US urges probe of UN handling of CAR abuse charges

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The United States has described as “horrifying” accusations of sexual abuse of children by French and African troops in Central African Republic (CAR) and called for a separate inquiry into how the United Nations handled the allegations.

An internal UN report detailed the alleged abuse by troops from France, Chad and Equatorial Guinea between December 2013 and June 2014 at a centre for displaced people at M’Poko airport in the CAR capital, Bangui.

The accusations came to light in April after the UN report summarising victim interviews was leaked. The six-page document said the young children who were interviewed alleged they had performed oral sex on the French troops. The soldiers from Equatorial Guinea and Chad were accused of sodomising children.
“The allegations are completely horrific,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said. “If these allegations prove true, it is such a profound violation, not only of the dignity and physical security of individuals in their most vulnerable state, but it is a complete abrogation of trust.
“They are certainly very credible and very disturbing allegations,” she told reporters.

French prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into the claims last July and said last week they would open an investigation after written consultation with the author of the UN report.

A UN staff member has admitted leaking an unredacted report on the investigation with the victims’ names before it reached top management in the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations said it was “a serious breach of protocol” that could endanger victims.
“In terms of the UN and the member state’s handling of the issue, I think it is extremely important that an impartial investigation be done also of that, on top of investigating the allegations themselves,” Power said.

Power said it was “extremely important that any individual who comes into possession of allegations of this gravity acts swiftly, but it is also extremely important that victim and witness safety be a very significant, a primary consideration.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said there was an internal UN investigation of the staff member who leaked the report.
“Obviously, there will come a time, I think, when we will need to take a look at how this issue was handled,” he said.

France intervened in CAR, a former French colony, some 18 months ago to help an African Union peacekeeping force try and stem violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels. The United Nations took over the African peacekeeping force in September.