Questions on child sex probe delay

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Published: Saturday 9th May 2015 by The News Editor

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America’s United Nations ambassador is pressing for an impartial investigation into the way child sex abuse claims against French soldiers in the Central African Republic have been handled.

Samantha Power’s call came as the world body’s human rights chief asked why France did not move more quickly to pursue the accusations of abuse, said to have happened while t he French soldiers were in the republic responding to deadly violence between Christians and Muslims.

Residents of a camp for displaced persons in the country’s capital Bangui have said the soldiers, tasked with protecting civilians, sexually abused boys as young as nine.

Ms Power said the abuse claims were “very credible and very disturbing” and “when allegations like these are made, speed is essential”.

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein made his first public comments on the case since it was first reported late last month.

His office has come under criticism for suspending the staffer who leaked the abuse claims to French authorities. A UN tribunal overturned the suspension this week.

Questions remain about why it took several months for UN and French investigations to come to light and where the accused French soldiers are now.

On Thursday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said the “UN hierarchy” had rejected French efforts to hear from the author of a report containing the allegations.

Yesterday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary general, described a back-and-forth with French judicial authorities over the issue that lasted from mid-October to March 30, when the UN handed over a redacted copy of the report.

Mr Zeid said the alleged abuses date from December 2013 until June, when he said the UN’s report “basically was concluded”. He asked why the French military was not investigating during that time, indicating that in such cases, word gets out among the troops.

“Others will know,” he said.

UN officials have pointed out that the allegations were made well before the UN peacekeeping mission took over from an African Union force in September, but the French forces had a mandate from the Security Council in December 2013 to assist the AU.

Mr Zeid noted the UN mandate but indicated that in such cases where the forces were not UN peacekeepers, “it is the country that is sending its troops that has that obligation” to follow up on allegations of misconduct.

Published: Saturday 9th May 2015 by The News Editor

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