More allegations of sexual abuse against U.N. peacekeepers have surfaced in the Central African Republic.
The United Nations announced Tuesday it has opened an investigation into allegations its peacekeepers abused street children in the Central African Republic (CAR).
"If the allegations are substantiated this would constitute a grave violation of U.N. principles and the code of conduct for U.N. peacekeepers," U.S. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
Dujarric said the U.N. mission in the CAR had been notified of the allegations on June 19. A day later, the country that contributed the troops accused of abuse was also notified. The nationality of the peacekeepers under suspicion hasn't been made public, though Dujarric said if the troops are found guilty of misconduct their country would be expected to “take swift and appropriate punitive action.”
"What we know is that the crimes could go back as far as 2014 and then most recently occurred this year."
U.N. peacekeepers are generally immune from prosecution while serving internationally, leaving their home countries responsible for pursuing prosecutions.
Along with withholding the identities of the suspects, the U.N. has also given no estimates of the numbers of children possibly abused.
"What we know is that the crimes could go back as far as 2014 and then most recently occurred this year," Dujarric stated. "Medical care and assistance is now being provided to the alleged victims."
The admission from the U.N. is the latest chapter in a growing scandal centered around allegations of peacekeeper misconduct in the troubled African nation. Earlier this month the U.N.'s mission in the CAR announced it was conducting a separate investigation into allegations a peacekeeper had sexually abused a girl.
The CAR has been in a state of chaos since 2012 when the Seleka militia accused government forces of violating a previous peace agreement. After Seleka forces seized Bangui in 2013, their leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president. However, Djotodia's government was riddled with infighting, and he faced fierce opposition from the anti-balaka, which led an armed campaign to overthrow the Seleka.
In January 2014 Djotodia resigned, and the current interim president Samba-Panza took over shortly later.
The months of fighting displaced around a third of the CAR's population, and left around half the country in desperate need of aid, according to humanitarian organizations. The standing army has collapsed, and according to the United Nations, most of the country has been carved up by Christian and Muslim militias.
Both the Seleka and anti-balaka have been accused of committing war crimes.