98 girls 'abused by peacekeepers in Central African Republic'
Published 31/03/2016 | 15:26
A total of 98 girls in Central African Republic have reported they were sexually abused by international peacekeepers, according to a US-based advocacy group.
Aids-Free World added that three girls told United Nations staff they were tied up, undressed and forced to have sex with a dog by a French military commander in 2014.
The group's Code Blue Campaign to end sexual abuse and exploitation said the three girls told a UN human rights officer that a fourth girl tied up with them later died of an unknown disease.
The group said the information it received, including the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in another part of the country on Monday, is in the hands of senior UN officials.
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, called the allegations "sickening" and said all three countries whose peacekeepers are accused have been formally notified.
He said countries must do more to stop abuse and hold their troops accountable, "otherwise this awful cycle of abuse will never end".
The UN has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic.
There have been similar allegations against the French force known as Sangaris, which operates independently in Central African Republic, known as CAR.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said last week that a UN team was sent to gather information about recently reported allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN and non-UN forces as well as civilians in Kemo prefecture, east of the capital Bangui, in 2014 and 2015.
Mr Dujarric said that the new allegations went back to 2013 and included allegations against local armed groups.
He said a UN team is on the ground and the exact number and nature of "these extremely troubling allegations" is still being determined.
The team has identified the alleged involvement of UN contingents from Burundi and Gabon, which will remain confined to camps during the investigation, Mr Dujarric said.
Allegations against French forces in the same area are also being investigated, he said.
The UN recently reported that 25 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were registered with the UN mission in Central African Republic in January and February, most from previous years.
This compares with a total of six allegations in the 15 other UN peacekeeping missions in the first two months of this year, the UN peacekeeping department said.
A UN report earlier this month said there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015 - 22 of them in CAR.
Central African Republic has been rocked by sectarian violence since 2013.