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Africa

French military investigating Central Africa child sex abuse allegations

media French troops arrive in Bouar western CAR in December 2013 AFP

The French military has been conducting an inquiry into charges of child sex abuse by troops in the Central African Republic since last July, it emerged after a UN report on the allegations was leaked to a British newspaper. President François Hollande promised to "show no mercy" if the allegations prove to be true.

"If true, the facts are extremely serious," Families Minister Laurence Rossignol told French media on Thursday. "We know very well that during wars or in countries in chaos women and children are predators' first victims. That means that, if people who are there to protect them are predators, from a certain point of view they've committed a double crime."

Bea Edwards, Government Accountability Project 30/04/2015 - by Anne-Marie Bissada Listen

Legal sources said on Wednesday that the military had opened an inquiry into the allegations in July 2014.

Following revelations in Wednesday's Guardian, the Defence Ministry said that it had been given testimony from Central African children accusing French troops of sexual assault at that time.

The Guardian revealed that the UN has suspended Anders Kompass from his post as director of field operations last week for allegedly passing an internal report detailing the sexual abuse to prosecutors.

The report, entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces, details cases of about 15 soldiers exchanging food for sex with six children aged between eight and 15 at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, that was under the care of French peacekeeping troops.

The report was passed to officials at the UN Human Rights Commision in Geneva.

Believing that nothing was happening, Kompass then took the report to French authorities.

I'd like to feel that this horrible abuse will cause the UN to look in the right direction.
Paula Donovan, Aids-Free World

Kompass's suspension points to a dire problem within the UN, Bea Edwards of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project told RFI Wednesday.

The UN operation in CAR, Minusca, declined to comment but said French troops are under France's control.

"Each child was telling a story or stories of abuse and these are very young children," Paula Donovan, the co-director of Boston-base NGO Aids-Free World who leaked the report to The Guardian, told RFI.

"Several of them are eight and nine years old so their grasp of dates and so forth is probably tenuous but the children were recounting incidents that began in December 2013, the earliest date mentioned, and continued on right through the interviewing period between 5 May, the first interview, and 24 June, the final interview in this series of six."

The children identified "marks on the perpetrators and so forth that make the children's accounts seem very credible", Donovan said.

"It [the report] was taken by a senior staff person at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights directly to French prosecutors who then undertook, I am told, at least a preliminary investigation in the Central African Republic. No one at the UN seems to know the results of that investigation.

"It appears that no one has been detained and I'm still very anxious to hear whether the children have been attended to in anyway whether they are getting the psycho-social support that they needed and continue to need, no doubt."

Paula Donovan talked to Michel Arseneault, who can be followed on Twitter @miko75011.
 

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