Group: UN mishandling Central African Republic abuse claims

AP News
Posted: Sep 14, 2017 2:19 PM

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Leaked case files show "egregious mishandling" of sexual misconduct allegations against U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic, according to a watchdog group that said it had obtained the reports.

It is the latest criticism of how sexual abuse has been investigated in Central African Republic, where the U.N. peacekeeping mission had the highest number of misconduct allegations in the world last year.

The 14 cases cited by the Code Blue campaign were investigated last year in order to determine whether the allegations could be substantiated. But the group said that in eight of the cases, the alleged victims were not even interviewed.

If allegations are found to be credible, it is the responsibility of the alleged perpetrators' home countries to prosecute them.

Sharanya Kanikkannan, a lawyer with the Code Blue campaign, said that by filtering out complaints in the early stages, cases then get thrown out before they can be properly investigated.

"This filtering ensures that there is no access to justice for the vast majority of victims since they cannot gain access to law enforcement authorities without first convincing U.N. staff to believe them," Kanikkannan said.

The United Nations has vowed to end impunity and to work with the countries contributing peacekeepers to U.N. missions to do more to combat sexual misconduct among their ranks. The issue is expected to come up next week at the U.N.'s annual General Assembly of world leaders.

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In New York, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: "We are looking into the allegations made by Code Blue."

The peacekeepers cited by Code Blue came from Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Republic of Congo and Zambia.

Ten of the 14 cases were handled exclusively by U.N. personnel, according to Code Blue. One was carried out by authorities from the alleged perpetrator's country of origin; the remaining three were joint investigations.

Ten of the 14 cases did not appear on the U.N. website where data is usually released about sexual misconduct cases, the watchdog said.