The United Nations human rights chief has described the latest reports of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic as “sickening.
It comes as the UN announces more than a hundred new sexual abuse cases allegedly involving international peacekeepers in the region.
The vast majority of the victims are children.
After hearing the latest reports, United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein says an investigation must leave nothing unchecked.
The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other abuse by its peacekeepers.
And those allegations have especially focused on peacekeepers based in the Central African Republic and Congo.
There have been similar allegations against the French force, known as Sangaris, which operates independently in the Central African Republic.
UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, interviewed 108 alleged victims of sexual abuse by international peacekeepers in the country.
The vast majority of them, it says, are minors.
The report, by AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign, says three girls told UN staff a French military commander tied them up and forced them to have sex with a dog in 2014.
Co-director Paula Donovan says allegations dated from 2013 to last year.
“They all said that they have been sexually abused by peacekeepers. Some are operating directly under the UN. Some are French peacekeepers who are operating in parallel with the United Nations. And some are not soldiers, some are civilians and others.”
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic assumed authority from African Union troops in September 2014.
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, says there have been dozens of accusations against the mission’s soldiers since then.
She says the abuse has caused traumatised victims to become isolated from their communities.
“We talked to the families about what had happened to their daughters, who, in many cases, were raped by MINUSCA soldiers or who had relationships with MINUSCA soldiers when they were very, very young, and who are now left carrying terrible stigmas. As the soldiers have gone back to their countries with no accountability, the victims are left here, ostracised in their own communities and devastated by the experience. So we are trying to fix the problem of sexual abuse, and it was extremely important to hear directly from the people who’ve suffered these crimes.”
A spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, Stephane Dujarric, has described the findings as shocking.
“And let me say at the outset that the Secretary General is shocked to the core at the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic. His focus is on the victims and their families. We are talking about women, young children, who have been traumatised in the worst imaginable way.
The United Nations has promised to crack down on the allegations to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.
Samantha Power says measures are already in place to prevent further cases, but adds those responsible need to be held responsible.
“The leadership now has taken this very, very seriously. They’ve moved peacekeepers away from living, cohabitating, with people of the Central African Republic, so that’s an important prevention step. But the system still has to improve a lot, because those soldiers who have been accused of rape and sexual abuse, almost none of them have been held accountable.”
But Paula Donovan, with AIDS-Free World, says she is disillusioned by what she calls the UN “inaction.”
She says the United Nations requires a major shake-up to fix what she calls the “tip of the iceberg.”
“The United Nations simply cannot monitor and police itself and investigate these crimes that are committed by its own personnel. It’s just not working. It’s a terrible conflict of interest.”