Among the survivors are a year-old girl and an year-old woman who said peacekeepers gang-raped them near Bambari airport in the center of the country.
From September to December members of the UN peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo guarded the airport and allegedly committed numerous acts of sexual abuse and exploitation against women and girls.
Only one of the survivors had received any medical or psychosocial care, available at the Bambari hospital and through non-governmental organizations, before speaking to Human Rights Watch. All eight said that they believed the peacekeepers responsible were from the Republic of Congo or the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A battalion of approximately soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo is deployed to Bambari and other towns in Ouaka province. The deployment of Republic of Congo peacekeepers corresponds with the sexual exploitation and abuse allegations Human Rights Watch documented, most of which occurred at or near the airport. An year-old woman said that when she visited the Republic of Congo troop base near the airport in late seeking food or money, armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her.
They said if I resisted they would kill me. They took me one by one. They pulled me into the tall grass and one held my arms while the other one pinned down my legs and raped me. The soldier holding my arms tried to hold my mouth, but I was still able to scream.
Because of that they had to run away before the second soldier could rape me. Several told Human Rights Watch they had sex with peacekeepers in exchange for food or money as ongoing conflict had left them desperate. The MINUSCA leadership, which has made a commitment to actively prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse, took immediate measures to respond to the allegations and senior UN officials opened investigations.
Human Rights Watch later learned that one case had previously been reported to the UN and an investigation opened. A year-old woman who was raped in October by peacekeepers stationed in Bambari, Central African Republic. The UN can send troops home and prohibit them from participating in future UN missions, but has no independent capacity to prosecute them. It also said there was a failure by the UN and troop-contributing countries to hold commanders responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse by their troops.
A subsequent independent review of sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, released in December , recommended negotiating new agreements with troop-contributing countries to ensure prosecutions, transparency, and cooperation in accountability processes. That should include maintaining confidentiality to reduce risk of stigmatization, minimizing repeated trauma due to multiple interviews, and ensuring rapid access to medical and psychosocial care.
In June , Human Rights Watch published information on the enforced disappearances of between 11 and 18 people by peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo in Boali and the death by torture of two others in Bossangoa. The troops involved were eventually withdrawn, but Human Rights Watch is not aware of any investigation or prosecution by judicial officials from the Republic of Congo into these serious crimes. The UN and troop-contributing countries should take urgent steps to end ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and put into operation effective measures to investigate these crimes, bring those responsible to justice, and provide services and support to victims.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers in Bambari Human Rights Watch documented the following cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers in late They include two cases of gang-rape, one of them a child; four cases of rape, including two of children; and four cases of sex in exchange for food or money, one of which involved a child.
Two of the rape survivors said they had also engaged in transactional sex, fitting the UN definition of sexual exploitation. They are presumed to be from the Republic of Congo contingent who were guarding the airport. She told Human Rights Watch: The men were dressed in their military uniforms and had their guns. I walked by and suddenly one of them grabbed me by my arms and the other one ripped off my clothes. A year-old woman said that a peacekeeper raped her in Bambari in November while she was cutting wood in the bush near the airport: I raised my head and saw a person.
He was in his uniform with a gun…. I fell on the ground behind me. He took my clothes and had forced sex with me… Since then I am afraid to go to this part of the [displacement] camp Emotionally, I think about it a lot. We fled to come here [to the displacement camp]. An year-old woman said that armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her when she visited the base of Republic of Congo troops near the airport in late seeking food or money. They sometimes come in groups and rape her.
Before, when we would go there, we had to have sex before they gave us things…They would ask us to go in the bush and there they would ask us to have sex with them….
It was always after sex that they gave us things. He was in a uniform like the other soldiers from the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo. He had his gun with him. He slapped me in the face and made me continue to walk on the path… We walked for a while, then he ripped off my clothes and used them to tie my hands behind my back.
