"UN staff did the right thing in CAR over abuse allegations"

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UN human rights office spokesperson Rupert Colville said staff found “incredibly disturbing accounts” of alleged abuse. Photo: UN

Abuse allegations against French troops based in Central African Republic were dealt with correctly by human rights staff, the UN said Friday.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN's top human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said that UN staff "did exactly the right thing" by launching an investigation into the "utterly odious" claims.

He added that OHCHR was cooperating with the France-led inquiry and conducting its own internal probe into how information had been leaked to the media, potentially compromising the safety of the youngsters involved.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Amid questions over the timing of the inquiry, UN spokesperson Rupert Colville insisted that details of the allegations only arrived in Geneva in mid-July – not three weeks earlier, as had been incorrectly reported.

Mr Colville confirmed that the UN human rights office is helping the French authorities with their investigation into alleged abuse by French peacekeepers in Central African Republic (CAR).

UN staff in the country had responded initially to the claims and acted correctly, he said.

"We learned of allegations of horrendous abuse, and so as far as we're concerned our staff on the ground – and it wasn't just OHCHR staff – did exactly the right thing, they started investigating these allegations, they found some incredibly disturbing accounts from the children and they reported it…longer-term on the French authorities can do this investigation thoroughly and fully."

The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that an internal inquiry is under way into how "preliminary" witness statements had found their way out of the UN, potentially putting young witnesses, victims and investigators at risk of attack.

UNICEF meanwhile said it had reports of 2,000 cases of gender-based violence in the country.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'10"

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