Saturday, August 22, 2015

3 United Nations Peacekeepers Accused of Rape in Central African Republic
New York Times
AUG. 19, 2015

UNITED NATIONS — In the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations against United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, the families of two women and one girl under the age of 18 have accused three peacekeepers of rape, the United Nations announced Wednesday.

The families came forward on Aug. 12, the same day that the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, ousted his mission chief in the Central African Republic over numerous sexual abuse claims. It is unclear when the three alleged attacks took place.

The United Nations does not typically name the country whose troops are accused, and its officials did not in this latest case. But a United Nations spokeswoman, Vannina Maestracci, said the families said that the rapes took place in Bambari, a market town besieged by fighting between rival armed groups. The United Nations peacekeepers serving in that town are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country whose troops have a long history of sexual violence in its own internal conflicts.

United Nations leaders have had to contend with repeated allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in peacekeeping in recent months, especially in the Central African Republic. The peacekeeping mission there, established less than a year ago, has been accused of at least 13 instances of sexual abuse.

So far, four soldiers and two police officers have been repatriated to their home countries over those claims. The United Nations depends on the home countries of the accused to prosecute, and its leverage includes publicly naming the countries involved — which Mr. Ban says he favors — or banishing contingents with a bad track record from peacekeeping missions altogether. That is rare, and even more rarely publicized.

The attention on the Central African Republic began this year, after United Nations investigators recorded the testimonies of several boys who said they had been sexually abused over a period of nearly six months by soldiers from France, Equatorial Guinea and Chad. Those countries sent their troops shortly after fighting broke out in the country in 2013 and many months before United Nations peacekeepers could be deployed.

A United Nations official, Anders Kompass, was suspended for leaking a report of those sexual abuse allegations to a French diplomat, but he was later reinstated by an internal tribunal ruling.

The organization faced criticism for its actions, prompting Mr. Ban to appoint an independent panel to review how the organization handled that episode. France has said it is investigating the allegations, but has yet to prosecute a single soldier.

Since then, troops from Burundi and Morocco, operating under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, have been accused of sexual abuse. The United Nations has said nothing about whether they are being prosecuted by their home countries.

Earlier this month, a United Nations police officer was accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in the capital, Bangui. The mission in Bangui promised to investigate swiftly, but has not yet revealed anything about a suspect, or about any actions taken against the police unit said to have been involved in the assault.

The United Nations said Wednesday that the mission in Bangui “continues to gather information on the identities and nationalities of personnel that may be involved.” No suspect appears to have been apprehended.

Last week Mr. Ban asked the mission chief, Babacar Gaye, a retired Senegalese general and a veteran of the United Nations system, to resign the day after the allegations were made public by Amnesty International. That same day, the families of the three young women accused three peacekeepers of rape. The United Nations has ordered their home country to investigate.

Some advocacy groups had warned the United Nations against allowing troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo to serve in the mission, noting its long record of abuses against children.

“We have serious concerns about the vetting process for U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic, particularly the inclusion of troops from the D.R.C. — a force that the U.N. itself has listed as responsible for the sexual abuse of children,” said Joanne Mariner, an Amnesty International adviser.

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