How could no-one know about CAR sex abuse allegations, asks UN human rights chief

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

"Savage harm" done to children by French troops would have been known by their military masters who should have investigated the matter much sooner, the UN's human rights chief said Friday.

In a strong defence of the UN's role in the Central African Republic sex abuse case, High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein insisted that France had authority in the matter but had not acted on available information.

The High Commissioner said that France's intervention in CAR had saved it from "almost certain collapse" but the abuse was most likely just "the tip of the iceberg".

Daniel Johnson has more.

Describing the abuse allegations as "corrosive", the UN's top human rights official asked how it was possible that France failed to investigate the claims when they first appeared in December 2013.

In fact, he added, there was still no inquiry by mid-May, and it took a leaked UN probe to trigger the French response to look into the matter.

This delay should be "properly understood", he said.

"How is it that nobody knew about these abuses between December and May…it is seldom just a case of one soldier, two soldiers, 12 soldiers, 15 soldiers, others would know, they could be non-commissioned officers, they could be junior officers, they could be platoon commanders…how is it that nobody knows."

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein insisted that the French-led force had been instrumental in preventing further violence between anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka fighters in Central African Republic.
But experience showed that the abuse was likely "only the "tip of the iceberg" where the military command is "weak", the High Commissioner said.

He added that French investigators had an opportunity to set a "really high benchmark" with their investigation and eliminate such abuse in future.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'15"

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