26th Oct 2016

African children accuse EU peacekeepers of sex abuse

  • The mixed bag of EU, French, and UN soldiers was meant to protect refugees (Photo: US Army Africa)

The UN’s office for human rights has said refugee minors in Bangui, in the Central African Republic (CAR), have accused EU flag-wearing soldiers of sexual abuse.

Two local girls, aged 14 to 16, said they were raped by peacekeepers in the Eufor-CAR mission. Two others, in the same age group, said they were paid for sex. Three of the four girls said the soldiers were from Georgia, which contributed 140 members to the EU’s 700-strong operation.

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  • Refugee camp at Bangui airport. UN deputy chief close to tears in New York on Friday (Photo: UNHCR Photo Download)

Refugee children also accused French soldiers in the Sangaris operation, a unilateral mission.

A seven-year old girl said she performed oral sex on a French soldier in return for a bottle of water and a pack of biscuits. A nine-year old boy said he, and several others, were abused.

Children also accused UN peacekeepers.

The UN assistant secretary general, Anthony Banbury, said on Friday (29 January) he knows of four new cases in Bangui. He said there were 22 UN cases in Central Africa last year, and 69 in total in the UN’s 16 missions around the world.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said, also on Friday, he alerted the EU, Georgia, and France on 19 January.

He said he was “heartened” by their reaction.

But he added: “Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity. This simply encourages further violations.”

Banbury told press in New York: “It’s hard to imagine the outrage that people working for the United Nations in the causes of peace and security feel when these kinds of allegations come to light.”

The Guardian, a British daily, said he was close to tears.

For its part, the EU foreign service said it has “a zero-tolerance policy as regards sexual misconduct or criminal activity.”

But it added that “responsibility for any investigation, disciplinary or criminal action remains in the hands of the contributing states.”

The Georgian defence ministry said: “In case such grave crimes are proven, perpetrators … will be brought to justice.” France made similar promises.

The EU sent Eufor-CAR to Central Africa in April 2014 to protect refugees in a brutal civil war. It pulled out in March 2015.

Troops mostly came from EU states Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and Spain.

Georgia, an EU and Nato-aspirant state, sometimes takes part in EU operations.

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