May 14 (GIN) – French soldiers operating as peacekeepers under a U.N. mandate reportedly sexually exploited homeless young boys, including some orphans, in the Central African Republic in a crude food for sex swap over a year ago.
The U.N. has now admitted that they took punitive action against a senior UN aid worker – suspending him and threatening dismissal – for leaking a confidential report on the sex scandal to authorities in France.
The Swedish aid worker, Anders Kompass, said he disclosed the details because he wanted the abuse stopped quickly. He said he feared that the UN would delay taking any action on the matter.
Nine months after passing on the report – which details interviews conducted by Unicef and the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights with homeless children between eight and 15 years of age – Kompass was called in by the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and asked to resign. When he refused, Kompass was suspended for leaking confidential information.
This week, an appeal tribunal ruled the UN’s actions were unlawful and ordered Kompass reinstated.
The human rights office said they were concerned that Kompass had leaked names and other identifiers of the children that violated their privacy but lawyers for Kompass asked how an investigation could even take place without this critical information.
Zeid said he has now met with the leaker but no apologies were offered. “We had a long discussion. We agreed that there is no monopoly by any one person on the sense of outrage; we are all united in outrage. I didn’t apologise to Anders Kompass. I think it was regrettable that the burden of responsibility has almost entirely shifted on to the UN.”
The UN accepts the judgment of the appeal tribunal that the suspension was unlawful but, he added: “It doesn’t mean we accept all their reasoning.”
In the confidential report now in the hands of the Paris public prosecutor, the children reported being sodomized by soldiers who gave them a bit of food and water and sometimes cash in exchange. The children were severely traumatized, according to the report. The alleged abuses took place between December 2013 and June 2014.
Nearly 1,600 French troops are deployed in the Central African Republic as part of international peacekeeping efforts.
The UN has been accused of failing to take action against pedophiles in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its peacekeepers have also been accused of sexual misconduct in Haiti, Liberia and Burundi.
Bea Edwards of the Government Accountability Project, an international charity that protects whistleblowers, denounced the UN for a “witch-hunt against someone who acted to stop child abuse”. w/pix of young boys in Central African Republic (not victims)