The UN's top human rights officials had received reports of allegations of sexual abuse on children by French troops in the Central African Republic, but did not follow up on the allegations because they assumed the French authorities were handling the matter, statements marked "strictly confidential" show amid French efforts to gain more information from the UN about the case.
The document proving the incident which was obtained by the Associated Press state the deputy high commissioner for human rights also said that her colleague who first informed the French authorities last July did so because he didn't think the recently created UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic would act on the allegations.
"I regret to say that in the context of those very hectic days, I failed to follow up on the CAR situation," said the deputy high commissioner, Flavia Pansieri. She claims she was distracted from the case by other issues, including budget cuts, from last fall until early March.
Pansieri said in the statement on March 26 that "both the HC and I knew that on CAR there was an ongoing process initiated by the French authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. I take full responsibility for not having given the matter the necessary attention."
The Paris prosecutor's office this month criticised the UN’s "hierarchy" for taking more than six months to supply answers to its questions. The UN finally handed over written answers on April 29, the Paris prosecutor's office said.
The French soldier’s mission was to protect civilians from severe clashes between Christians and Muslims.
It is a full year after the alleged sex abuse occurred, with children as young as 9 years old having reportedly been subjected to sexual abuse ranging from rape to sodomy, in exchange for crumbs of food in refugee camps in Bangui.
The reported victims have described the incidents in detail and provided descriptions of the French soldiers who assaulted them. Parents of the victims have taken part in the investigations as well.
The CAR launched a probe into the sex crimes on May 7, with Justice Minister Aristide Sokambi saying "Legal action will be pursued. These are still very serious acts."
Sokambi insists the case is against specific individuals who happen to be French, not against France as a country.