United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has termed as “sickening” the latest allegations of bestiality and degrading sexual exploitation by foreign peacekeepers in conflict-ridden Central African Republic (CAR).
“We are taking these allegations — some of which are particularly odious — extremely seriously,” he said in a statement released on Thursday.
Zeid added, “The UN investigation into these sickening allegations, which suggest sexual abuse and exploitation of a large number of women and girls, must leave no stone unturned.”
“The states to which these troops belong must do more to stop the abuse happening, to punish those committing these acts with appropriate sentences,” the UN rights chief commented, adding, “Simply being sent home in disgrace is a grossly inadequate response.”
The remarks were echoed by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, who condemned new reports of sexual violence by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic as “abominable.”
“I am pushing for two ideas: firstly, contributor countries must agree to hold court martial on the spot, where their troops are serving,” Ladsous said.
“Secondly, when Blue Helmets are recruited, DNA samples should be taken — on a confidential basis,” he added, explaining these biological records could avoid a repeat of past mistakes and establish the truth of any future allegations.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “shocked to the core” by the new allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and French troops in the Central African Republic.
According to an AFP report quoting the UN, more than 100 victims have so far come forward in the Central African Republic with appalling new accounts of sexual abuse, including bestiality, by UN peacekeepers and French troops.
“We must face the fact that a number of troops sent to protect people, instead acted with hearts of darkness,” UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said on Thursday.
The United Nations announced on Wednesday said it had widened an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by international peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, and notified Burundian, French and Gabonese authorities about the charges.
Earlier in the day, the Code Blue Campaign run by the advocacy group AIDS-Free World issued a statement saying that three victims claim they and a fourth girl were “tied up and undressed inside a camp by a military commander from the Sangaris force (the French military intervention in CAR) and forced to have sex with a dog” in 2014.
The advocacy group added that each girl was then given 5,000 Central African Francs ($8.6). While three girls sought basic treatment following the abuse, a fourth girl is reported to have later died of an unknown disease.
According to Code Blue Campaign, 98 Central African girls, who were interviewed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) two weeks ago, claimed they had been sexually abused by UN peacekeepers. The nationalities of the alleged abusers remain unknown.
On March 26, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Deputy Head of MINUSCA (UN’s peacekeeping mission in CAR) Diane Corner as well as several other UN delegates were told by local leaders and victims that troops from France and Gabon had sexually abused several girls in the Kemo region of the Central African Republic between 2013 and 2015.
The local leaders added that some victims were forced to leave the area due to stigmatization by their community.
The CAR plunged into crisis in December 2013, when anti-balaka militia began coordinated attacks against the Seleka group, which had toppled the government in March that year.
France invaded the CAR, a former French colony, after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution giving the African Union and France the go-ahead to send troops to the country.