Panel to review UN handling of alleged French troops abuse

AP News
Posted: Jun 22, 2015 10:23 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed an independent panel Monday to review the United Nations' handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by French soldiers in Central African Republic.

Confidential documents have shown that the U.N.'s top human rights officials did not follow up for more than half a year on allegations of abuse collected by their own staffers, while French authorities pressed for more information. France opened a formal judicial inquiry just last month.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the panel will be chaired by former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps and include Hassan Jallow of Gambia, the current prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.

Dujarric said the panel will start work in July and issue its report, which will be made public, within 10 weeks.

French troops arrived in Central African Republic in late 2013 and had a U.N. mandate to assist an African Union peacekeeping operation that was taken over by U.N. peacekeepers last September. The French troops were never under U.N. command.

The U.N. first heard allegations from children as young as nine that French soldiers had sexually abused them, sometimes in exchange for food, a year ago. Since then, the only person who has been punished is the U.N. staffer who told French authorities, Anders Kompass.

Dujarric said the panel will assess the adequacy of U.N. procedures including "any allegations of abuse of authority or retaliation by senior officials."

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said probably "what has been reported was a tip of the iceberg."

He said, "It's very damaging ... and everyone is extremely sad that a good job we are doing on 66 locations all over the world has been overshadowed by this."