UN speaks out: French, Georgian peacekeepers accused of sex abuse in Central African Rep

U.N. peacekeepers take a break as they patrol along a street during the presidential election in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, December 30, 2015. © Media Coulibaly
Senior UN officials disclosed names of the countries whose peacekeepers are accused of sexually abusing and exploiting children in the war-torn Central African Republic. The victims were aged from 7 to 16 at the time of the alleged abuse.

The shocking issue surfaced after the UN human rights staff in the Central African Republic (CAR) interviewed several girls who said they were raped, abused or paid for sex by United Nations and EU peacekeepers since 2014.

A girl and a boy aged seven and nine, interviewed by the UN staff, were allegedly abused by French troops taking part in Operation Sangaris. The seven-year-old girl said she had sex with the French soldiers in exchange for a bottle of water and a sachet of cookies, according to the UN press release.

Both she and the nine-year-old boy said that other children were abused in a similar way repeatedly by the French soldiers. 

Four other girls, aged 14 and 16 as of 2014, reportedly said their abusers belonged to the peacekeeping force operating as part of the European Union operation EUFOR CAR. Two of the girls interviewed said they were raped, while the other two said they were paid to have sexual relationships with other EUFOR troops, believing the soldiers were members of the Georgian contingent, the press release said.

After mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the predominantly Christian CAR in 2013, stirring up religious violence that has killed thousands, France sent troops, launching Operation Sangaris, the 7th French military intervention in the country. European Union troops were there from April 2014 to March 2015.

Sexual abuse against six other children also involved United Nations peacekeepers in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Morocco as well as the UN police task force from Senegal. The number of allegations made in 2015 against UN peacekeepers is now 22, Reuters reported. The United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA assumed authority from African Union troops in September 2014.

“I think it’s hard to imagine the outrage that the people working for the United Nations and for the causes of peace and security feel when these kinds of allegations come to light. Particularly involving minors, it’s so hard to understand,” Anthony Banbury, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support, told journalists in an emotional address in New York on Friday.

As a rule, the UN peacekeepers deploying to “hot spots” worldwide according to Security Council’s mandates enjoy immunity from the host nation’s legal system. However, sexual abuse and rape of civilians, especially children, by intervening troops amount to war crimes under international law.

Previously, the UN launched a probe into allegations of sexual abuse in CAR announcing it has contacted the troop contributing countries' authorities urging them to conduct their national investigations into the new abuse cases.