On Wednesday, details emerged of an investigation being conducted by the United Nations and France into "serious allegations" of sexual abuse by French soldiers against children in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui, believed to have occurred between December 2013 and June 2014.
Hours after the report appeared in the British daily The Guardian, the UN confirmed that it had suspended one of its employees in Geneva, Switzerland who had purportedly "breached protocol" by passing along the information to French authorities illegally.
The man implicated, Swedish national Anders Kompass, had gone against protocol in at least two ways, according to the UN. Not only had provided the report to Paris in 2014 before it had been submitted to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), but he had also divulged information that included witness identities.
"Any issue of sex abuse is a serious issue," the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters in New York. "At the same time, there are concerns we have about the protection of witnesses and victims."
"This constitutes a serious breach of protocol, which, as is well known to all OHCHR officials, requires redaction of any information that could endanger victims, witnesses and investigators," said Haq.
However, the UN emphasized that Kompass' actions did not constitute "whistleblowing."
French Defense Ministry vows justice
The plaintiffs are a group of up to 10 young boys who had been living in a displaced persons' center near the Bangui airport. An investigation was launched by the UN last summer into the allegations, and has since been passed on to the French prosecutor.
On Wednesday, France's defense ministry vowed to impose "the strictest sanctions against those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on the values of a soldier."
The landlocked Central African Republic and its population of 4.6 million was plunged into conflict after fighting broke out between a coalition of Muslim militias, known as Seleka, and Christian militias in 2013.
In December of that year, over 1,000 French troops were deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of a UN Security Council resolution aimed at stabilizing the country.
France eventually increased that number to 2,000 soldiers and the UN itself approved a mission known as MINUSCA, comprised of 10,000 military personnel and 1,800 police, soon after a Seleka coup saw the overthrow of the government in March 2014, plunging the country into chaos.
Roughly 25 percent of the country's population has been internally displaced since 2013. Over 5,000 were killed during the heaviest fighting between late 2013 and autumn 2014.
kms/bw (AP, dpa)