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UN official resigns following CAR abuse cases

July 23, 2015

The UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, Flavia Pansieri, said she had been distracted by other issues. The charges of sex abuse against the French soldiers in the CAR only came to light in April.

Französische Soldaten in der Zentralafrikanischen Republik
Image: AFP/Getty Images/M.Medina

The United Nations has confirmed that Flavia Pansieri has left her post of deputy high commissioner for human rights "for health reasons." The statement on Wednesday offered no more details.

Pansieri said in March that she had learned about the accusations against the French soldiers in September 2014 but "I regret to say that in the context of those very hectic days, I failed to follow up on the CAR situation," Pansieri said in a statement for an internal investigation. She admitted she had been distracted from the case by other issues, including budget cuts, for a period of several months.

UN staff members in the CAR first heard reports of children being sexually abused by French soldiers in 2014. A UN internal review in July 2014 reported that chldren may have been been sexually assaulted by French troops not under UN command at the time.

The allegations of sexual abuse were made by four boys who said it had taken place in the capital Bangui. Two other boys said they had witnessed the abuse. The six children were aged between 9 and 13. The abuse is believed to have taken place between December 2013 and June 2014.

Anders Kompass, a senior staff member with the human rights office sent a copy of the July internal document to French authorities in August 2014. He was suspended for leaking the information but later reinstated to his post.

Pansieri said that both she and the high commissioner, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, had assumed French authorities were handling the allegations.

Zeid described Pansieri's resignation as "unhappy news" and praised "the extraordinary dedication she has shown while fulfilling her very onerous workload."

The UN took over peacekeeping operations in CAR in September 2014 from African Union, French and European Union troops.

jm/bw (dpa, AP)