UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "shocked to the core" Thursday by new sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers to the Central African Republic that included alleged abuse of 108 girls and reports of four girls being forced to have sex with a dog.
The UN peacekeeping mission to CAR and the non-UN troops that preceded them have been embroiled in numerous allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in the past year, tarnishing the UN's reputation for its inability to prevent such crimes.
Under UN guidelines, prosecuting abuse by uniformed personnel while on a UN mission falls under the jurisdiction of countries where the troops come from, which has led to high levels of impunity.
The UN noted last Friday that new allegations of abuse against both UN and non-UN troops had come to light in CAR. However, the extent and nature of the allegations were revealed on Wednesday by the US non-profit AIDS-Free World, which fights against sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
The organization said that three girls had come forward reporting that they had been tied up, stripped naked and forced to have sex with a dog by French troops serving in the country in 2014 before the arrival of the UN peacekeepers.
The three victims said that a fourth girl who had been subjected to the same abuse later died of an unknown disease.
AIDS-Free World said that two weeks ago UNICEF interviewed 98 girls who had reported sexual abuse.
The non-profit said that an alleged abuse had been committed as recently as Monday, when a 16-year-old girl was raped by a Congolese UN peacekeeper, according to a report by the victim's mother.
Stephane Dujarric, Ban's spokesman, said on Thursday that due to ongoing investigations, he was unable to confirm the figures reported by AIDS-Free World.
He noted, however, that 108 alleged victims had been interviewed by the UN.
"The vast majority of the cases do unfortunately involve minors," Dujarric said.
He said that the UN was working with Gabon and Burundi, the countries whose troops have been accused of the crimes, to investigate the abuses.
The UN Security Council, which was briefed on the allegations Thursday, called for a "full and urgent investigation," said Ismael Gaspar Martins, Angolan ambassador to the UN and current president of the council.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Thursday that the new allegations were "sickening."
"We are taking these allegations – some of which are particularly odious - extremely seriously," Zeid said.
Earlier this month, the Security Council passed the first-ever resolution aimed at tackling sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers.
The resolution endorsed a decision by Ban to send home a military or police unit of a peacekeeping contingent "where there is credible evidence of widespread and systematic sexual exploitation and abuse."
It also put pressure on countries that contribute troops to peacekeeping missions to investigate, prosecute and publicly disclose the outcome of sexual abuse allegations against their personnel.