CAR: UN peacekeepers go on trial for sex abuse
April 5, Brazzaville: Three Congolese peacekeepers accused of sex abuse in the Central African Republic have appeared before a tribunal in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The three men - from the UN's MINUSCA peacekeeping mission - are the first troops to be prosecuted in the scandal, which has seen more than 100 victims come forward with accounts of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and French forces, reports said. The tribunal is being held in Ndolo, a military prison north of the capital Kinshasa.
Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, the country’s justice minister said, "We want absolute transparency in this trial," AFP news agency reported.
"Sergeant Jackson Kikola is being prosecuted for raping a (young girl) of 17 and for not following orders," said public prosecutor Lieutenant Mposhi Ngoy, reading the indictments.
Sergeant major Kibeka Mulamba Djuma faces similar charges, while sergeant major Nsasi Ndazu was charged with disobeying orders and attempted rape.
All three pleaded not guilty.
Another 18 soldiers from DR Congo accused of rape - or attempted rape - of the civilians they were meant to be protecting during a peacekeeping mission in CAR were also present in the court.
Three hearings are scheduled each week, meaning the entire process could take months to complete.
Ida Sawyer, an advocate for Human Rights Watch in the DRC, told AFP the trial at Ndolo was "a first, and good, step to end impunity" and called on all countries involved to ensure "real justice".
The UN said last week its investigators had identified 108 new victims, "the vast majority" of them under-age girls who were raped, sexually abused or exploited by foreign troops.
The UN's MINUSCA operation, which counts 12,600 foreign police and soldiers, took over from an African Union force in CAR in September 2014 in a bid to end a year of brutal sectarian violence.
The Oslo Times