More UN peacekeepers accused of "sexual exploitation" and rape in CAR

UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) raped or sexually exploited at least eight women and girls between October and December 2015, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Thursday.

These are the most recent in a string of ongoing allegations, most recently in January, that soldiers from a different peacekeeping forces sexually abused women in the CAR.

The latest such report claims that eight cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, known as MINUSCA, took place in the southern town of Bambari between January 16 and 30, 2016.

"All eight said that they believed the peacekeepers responsible were from a battalion of approximately 800 soldiers from the Republic of Congo or the Democratic Republic of Congo," Human Rights Watch said. 

An 18-year-old woman told Human Rights Watch that when she visited the troop base near the airport in late 2015 seeking food and money, armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her.

A 14-year-old girl said that in November, two armed peacekeepers in uniform attacked her as she walked by the MINUSCA base at the airport.

"I walked by and suddenly one of them grabbed me by my arms and the other one ripped off my clothes," the girl said in the report.

"They pulled me into the tall grass and one held my arms while the other one pinned down my legs and raped me."

Several girls told Human Rights Watch they had sex with peacekeepers in exchange for food or money as the ongoing conflict in the region had left them desperate.

The UN should ensure that peacekeepers are vetted prior to deployment and schooled in the UN's zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, Human Rights Watch said.

Due to the gravity of the allegations the UN had decided to take immediate measures, a statement from MINUSCA said.

These measures include the repatriation of the 120 Republic of Congo soldiers who were deployed to Bambari from September 17 to December 14, 2015.

"This repatriation will occur after an investigation is carried out," MINUSCA said.

"In the meantime the soldiers will be confined to barracks."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday that the organization is "ashamed" and "horrified" that its peacekeepers have been implicated in the sexual abuse of vulnerable people.

Ban's remarks came after a previous report from the UN human rights office in Geneva that said UN soldiers from an EU-led stabilization force in the CAR were alleged to have sexually abused girls.

Allegations had also previously been made against French and UN peacekeepers deployed to bring stability to the CAR.

Ban's office is set to release a report in February that will for the first time name the countries whose soldiers have been accused of such crimes.

Last update: Thu, 04/02/2016 - 22:38
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