Eight women and girls raped by UN peacekeepers in CAR: Rights group



    Eight women and girls raped by UN peacekeepers in CAR: Rights group

    Feb 7, Nairobi: United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic raped or sexually exploited at least eight women and girls between October and December 2015. Among the survivors are a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman who said peacekeepers gang-raped them near Bambari airport in the center of the country. “In a country where armed groups routinely prey on civilians, peacekeepers should be protectors, not predators,” said Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Sending peacekeepers back home is not enough. The UN needs to insist that troops’ home countries bring rapist and other abusers to justice, and that survivors get the support they need.” Human Rights Watch documented the eight cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, known as MINUSCA, during research in Bambari between January 16 and 30, 2016. Only one of the survivors had received any medical or psychosocial care, available at the Bambari hospital and through non-governmental organizations, before speaking to Human Rights Watch. All eight said that they believed the peacekeepers responsible were from the Republic of Congo or the Democratic Republic of Congo. A battalion of approximately 800 soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo is deployed to Bambari and other towns in Ouaka province. Between mid-September and mid-December, a small contingent of peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo were also temporarily deployed to protect Bambari’s airport. The deployment of Republic of Congo peacekeepers corresponds with the sexual exploitation and abuse allegations Human Rights Watch documented, most of which occurred at or near the airport. An 18-year-old woman said that when she visited the Republic of Congo troop base near the airport in late 2015 seeking food or money, armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her. “I didn’t want to have sex with them, but when I went to visit their base they took me into the bush,” she said. “There were three of them on me. They were armed. They said if I resisted they would kill me. They took me one by one.” A 14-year-old girl said that in November, two peacekeepers attacked her as she walked by the MINUSCA base at the airport. “The men were dressed in their military uniforms and had their guns,” she said. “I walked by and suddenly one of them grabbed me by my arms and the other one ripped off my clothes. They pulled me into the tall grass and one held my arms while the other one pinned down my legs and raped me. The soldier holding my arms tried to hold my mouth, but I was still able to scream. Because of that they had to run away before the second soldier could rape me.” In all of the sexual exploitation and abuse cases Human Rights Watch documented, the survivors were living at camps for internally displaced people in Bambari when the abuses took place. Several told Human Rights Watch they had sex with peacekeepers in exchange for food or money as ongoing conflict had left them desperate. UN policy on peacekeepers’ conduct prohibits engaging in any sexual relations with members of the local community. Human Rights Watch reported the cases to UN officials in Bambari and Bangui within days of receiving the information. The MINUSCA leadership, which has made a commitment to actively prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse, took immediate measures to respond to the allegations and senior UN officials opened investigations. Human Rights Watch later learned that one case had previously been reported to the UN and an investigation opened. Under the agreement signed between the UN and countries that contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions, the relevant troop-contributing country is responsible for carrying out judicial proceedings against soldiers who commit sexual exploitation and abuse. The UN can send troops home and prohibit them from participating in future UN missions, but has no independent capacity to prosecute them. A 2015 report by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) evaluating the UN’s enforcement of its sexual exploitation and abuse policy noted a lack of information from troop-contributing countries about disciplinary proceedings carried out in troops’ home countries. It also said there was a failure by the UN and troop-contributing countries to hold commanders responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse by their troops. A subsequent independent review of sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, released in December 2015, recommended negotiating new agreements with troop-contributing countries to ensure prosecutions, transparency, and cooperation in accountability processes. The UN should ensure that peacekeepers are vetted prior to deployment and trained on the UN’s zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. UN member states should also ensure that MINUSCA’s Conduct and Discipline and OIOS teams, which are under-staffed, receive the necessary resources to respond to sexual exploitation and abuse cases and other crimes by UN personnel. Human Rights Watch urged MINUSCA to ensure that its response to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers prioritizes the security and well-being of survivors. That should include maintaining confidentiality to reduce risk of stigmatization, minimizing repeated trauma due to multiple interviews, and ensuring rapid access to medical and psychosocial care. In June 2014, Human Rights Watch published information on the enforced disappearances of between 11 and 18 people by peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo in Boali and the death by torture of two others in Bossangoa. At the time, the Congolese peacekeepers were under the command of the African Union (AU) mission in the Central African Republic, known as MISCA. The troops involved were eventually withdrawn, but Human Rights Watch is not aware of any investigation or prosecution by judicial officials from the Republic of Congo into these serious crimes. The UN and troop-contributing countries should take urgent steps to end ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and put into operation effective measures to investigate these crimes, bring those responsible to justice, and provide services and support to victims. The Oslo Times

     
     

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