UN alarmed over new abuse accusations against peacekeepers

UN alarmed as peacekeepers face new allegations of sexually abusing minors in Central African Republic

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

The UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday that he was "extremely alarmed" over new allegations of child abuse by foreign peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, with cases involving European Union troops.

Last year, accusations of sexual abuse were also levelled against troops serving with French and UN peacekeepers in the country.         

"Four of the girls said their abusers were attached to contingents operating as part of the European Union operation," Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, adding that he was "extremely alarmed at continuing allegations."

"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," a statement said.

"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."

EUFOR commented on the allegation in a statement saying "the EU takes these allegations very seriously."

But the "responsibility for any investigation, disciplinary or criminal action remains in the hands of the contributing States," EUFOR added.

Two children were also interviewed by UN human rights staff concerning allegations of sex abuse in 2014 by forces from the French Sangaris troops deployed to bring peace in the wave of brutal violence, Zeid said.  

France is still investigating allegations that fourteen French soldiers forced children to perform sexual acts in exchange for food.

A girl and a boy interviewed by the UN in connection to the accusations against the French troops were aged seven and nine respectively at the time of the alleged abuse.

"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," the statement said.

Serious allegations of sex abuse

"These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated," Zeid said.

"Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity. This simply encourages further violations," he added.

In April 2015, another sexual allegation against the peacekeepers was revealed. French soldiers were accused of raping 10 underage boys in exchange for food between December 2013 and June 2014.

Forces from the UN’s MINUSCA troops have also been accused of sexually abusing children in the violent country.

About 26 cases involving UN peacekeepers have been reported.

"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," Zeid said.

Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discharged the head of the 10,000-strong MINUSCA force over the increasing number of cases, but new accusations have continued to emerge.