A UN peacekeeping contingent serving in the Central African Republic is suspected of sexually abusing street children in Bangui, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.
It was the third case of alleged child sexual abuse involving foreign troops in that country to have surfaced in recent months.
The UN mission in Bangui has notified the troop-contributing country of the new allegations and has opened an investigation, said spokesperson of the Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric.
The country of origin was not identified, but a UN official told AFP it was an African contingent.
“If the allegations are substantiated, this would constitute a grave violation of UN principles and of the code of conduct of peacekeepers,” said Dujarric. “The member-state will be requested to take swift and appropriate punitive action.”
In the wake of the previous cases, the UN MINUSCA force has asked Morocco to open a formal investigation following allegations that one of its soldiers raped a girl under the age of 16.
A UN report by rights investigators last year detailed testimony from children in the Central African Republic who said they were sexually abused by French troops and soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea.
The sexual abuse allegedly took place from December 2013 to June 2014, a few months before the United Nations took over from the African Union mission with its MINUSCA force.
France announced last month that 14 soldiers were facing possible charges in the case that only came to light when The Guardian newspaper reported it in April.
Abuse started last year
In the most recent case, MINUSCA received allegations on June 19 that two girls under age 16 had been sexually abused in Bangui, a UN official said.
The girls, who have been offered medical assistance, told a local rights group that they received food and goods in exchange for sex and that the abuse started in 2014.
The troop-contributing country was notified on Monday of the allegations and given ten days to advise the United Nations on the measures that it intends to take in response to the serious claims.
Under UN rules, military personnel serving in peace operations face investigation and possible prosecution at home.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday appointed a three-member panel to review how the United Nations handled the child sexual abuse allegations in the Central African Republic.
Former Supreme Court justice of Canada Marie Deschamps will lead the review that is expected to begin work next month, with a final report to be submitted within ten weeks.
An internal UN report revealed this month that UN blue helmets routinely buy sex with jewellery, mobile phones and televisions in countries where they are deployed.
The United Nations has 125,000 peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions worldwide.
The MINUSCA force was deployed in September, taking over from the AU force that had been sent to help restore order after the country exploded into violence following a coup.