Human Rights Watch reports eight allegations of rape or sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers
Two victims were 14-year-old girls
All of them took place between October and December 2015
Two soldiers dragged a 14-year-old girl into the tall grass in November. One held her down, the other raped her.
That same month, a 30-year-old woman was approached by a man in uniform.
“We are going to have sex like a man and wife,” he said. She tried to resist, was punched in the face and was then raped.
Another girl, 14, was walking down a path in the bush when she was approached in late December.
“He ripped off my clothes and used them to tie my hands behind my back,” she said.
These three incidents are among eight sexual abuse allegations documented by Human Rights Watch from October to December 2015 in the Central African Republic.
All of them were allegedly committed by United Nations peacekeepers.
“In a country where armed groups routinely prey on civilians, peacekeepers should be protectors, not predators,” Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release.
The rights group conducted its research from January 16 to 30 in Bambari, where the Democratic Republic of Congo has deployed approximately 800 soldiers.
Human Rights Watch said all of the victims it spoke with believed the peacekeepers that assaulted them were from the Republic of Congo or from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Its report comes less than a week after the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced six cases from 2014 in which children may have been abused by foreign soldiers: five girls and a boy, between the ages of 7 and 16.
Those follow a litany of other abuse claims, both from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations monitoring the region.
The head of the peacekeeping mission was fired over the issue in August.
“I believe the disturbing number of allegations we have seen in many countries – but particularly in the Central African Republic in the period before U.N. peacekeepers were deployed and since – speaks to the need to take action now,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in August. “Enough is enough.”
A failed United Nations response
In December, the U.N. issued a report on sexual assault by peacekeepers.
It’s over 100 pages, but its findings can be summed up in two words: We failed.
“Overall, the response of the UN was fragmented and bureaucratic, and failed to satisfy the UN’s core mandate to address human rights violations,” it said. “In the absence of concrete action to address wrongdoing by the very persons sent to protect vulnerable populations, the credibility of the UN and the future of peacekeeping operations are in jeopardy.”
The report issued a dozen recommendations on what needed to be done.
And though more allegations have surfaced since the report was issued, it’s unclear whether any formal charges have been filed against possible perpetrators.
The peacekeepers’ involvement in the Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest nations, stems from political violence that began in 2013.
France and African nations sent peacekeepers after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in March 2013. Christian and Muslim militias battled for control before a tentative political transition began.
The violence prompted a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes. Some sought refuge in neighboring countries, but many others were internally displaced, living in makeshift camps.
CNN’s Ed Payne, Richard Roth and Dana Ford contributed to this report.