GENEVA (29 January 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday he was extremely alarmed at continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in the Central African Republic (CAR) by members of foreign military forces. The alleged crimes mostly took place in 2014, but only came to light in recent weeks.
A joint UN team in the CAR recently interviewed a number of girls who said they had been sexually exploited or abused by foreign soldiers.
Four of the girls said their abusers were attached to contingents operating as part of the European Union operation (EUFOR / CAR). 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. 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.
UN human rights staff also interviewed a girl and a boy who were aged 7 and 9 respectively when they were allegedly abused in 2014 by French Sangaris troops. 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.
All six cases involving non-UN foreign military forces took place in, or near, the M’Poko camp for displaced people next to the airport in the capital, Bangui.
High Commissioner Zeid last week raised the cases with the European, Georgian and French authorities, as well as with another country on a similar allegation for which additional corroboration is needed. All four authorities have promptly responded to the High Commissioner and stated that they have already begun investigations or referred the cases to relevant judicial authorities in their respective countries.
“These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated,” the High Commissioner said. “I am heartened at the initial responses we have received from the countries concerned, as well as from the European Union, which show they take these terrible allegations very seriously. We will continue to closely follow up on these cases, and any others which emerge as the UN team on the ground continues its investigations. Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity. This simply encourages further violations. States have an obligation to investigate, prosecute and ensure that the victims receive the redress to which they are entitled. 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.”
While the cases raised by the High Commissioner relate to non-UN military forces, a number of cases involving UN peacekeepers also came to light during the interviews carried out by the joint UN team. Those cases are being raised separately with the relevant Troop Contributing Countries by UN Peacekeeping (DFS / DPKO), in accordance with the standard policy of UN headquarters in New York.
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