6, December 2016
The UN has named and referred for punishment 41 of its peacekeepers accused of a slew of “abhorrent” sexual abuse of refugees in the Central African Republic (CAR). The announcement came after a four-month probe into disturbing reports of sexual assaults and exploitation of women and children by the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) in the Kemo prefecture during 2014 and 2015. According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the joint probe by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and investigators from Burundi and Gabon found 25 of the suspects were from Burundi and 16 others from Gabon.
The world body had shared the report with both member states, including the “names of the identified alleged perpetrators and has requested for appropriate judicial actions to ensure criminal accountability.” The investigation was primarily based on the testimony of victims and witnesses given the lack of medical, forensic or any other physical evidence of alleged incidents that happened at least a year ago.In total, the OIOS interviewed nearly 150 complaints, including those of 25 minors, all of which reported sexual abuse in the town of Dekoa of the prefecture. Some of the female victims acknowledged their abusers through photos and other evidence. “The alleged perpetrators, if allegations against them are substantiated, and, if warranted, their commanding officers will not be accepted again for deployment in peacekeeping operations,” Dujarric said.
All of the alleged perpetrators had been rotated out of the crisis-hit country before the allegations surfaced, he added. “The United Nations condemns, in the strongest terms, all acts of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers or any other UN personnel and will maintain follow up so that perpetrators of these abhorrent acts are brought to justice,” he said.
Last year, UN chief Ban Ki-moon fired the head of MINUSCA mission because of the increasing number of sexual abuse cases. He warned that the UN would throw out the entire peacekeeping unit if the soldiers accused of assaults were not prosecuted.
Under peacekeeping arrangements, the countries providing the troops have jurisdiction over prosecuting such crimes. The CAR plunged into crisis in December 2013, when anti-balaka militia began coordinated attacks against Muslims after the ouster of the government in March that year.
The UN peacekeepers have been patrolling in the crisis-hit country since April 2014 to protect citizens and refugees from violence between warring factions there. In his latest annual report, Ban announced that 69 cases of sexual abuse had been committed by UN peacekeepers last year, half of them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.