New accusations of sexual abuse against European peacekeeping forces have surfaced in the Central African Republic, the United Nations reported Friday.
U.N. officials interviewed several young girls in CAR who said they were sexually exploited between 2014 and 2015, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, U.N. high commissioner of human rights, said in a statement.
Al-Hussein said the U.N. will further investigate reports that foreign soldiers had raped two girls and paid another two girls for sex. The girls ranged in age from 14 to 16 years old at the time. The nationalities of the soldiers remain unlcear, though three of the girls said they believed the soldiers belonged to peacekeeping units from Georgia.
The U.N. also interviewed two other children, a 9-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy, who said they were forced to perform oral sex on French soldiers in exchange for bottled water and food in 2014.
The U.N. said all six cases occurred in or around a displacement camp in Bangui, the capital of CAR.
“These are extremely serious accusations, and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated,” al-Hussain said in the statement.
European Union authorities said it took the accusations “very seriously,” adding that the bloc had a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse or criminal conduct, The New York Times reported.
When addressing the cases with the European Union and Georgian authorities, al-Hussein said he was “heartened” by initial responses.
French authorities are also investigating the cases, although no convictions have been reported yet.
“Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity,” al-Hussein said in a statement. “This simply encourages further violations.”
“States have an obligation to investigate, prosecute and ensure that the victims receive the redress to which they are entitled,” he added.