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UN rights chief: foreign soldiers sexually abusing children in Central African Republic

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein [official profile] said Friday his office is investigating allegations of sexual abuse [press release] against children in the Central African Republic (CAR) by EU forces. Most of the alleged abuse took place in 2014, near the M'Poko camp for displaced persons, but was not uncovered until recently. During UN investigations, four children attached their abusers to the EU, while three of those children specifically named their abusers as belonging to Georgian contingents of the EU operation. Two additional children recounted French Sangaris soldiers giving them bottled water and cookies in exchange for the performance of sexual acts. Zeid addressed the accusations with officials from the EU, Georgia and France, as well as another unnamed nation that requires further corroboration. All of the nations have since launched their own investigations. The High Commissioner has called the allegations "extremely serious," and said that "[s]tates have an obligation to investigate, prosecute and ensure that the victims receive the redress to which they are entitled."

Violence has persisted in the CAR since the predominately Muslim-based Seleka rebels ousted former president François Bozize [BBC profile] in March 2013. More than 400,000 people remain displaced due to the violent overthrow, with over a half million more people seeking refuge in other countries. In November UNICEF called for [press release] aid to approximately 1.2 million children distressed by conflict [JURIST report] in the CAR. Last January members of a UN investigatory commission reported that crimes against humanity have been widely committed by all parties to the conflict in the CAR, prompting the commission to call for [JURIST report] the establishment of an international court to objectively investigate and prosecute crimes. Earlier that month the UN published a report [JURIST report] stating that violent acts committed in the CAR constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not genocide. Despite this finding, members of the international community maintain that there is much work to be done [JURIST op-ed] in the nation. In 2014 the International Criminal Court [official website] opened [JURIST report] a second investigation into CAR war crimes.

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