UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic are facing new rape allegations. The news comes after the head of the mission was fired due to several scandals involving the troops.
The charges against the members of the UN mission MINUSCA are "disturbing," UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Wednesday.
"These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent," she added, saying that one of the women is a minor.
Families of the victims reported the incident last week, according to Maestracci, and the alleged rapes occurred in the Central African town of Bambari.
The UN spokeswoman did not reveal the nationality of the accused members of the international mission. However, unnamed UN sources confirmed to the Reuters news agency that the suspects were Congolese soldiers.
"The troop-contributing country has been asked to indicate within 10 days if it intends to investigate the allegations itself," Maestracci said. "Should the member state decline to investigate or fail to respond, the United Nations [will] rapidly conduct its own investigation."
Under UN guidelines, the countries contributing troops hold the primary responsibility of prosecuting their soldiers for abuse.
Head of MINUSCA fired
The UN troops have also been accused of sexually abusing children in the capital Bangui and in the eastern part of the Central African Republic.
Last week, the UN fired MINUSCA chief Babacar Gaye, following reports that peacekeepers killed a 16-year old boy and raped a 12-year old girl.
"I cannot put into words how anguished and angered and ashamed I am by recurrent reports over the years of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN forces," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told journalists after the incident.
Since in creation in April 2014, MINUSCA has received 61 reports of misconduct, Maestracci said Wednesday. These allegations include 13 cases of possible sexual exploitation and abuse.
Two UN police officers and four soldiers have so far been repatriated on disciplinary grounds, with another 20 soldiers sent home pending the end of an investigation.
dj/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)