Following calls to investigate rape and murder allegations, the UN has stepped up and launched a probe into the accusations that a peacekeeper raped a 12-year-old girl and killed a teenager along with his father.
Amnesty International says the incidents took place on Aug. 2-3, in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, while Rwandan and Cameroonian peacekeepers were reportedly conducting an operation.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “dismayed and disappointed” by the allegations.
The probe was launched following Amnesty International’s appeal to look into the case of abuse, as they claim to have strong evidence supporting the allegations, according to Joanne Mariner from the organisation.
“Our evidence strongly suggests that a UN peacekeeper raped a young girl and that other UN peacekeepers indiscriminately killed two civilians,” said Joanne Mariner.
“We have opened a probe,” said Hamadoun Toure, spokesman of the UN mission, adding that they will be looking for “established and verifiable proof.”
The two incidents allegedly took place during an operation on a predominantly Muslim district, in a bid to arrest a former “rebel” chief. Five were killed and dozens injured in the operation, including a Cameroonian peacekeeper.
Amnesty International had interviewed 15 witnesses of the incident, along with the girl who was allegedly raped and her family members.
The girl’s body had evidence of sexual assault and could serve as medical evidence in the case, according to a nurse.
“The girl had been hiding in a bathroom during a house search at approximately 2:00 am on August 2. A man allegedly wearing the blue helmet and vest of the UN peacekeeping forces took her outside and raped her behind a truck,” a statement said.
"When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth," the girl told Amnesty.
Peacekeepers had reportedly returned to the area the following day.
The soldiers killed a father (61), and his son (16). The father was reportedly shot in the back, and his son in the chest.
Witnesses say the soldiers were shooting “at anything that moved,” and refused to help transport the wounded people to hospital, instead firing another round.
The UN was under criticism for failing to respond swiftly to sex abuse and other violations.
Similarly, other cases of child sexual abuse by French troops at a refugee camp had emerged previously in late-2013 and mid-2014.
“I regret to say that in the context of those very hectic days, I failed to follow up on the CAR situation,” said the UN deputy high commissioner, Flavia Pansieri. She claims she was distracted from the case by other issues, including budget cuts.
The reported victims have described the incidents in detail and provided descriptions of the French soldiers who assaulted them.
Documents related to the cases were leaked to British media, and evidence showing that senior UN officials knew of the allegations for months, but failed to take action, have emerged.
The Central African Republic launched a probe into the alleged sex crimes by French troops on May 7, with Justice Minister Aristide Sokambi saying “Legal action will be pursued. These are still very serious acts.”