The United Nations has called on African countries to further investigate allegations of grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and rape by their troops taking part in peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, CAR.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, made the call over the weekend and said the allegations cannot simply be ignored.
CAR was plunged into serious crisis in 2013 when anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka fighters went for each other, leaving several thousands dead and the country on the its edge. The African Union sent troops under the Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine, popularly known as MISCA, which helped to stabilise the country.
However, soldiers under this body and the French Operation, Sangaris, were accused of perpetrating human rights abuses, with a sex-for-food scandal implicating French troops investigated by French authorities.
“These allegations were extremely disturbing. People in CAR were desperate for protection. The role of international forces in halting the worst of the fighting and sectarian slaughter in CAR has been invaluable, and their presence has unquestionably saved many, many lives. Yet, in some cases the longed-for protectors turned into predators,” Zeid said in a statement posted on the agency’s website.
While the troops fingered in CAR did not operate under the UN, Zeid said the problem also existed in other countries where foreign troops operated, including UN forces.
“This is a recurring problem involving foreign soldiers operating on other territories and clearly more needs to be done to stop it,” he said.
With some top ranking commanders implicated in the crimes sent home early from the CAR, in what is seen as insufficient actions taken by countries against erring soldiers, the High Commissioner said punishment should be commensurate with offence.
“The punishment must fit the crime, and some other incidents were reported that may not have been fully followed up on by the States concerned, and we need to get to the bottom of what precisely was done by whom and when. There must be accountability for serious crimes, no matter who commits them. And there must be relentless pressure on those who are in a position to provide that accountability, namely the States who provide the troops and who have jurisdiction over them,” Zeid said.