New allegations surfaced Friday of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic involving UN peacekeepers as well as troops serving in a European mission and in France’s Sangaris operation.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the latest claims to come to light as “extremely serious allegations” and said it was “crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated.”
The new cases linking EU and French troops are said to date to 2014 but have only been discovered in recent weeks as a result of a UN investigation.
The allegations against UN peacekeepers mostly date back to last year and in a first, the United Nations revealed the nationalities of the troops involved.
They are from Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Niger and Senegal.
There has been a wave of allegations against UN peacekeepers serving in the Central African Republic, but the latest probe brought to light possible crimes committed by European Union (EUFOR) forces.
Two girls said they were raped by EUFOR soldiers, while two others said they were paid to have sexual relations with other EUFOR soldiers, a UN statement said.
The four were aged between 14 and 16 at the time.
Three girls told UN investigators that they believed their abusers were from Georgia.
In Brussels, an EU source said the allegations were “totally unprecedented” for an EU mission.
Some 150 Georgian soldiers were deployed with the EUFOR contingent, which at its peak counted some 700 soldiers sent to Bangui to help restore order.
Reacting to the allegations, EUFOR said in a statement that “the EU takes these allegations very seriously.”
Georgia’s defence ministry said it would “do everything possible to ensure that those individuals committing such crimes are held responsible.”
– Sex for cookies –
UN staff also interviewed two children allegedly abused in 2014 by soldiers from the French Sangaris force.
The girl and boy were aged seven and nine respectively at the time.
“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,” the statement said.
The six cases of alleged abuse by foreign troops took place at a sprawling camp for displaced people at M’Poko, near Bangui’s airport.
French soldiers serving in the Sangaris force are already being investigated in France over allegations that they forced children in CAR to perform sexual acts in exchange for food.
On Friday, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ordered a fresh probe following the latest allegations.
– New claims against UN peacekeepers –
In the latest wave of allegations facing the troubled UN mission in the Central African Republic, eight soldiers and two police were accused of having sex with minors.
Four of the soldiers are from Niger, two from Bangladesh, one from Morocco and one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with two police from Senegal.
The latest claims bring to 22 the number of cases of sexual abuse involving peacekeepers from the UN mission in the Central African Republic.
The new cases follow a hard-hitting report released last month that found the United Nations had grossly mishandled allegations of child sex abuse in CAR.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the head of the 10,000-strong MINUSCA force last year over the mounting number of cases, but the allegations have continued to surface.