GENEVA - A United Nations watchdog committee is criticizing France for being too slow in investigating allegations of sexual abuse of children by French soldiers in the Central African Republic.
France started an investigation into the sexual abuse scandal nearly one year ago. Fourteen French soldiers who were on duty in the CAR reportedly are charged with demanding sexual favors of young boys in return for food.
U.N. Human Rights Committee chair Fabian Salvioli told VOA that committee members asked the delegation how the criminal prosecution against the soldiers was proceeding.
“The answer was really short - really, really short. The government said there is a trial and I cannot give more information. We are, of course, paying attention and we started an investigation, a penal investigation, a criminal investigation, but it is still on. And, full stop. So, no more information about it,” he said.
Salvioli says the committee has told the French government to speed up the prosecution and to punish the soldiers if they are found guilty.
Given the urgency of the matter, he said the committee has asked the government to give an update on the issue within a year.
Canada separately chided
The committee also had some harsh criticism of Canada’s apparent disregard of indigenous rights as guaranteed under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
Committee member Anja Seibert-Fohr said the committee was particularly concerned indigenous women and girls in Canada are disproportionately affected by life-threatening violence, homicides and disappearances.
She said many women and girls have been murdered or gone missing and their cases remain unsolved. She said Canada’s responses regarding its handling of this affair are not sufficient.
“We were informed that there had already been efforts to do so, but we are still missing information about real investigations and the prosecution. Therefore, we asked the state party to urgently address this issue of these murdered and missing indigenous women,” she said.
Seibert-Fohr says the committee proposes Canada conduct a national inquiry into this phenomenon, that it review the relevant legislation and coordinate police responses across the country to prevent the occurrence of such murders and disappearances.