to the truth of the accusations,” the statement read.
France had opened an investigation to the claims last July, sending police investigators to the CAR, however no results were had as police failed to report findings from their questioning of the soldiers or children.
Anders Kompass,the UN official who leaked the report regarding the rape claims, was briefly suspended for his role in releasing documents regarding the claims before being reinstated T-though both France and the UN deny having any attempts to cover up the investigation.
“We very much cooperated with the French judicial authorities, they submitted a questionnaire to the lead investigator who responded,” a spokesman for the United Nations said regarding the controversial investigation which yielded no results.
“The issue of lifting or not of immunity is not really pertinent in this case.”
However, statements from the French prosecutor's office state that the UN has cited immunity it holds in international matters as a means to avoid investigation.
“The UN hierarchy refused this questioning, indicating that the functionary benefited from immunity that had to be lifted before any questioning,” the statement said.
French soldiers were deployed to the CAR in 2013 in a peacekeeping mission as sectarian bilateral clashes erupted across the country.
France deployed hundreds of soldiers to the CAR capital of M’Poko where refugees escaping the conflict congregated.
A UN diplomat told the French state-run AFP news agency that it was no secret that refugees in the city would turn to solicitation in exchange for food from soldiers due to the lack of supplies and rampant starvation in the city.
“There was a whole world that revolved not just around the French soldiers, but also the European force, especially at night-time,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
“Everyone knows there were groups of young women, especially, who took pleasure from being with the European troops based in the airport area, in exchange for biscuits or sardines.”