He threw me on the ground, placed his gun to the side and got on top of me to rape me. When he was done he just left. I had to put my clothes on and I went home…. There should be some justice done to this man. A year-old woman said that a soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo raped her in October It was at night and I was washing myself in my hut. I heard a knock on the door and I said I was busy.
I have come to see you. But as I finished washing he just came in. But he forced himself on me and as he was stronger I had no choice. The conditions of life at the [displacement] camp were precarious. I did not know what to do so I started having sex with the international forces. For this they gave me fish, chicken, jam and bread. Before [the conflict], things were not like this….
I had to make decisions because life was so difficult so I chose to enter into these relations for survival. A year-old girl said that a peacekeeper from the Republic of Congo who was based at the airport gave her food and money in exchange for sex from October to December.
She said that soldiers instigated sexual relationships with her when she and a friend went to the base to sell alcohol: We had sex there. After that he would come to my hut.
The girl said that when the conflict started in Bambari she had no choice but to move near the airport for her safety and that of a family member with a disability. Once there, she said she had no means to provide for herself and her relative and felt she had no option but to exchange sex for food and money. An year-old woman said that in November she exchanged sex for food and money with soldiers presumed to be from the Republic of Congo, who were based at the airport.
I already knew they were asking for sex. Human Rights Watch received credible information from multiple sources, including a parent of the survivor, about the rape of a year-old girl in mid-November by two MINUSCA peacekeepers near the Bambari airport.
The girl had sex with one peacekeeper in exchange for food. Then two other peacekeepers appeared and raped her. The UN professes a zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual exploitation and abuse. In the UN established a Conduct and Discipline Unit to provide oversight on such issues in peacekeeping missions. Countries that contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions sign a memorandum of understanding with the UN that outlines their obligations with regard to the conduct and discipline of their peacekeepers.
Sexual exploitation and abuse training is mandatory for all UN personnel upon arrival at a mission. Countries are also asked to conduct pre-deployment training on sexual exploitation and abuse based on UN guidelines.
When agreed upon, the UN and the troop-contributing country can conduct joint investigations. Failing a response from the troop-contributing country within 10 days of receiving information about an allegation, the UN can begin an investigation on its own. Direct action by the UN is limited to repatriating the accused peacekeepers and barring them from any further peacekeeping missions. Troop-contributing countries are required to report back to the UN the outcome of investigations and any disciplinary measures taken or sentences imposed.
If this requirement is not fulfilled, the UN is to follow up with further requests for information at regular intervals. The UN recently announced a six-month deadline for troop-contributing countries to conclude investigations or proceed with prosecutions. All MINUSCA peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo are scheduled to be repatriated in February after they failed an internal UN assessment evaluating equipment quality, vetting procedures for soldiers and preparedness.
The abuses, allegedly by peacekeepers, include attacks against children. On January 29, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed that additional cases of sexual exploitation and abuse against children had been discovered.
At a news conference on January 29, Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Banbury stated that there were 22 confirmed sexual exploitation and abuse allegations against UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic in , out of 69 confirmed cases across all UN missions.
Banbury said that in the secretary-general will issue a report detailing such allegations. The report will name the countries of origin of accused troops, detail the status of investigations, and include regular updates.
These include the enforced disappearance of between 11 and 18 people in Boali on March 24, , and the deaths from torture of two anti-balaka prisoners in Bossangoa on December 22, On December 22, , the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic published its report detailing its own investigation into the disappearance of the people in Boali detained by the MISCA troops from the Republic of Congo and concluded that it believed the case fell within the definition of enforced disappearances.
The commission also found that the two men from the anti-balaka, local militia formed to fight the mostly Muslim Seleka, detained in Bossangoa in December had died under suspicious circumstances. In another incident, first reported by the UN on June 10, , after troops from the Republic of Congo had been transferred from the AU into the UN mission, at least one person was killed outside of Berberati in the southwestern part of the country following the excessive use of force by Republic of Congo troops.
While a group of soldiers from the Republic of Congo was sent home after this event, the UN has not confirmed the progress or conclusion of national investigations into this incident. Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.