WASHINGTON: The US envoy to the United Nations called Friday for an independent investigation into how the world body handled claims that French soldiers raped children in Central Africa.
US ambassador Samantha Power said the investigation should focus on how quickly the accusations were raised to the relevant authorities and how promptly they reacted, as well as the necessary anonymity provided to victims and witnesses.
“We need this impartial investigation of the handling to be carried out swiftly,” she told reporters.
“We need all individuals, both in member states themselves and within the UNorganization who were involved in the handling of this, again, grave and grotesque set of allegations, to involve themselves and come forward and make everything that they know available.”
According to the French defense ministry, soldiers dispatched to the chaos-ridden nation to restore order after a 2013 coup are implicated in an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of several emaciated children there who had begged for food.
The abuse reportedly took place at a center for displaced people near the airport of the Central African capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014.
The accusations were serious enough for a secret French investigation to be launched in July, after Swedish official Anders Kompass, a director of operations at the UN human rights office, leaked the report to France.
Power said claims contained in the UN report were “very credible and very disturbing.”
“It is essential that those countries whose soldiers are alleged to have been involved in crimes of this magnitude act aggressively to track down the facts and to punish anybody responsible,” she added.
The UN report also accused soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea, according to a non-profit group with access to the document.
“The main thing right now is to ensure accountability for the victims of these alleged rapes,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“There will come a time when we need to look at how this has been handled.”
Kompass, the whistleblower, was suspended for leaking the report and faces an internal UN probe for passing on confidential information without approval from his superiors.
A UN tribunal, however, has ordered his reinstatement.