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UN Troops in CAR Accused of New Rape Cases

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Soldiers of the U.N. force known by its French acronym MINUSCA are seen sitting on a vehicle in Bangui, Central African Republic.

FILE - Soldiers of the U.N. force known by its French acronym MINUSCA are seen sitting on a vehicle in Bangui, Central African Republic.

The United Nations said Wednesday that it had received new allegations that peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have been accused of raping three young women. The cases would be the latest in a growing list of sexual abuse allegations against U.N. mission personnel in the country.

Last week, an angry Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the head of the mission, known as MINUSCA, over earlier rape allegations which he said have tarnished the credibility of the United Nations.

Wednesday, U.N. Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said headquarters had received new “disturbing” allegations of misconduct that happened in “recent weeks” in the central town of Bambari.

“These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent. The allegations were reported to the Mission’s Human Rights Division on 12 August, 2015, by the families of the three women,” she said.

Maestracci said one of the women was a minor. The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is assisting in providing medical and psycho-social support to the alleged victims.

Maestracci told reporters only one contingent was involved. The U.N. does not name the countries of origin of accused peacekeepers, but a map of the mission’s deployment shows forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo were the only contingent deployed in Bambari.

The peacekeepers’ government has been notified and given 10 days to tell the United Nations whether it plans to investigate. If it declines or fails to reply, the U.N. will conduct its own investigation.

'Angered and ashamed'

The U.N. has no authority over the prosecution of troops deployed in its missions. It can only repatriate the accused with the expectation that their home country will prosecute them.

Since its establishment in 2014, 13 sexual abuse allegations have been made against peacekeepers in the CAR mission.

Ban Ki-moon said he could not articulate how "anguished, angered and ashamed" he is by repeated reports that U.N. peacekeepers have been involved in sexual abuse and exploitation.

"When the United Nations deploys peacekeepers, we do so to protect the world’s most vulnerable people in the world’s most desperate places," Ban said. "I will not tolerate any action that causes people to replace trust with fear."

MINUSCA was deployed 11 months ago to quell escalating inter-communal violence. The United Nations peacekeepers replaced an international support mission led by units led by African Union member states and an earlier French-backed peacekeeping force.

Charges that foreign troops were sexually abusing children were filed in the past against the French and international forces, and later against U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. appointed an independent panel to look into the accusations two months ago, and to determine how the U.N. should respond. The panel's report is due in the coming weeks.

Amanda Scott contributed to this report.