Cover-up accusations in C. Africa child sex abuse scandal ‘offensive’: UN
The United Nations rights office said Friday suggestions it tried to cover up allegations of the sexual abuse of children by French troops in the Central African Republic were “offensive”.
“I think any implication that (UN human rights chief) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein would try to cover up sexual abuse (of) children is frankly offensive and highly unlikely if you look at his personal history,” Zeid’s spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.
He pointed out that Zeid among other things was the author of the 2005 Zeid report, considered to be “the definitive UN report on sexual abuse in peacekeeping operations”.
A number of non-governmental organisations have cried foul after revelations this week that an internal UN report was leaked last July to French authorities with allegations that French peacekeepers in CAR had sexually assaulted hungry children in exchange for food.
“The allegations of what happened to these children are abhorrent. The details obtained in interviews with alleged victims and witnesses by UN investigators… are utterly odious,” Colville said, saying the UN was “extremely glad” France had launched an investigation.
He acknowledged that in the past “there have been far to many incidents of peacekeeping troops engaged in such acts, whether within UN peacekeeping forces or, as in this case, forces that are operating independently.”
He said the UN rights office had been cooperating with the French investigation and welcomed Paris’s vow to call for “the harshest punishments available under the law for anyone found guilty.”
The high-ranking UN employee accused of the leak, Swedish national Anders Kompass, has meanwhile been suspended with full pay pending an internal investigation, Colville confirmed.
He said the investigation, requested by Zeid, was necessary since the confidential documents had been handed over with unredacted names of victims witnesses and investigators — “in possible breach of strict rules that exist to protect victims, witnesses and investigators.”
Such people “may be extremely vulnerable to reprisals,” he explained, pointing to “plenty of cases elsewhere where they have disappeared.”
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