Georgian Peacekeepers Accused of Child Abuse in Central Africa
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm regarding new allegations of child abuse by foreign peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), including cases involving the European Union and Georgian troops.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein emphasized that the alleged crimes mostly took place in 2014, but only came to light in recent weeks.
A joint UN team in the CAR recently interviewed a number of girls who said they had been sexually exploited or abused by foreign soldiers.
“Four of the girls said their abusers were attached to contingents operating as part of the European Union operation (EUFOR / CAR). Two of the girls interviewed said they were raped by EUFOR soldiers, and the two other girls said they were paid to have sexual relationships with other EUFOR soldiers,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein announced that while the nationalities of some of the soldiers remain ‘unclear’, “three of the girls said they believed their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent. The four girls were aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the alleged abuse,” he added.
UN Human Rights staff also interviewed a girl and boy, who were aged 7 and 9 respectively, when they were allegedly abused in 2014 by French Sangaris troops. The girl said she had performed oral sex on French soldiers in exchange for a bottle of water and a sachet of cookies. Both she and the nine-year-old boy said that other children were abused in a similar fashion in repeated incidents involving several French soldiers.
Zeid announced that all six cases involving non-UN foreign military forces took place in, or near, the M’Poko camp for displaced people next to the airport in the capital, Bangui.
High Commissioner Zeid last week raised the cases with the European, Georgian and French authorities, as well as with another country on a similar allegation for which additional corroboration is needed.
“All four authorities have promptly responded to the High Commissioner and stated that they have already begun investigations or referred the cases to relevant judicial authorities in their respective countries. These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated,” the High Commissioner said.
“Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity. This simply encourages further violations,” he added.
Later, Georgia’s Defense Ministry released a statement concerning the UN High Commissioner’s statement regarding sexual abuse committed in Central African Republic.
“It is with great concern that we have got ourselves acquainted with the statement issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in respect of the 2014 autumn mission in the Central African Republic (EUFOR / CAR),” the statement said.
The Ministry declared its commitment to investigate this case in the shortest time possible, and the individuals, who insulted the name and damaged the reputation of the Georgian military will be held responsible.
“We firmly believe that, each and every one of us, at both national and international levels, must do everything possible to ensure that those individuals committing such crimes are held responsible. It makes no difference as to who they are, which country they represent and what language they speak. This matter is of the utmost importance both for the Georgian Government and the Georgian Armed Forces,” the statement reads.
According to the statement before the investigation is underway every soldier who was under a direct obligation to investigate the facts and establish the truth of this matter in 2014, will be suspended from carrying out their professional duties.
“This is the reason why it is unacceptable for the alleged actions of several individuals, in case these are proven, to shame the image and prestige of the Georgian Armed Forces. The Government of Georgia, and first of all, the Georgian Armed Forces themselves, have been devoted to serving international peace and security missions over the course of 17 years and will continue to do so in the future, in their role as the most reliable and trusted partner for the democratic states of the world,” the statement reads.
Photo: AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo