Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Banbury struggled to hold back his tears late last week as he announced a new set of sexual molestation accusations against U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) and police from Bangladesh, Congo, Niger and Senegal.
According to the Associated Press, UN staffers interviewed five girls and one boy from CAR who accuse French and European Union military operation officials of sexually abusing them. The abuse allegedly occurred in 2014 inside or in the proximity of a camp for refugees near Bangui, CAR’s capital.
The office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein that has been investigating the cases said these allegations only came to the surface in recent weeks, though they are preceded by a set of other similar accusations of sexual exploitation in Haiti.
At last Friday’s press conference, Banbury also discussed a sexual assault allegation in which a member of Morocco’s military group abused a minor.
In 2015, there are expected to be a whopping 69 confirmed cases of sexual molestation for UN peacekeepers stationed in 16 missions around the world. There are 22 projected cases in CAR alone. In 2014, there were 51 cases total; shockingly, no cases had been reported in CAR at the time.
Banbury croaked as he spoke, saying: “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.”
As a result of a new policy, this is the first time the United Nations is publicly naming the countries where UN troops are being accused of sexual molestation. The UN cannot exert its own punishment on the troops, as that is up to the local governments where the abuse occurred to determine. Unfortunately, countries often do not take action.
Several thousand troops were sent to CAR by France in 2013 to mitigate violence between Christians and Muslims. France’s UN Mission tweeted its support of the victims on Friday, saying: “France remains very mobilized in fight against violence and #sexualabuses & against impunity for those responsible.”
Banbury stated that there will be new initiatives to protect those being aided in UN peacekeeping missions by promoting accountability and making a more strenuous screening process for members. Those with any history of misconduct, human rights violations or other serious crimes will be barred from the program.
Banbury also announced that rape kits and investigations will be conducted within 24 hours of there being an allegation, and that investigations in sex abuse are to be wrapped up and publicized within six months. Officials who are strongly believed to be involved with abuse will have their pay suspended as well.
The assistant secretary-general is encouraging others to give their testimonies or to share any information they have on sexual abuse accusations to put an end to what’s now being called a “rampant” issue.
Read more on the story at the Associated Press.