Monday, April 11, 2016 11:15 pm
A member of a high-level panel investigating alleged sexual abuse by French troops in Central African Republic on Monday accused the UN and its member countries of allowing peacekeepers to get away with such crimes.
Yasmin Sooka, a South African member of the panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the remarks in Johannesburg.
She said “there are few criminal prosecutions that troops actually know that they are likely to get away with it.
“The panel is investigating allegations that children were raped and otherwise abused by French soldiers, including three who were allegedly forced to have sex with a dog in 2014.
“While the UN initially started investigating the abuses, it failed to ensure that the children were protected and did nothing to ensure accountability measures.
“The situation in CAR was very, very serious and sexual violence was systemic.’’
Paula Donovan from a campaign against the abuses launched by the advocacy group AIDS-free World, said that the UN would have established that children were still being violated.
Donovan said “while abuses in CAR have drawn international attention, such acts by UN troops and civilian personnel on peacekeeping missions have actually been common for two decades.’’
Both Sooka and Donovan said it was not appropriate for the UN to investigate abuses that occurred in its own ranks, as was happening now.
They advised that the UN should focus on protecting the victims and hand criminal investigations over to the law enforcement agencies of the host countries.
“Many troop-contributing countries resist the idea that they need to be more accountable,’’ Sooka said.
She accused France of only having released “very limited” information on how it was dealing with the abuse allegations against its troops in CAR.
Sooka and Donovan said trials should be conducted in the host country, instead of the suspects’ country of origin, where the victims were not represented.
They called on UN member states to set up expert groups and impartial tribunals to deal with cases of sexual abuse.
“A rigorous screening process should also make sure that no sexual predators get jobs with the UN,’’ Sooka said.