The United Nations said Tuesday it has received 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and staff in U.N. missions so far this year involving more than 40 minors.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said 29 allegations were reported in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, seven in the U.N. mission in Congo, and two in the mission in Haiti. One allegation each was made in the U.N. peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Mali and the disputed Abeyi border region between Sudan and South Sudan as well as in the U.N. political missions in Libya and overseeing the Middle East peace process.
The United Nations 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 and Congo. There have been similar allegations against the French force known as Sangaris, which operates independently in Central African Republic.
The U.N. reported on March 31 that 108 girls and women had come forward with sexual abuse accusations against international peacekeepers in Kemo prefecture in Central African Republic, dating from 2013 through 2015. The U.S.-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World that first reported the allegations in Kemo prefecture said U.N. investigators had documented 41 additional cases by April 4.
Dujarric said Tuesday there was no update on that investigation which is being conducted by the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services.
The U.N. has 105,000 peacekeepers deployed in 16 hotspots around the world as well as political missions in a host of countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Dujarric said 35 of the allegations reported this year involve U.N. military personnel – including 11 from Congo, six from the neighboring Republic of Congo, three from Morocco and three from South Africa – and four allegations involve U.N. police.
He said 41 investigations are under way.
Three investigations have been completed: A peacekeeper from Bangladesh serving in CAR was sentenced to one year in prison for sexually abusing a minor; an Egyptian peacekeeper serving in CAR was court martialed and sentenced to five years for sexually assaulting an adult; and a U.N. civilian staffer has been put on leave without pay pending a decision on action to be taken, Dujarric said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that U.N. peacekeepers accused of sexual abuse and exploitation be court martialed in the countries where the alleged incidents take place – and Dujarric said South Africa has announced that it will court martial a soldier in Congo where he is serving, which would be a first.
”This decision will permit the victims, and the affected communities in … Congo to see justice at work,” Dujarric said.