Leaders in France are currently investigating claims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by French soldiers in Central African Republic, Reuters reported. The alleged sexual crimes were first reported by The Guardian, which obtained a leaked United Nations document alleging that French troops raped young boys in the country between December 2013 and June 2014. A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed on Wednesday that the international agency was aware of the allegations, and conducted a human rights investigation in spring 2014.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general's office said:
The United Nations, through its Office of Human Rights in [the capital city] Bangui, conducted a human rights investigation in late spring of 2014, following serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by French military personnel, prior to the establishment of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic.
The statement added that the report documenting the alleged sexual abuse was given to French authorities in late July 2014 before the findings were even revealed to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) senior management. The U.N. is calling this a "serious breach of protocol," especially because the leaked report included names of victims and witnesses. "[A]s is well known to all OHCHR officials, [protocol] requires redaction of any information that could endanger victims, witnesses and investigators," the U.N. spokesperson said.
A French judicial source confirmed to Reuters that the prosecutor's office did receive a U.N. document last July raising allegations of rape committed by French soldiers. Still, the U.N. is coming under fire after the staff member who apparently leaked the document accused the international agency of not doing enough to stop the sexual abuse against children in the Central African Republic.
The Guardian has identified the U.N. staffer Anders Kompass, who claims he gave the harrowing report on child sex abuse to French authorities because the U.N. failed to take action. Kompass, however, was not the person who leaked to The Guardian. Both The Guardian and the U.N. confirmed that he has been suspended from his post at the U.N. and faces dismissal for leaking the report.
Now, French government officials have said they are investigating these alleged crimes, with French President Francois Hollande telling reporters on Thursday that he will "show no mercy" to those found guilty of sexually abusing children. The French president vowed tough punishments once France's investigation is complete. "If this information is confirmed, there will be exemplary sanctions," he added.
The highly confidential report included a number of disturbing allegations from young boys in the Central African Republic, where French troops were sent more than 18 months ago. The report alleges that the French soldiers forced young boys into sexual acts, giving the children food and money in return. The Guardian reported that incidences of rape and sodomy were among the allegations. Most of the alleged abuse took place at an airport that had become a camp for displaced residents of Bangui, the nation's capital, according to the report.
France's Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday in a statement: "If the facts are proven, the strongest penalties will be imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable breach of soldiers’ values."
The defense ministry added that an investigation into the claims and testimonies the office has received over the last nine months is still ongoing at this time.
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