|A convoy of African-led International Support Mission to the Central African |
Republic vehicles escorts Chadian soldiers out of Bangui on April 4, 2014
Soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea have been accused in a confidential UN report also implicating French troops of sexually abusing children in the Central African Republic, an advocacy group said Thursday.
The report by UN rights investigators cites testimony from two children who witnessed the sexual assault by the African troops, said Paula Donovan of the AIDS-Free World organization, which has seen the report.
"One of the children interviewed said that he had seen his friend, aged 9 or 10, with two soldiers from Equatorial Guinea," Donovan told AFP in an email response.
Donovan then gave a harrowing account of the sexual abuse allegedly carried out by the two soldiers.
Another child reported witnessing his friend being abused by two Chadian soldiers while a third watched, she added.
The children were among the tens of thousands of displaced people who found shelter at a camp near the Bangui airport during violence that engulfed the poor African country following a March 2013 coup.
The report compiles interviews with six children who were either sexually abused themselves or witnessed incidents involving the French, Chadian and Equatorial Guinean troops.
The children recounted that they approached the troops for food and were forced to engage in sexual acts in exchange for meals and in some instances money.
- Names, descriptions, military rank -
"Some of the children provided first names (at least, the first names given to them by the soldiers); others told the interviewers the names they overheard the abusers using with one another," Donovan said.
"Most were able to provide detailed physical descriptions of the soldiers. Some identified the abusers' military roles."
The internal report dating back to July of last year first appeared in Britain's Guardian newspaper, prompting the French defense ministry to acknowledge that it had opened an investigation of the allegations.
The document was leaked to French authorities by a UN employee, Swedish national Anders Kompass, who has since been suspended with pay.
Anders Kompass you are my hero today. God bless you.
Under UN rules, the world body is obliged to notify member-states if its investigators come across any misconduct by its nations in a foreign country.
Asked whether Chad and Equatorial Guinea had received the report, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said: "I am only aware of the report being sent to France around July 2014."
AIDS-Free World is pushing for a commission of inquiry to shed light on sexual misconduct by peacekeepers and has accused the United Nations of covering up crimes committed by troops sent in to protect civilians.
President Francois Hollande on Thursday vowed to "show no mercy" if the French troops were found guilty.
Amnesty International said the allegations "reinforce the need to put an end to impunity for crimes under international law committed during the conflict, no matter who those suspected of criminal responsibility may be."
|French Sangaris troops patrol aboard a military vehicle on August 16, 2014|
in Bangui, Central African Republic