UN finds 41 more peacekeepers involved in sexual abuse in Central African Republic

A UN investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic has identified 41 of the alleged perpetrators.

UN investigators interviewed potential 139 victims, 25 of them underage woman and girls

UN peacekeepers patrol a street during the presidential election in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic on Dec. 30, 2015. The UN has identified 41 soldiers from Gabon and Burundi who it says sexually abused citizens of the CAR. (Media Coulibaly/Reuters)

A UN investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic has identified 41 of the alleged perpetrators.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that the four-month-long investigation identified 25 peacekeepers from Burundi and 16 from Gabon as suspects in connection with the incidents that allegedly occurred between 2014 and 2015.

Dujarric said investigators interviewed 139 possible victims, using photo arrays and other collaborating evidence to identify peacekeepers suspected of abuse.

Twenty-five minors are among those who said they were sexually abused by the troops. Eight paternity claims have been filed against peacekeepers, including six filed by minors.

"The United Nations condemns, in the strongest terms, all acts of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers or any other UN personnel and will maintain follow up so that perpetrators of these abhorrent acts are brought to justice," Dujarric said.

The investigation was carried out by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services together with investigators from Burundi and Gabon.

Dujarric said responsibility for further investigation lies with Burundi and Gabon, because under peacekeeping arrangements the countries providing the troops have jurisdiction over prosecuting such crimes.

The UN has requested that Burundi and Gabon review the findings and conduct interviews with the alleged perpetrators, all of whom had been rotated out of CAR before the allegations surfaced, he said.

Since the allegations, the peacekeeping mission has strengthened preventive measures to stem sexual abuse and to improve awareness and reporting of sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct by peacekeepers, Dujarric said. It also provides psychosocial, medical and legal assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in the CAR.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo.

Earlier this year, a peacekeeper from Bangladesh was sentenced to one year in prison for sexually abusing a minor and an Egyptian peacekeeper serving in CAR was court martialed and sentenced to five years for sexually assaulting an adult.