CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN inquiry into child rape claim

[12 August 2015] - The UN mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) has launched an investigation into allegations its soldiers raped a 12-year-old girl.

It will also focus on accusations by Amnesty International that UN peacekeepers shot dead a 16-year-old boy and his father earlier this month.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "personally dismayed and disappointed" by the allegations.

A 10,000-strong UN force was deployed last year to help restore order.

France also has soldiers in the country to end the unprecedented violence that escalated in March 2013 when mainly Muslim rebels seized power.

The country descended into ethnic and religious violence, with tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes.

The UK-based rights group said the two incidents happened as peacekeepers from Rwanda and Cameroon were carrying out an operation in the capital, Bangui.

Amnesty International said it interviewed 15 witnesses in the immediate aftermath of both incidents, as well as the girl and members of her family.

The girl had been hiding in a bathroom during a house search in the early hours of 2 August when a man allegedly wearing a blue helmet and vest of the UN peacekeeping forces took her outside and raped her behind a truck.

"When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth," the girl told Amnesty International.

The same morning a Cameroonian soldier was also killed and nine other soldiers were injured in clashes with residents, the rights group said.

UN peacekeeping forces returned to the PK5 district the following day and according to witnesses began shooting indiscriminately in the street where the killings had taken place.

Balla Hadji, 61, and his son Souleimane Hadji, 16, were struck by bullets in front of their house, Amnesty said.

The spokesman for the UN mission in CAR, Hamadoun Toure, said he had not been aware of the allegations, the AFP news agency reports.

He said an investigation would be launched to seek "established and verifiable proof".

In June, Mr Ban set up an independent review panel to examine the UN's handling of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving children.

Earlier, the UN had denied allegations it covered up child abuse by French troops serving in CAR.

Following these allegations UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered the UN peacekeeping chief in CAR, Babacar Gaye, to resign and called a UN security council special meeting over the issue of allegations of sex abuse by peacekeepers.

BBC News

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