France opens formal judicial inquiry into CAR rape accusations
Iran Press TV
Thu May 7, 2015 3:58PM
France has opened a formal judicial investigation into the reports that its army soldiers raped children during their peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR).
According to French prosecutor's office on Thursday, the decision will allow independent magistrates to enter the case and probe the accusations.
Meanwhile, France's Defense Ministry vowed to take "all the measures necessary for the truth to come out."
The ministry said it had the Paris prosecutor start a preliminary investigation into the case when it first received the sexual harassment reports around nine months ago, but decided to upgrade the investigation to a formal judicial inquiry amid outcry from international rights groups.
The decision came a day after the CAR's Justice Minister Aristide Sokambi lashed out at Paris and the United Nations for not keeping the African country informed about the incident.
"An internal inquiry was carried out without our knowledge, although the victims were in Bangui (CAR's capital)… NGOs and the UN came without informing us, we don't understand why," he said, adding, "We regret the fact we were not brought into these investigations despite the cooperation agreements we have with France."
He also stated that the CAR's judiciary will start an independent investigation of its own into the case.
"I have instructed the public prosecutor to open a probe and seek the evidence already at the disposal of the French," he pointed out, stressing, "Legal action will be pursued... These are still very serious acts."
Last week, a report titled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces leaked by advocacy group, Aids Free World, suggested that 14 French soldiers deployed to the African country had sexually abused six children aged between nine and 13 in exchange for food between December 2013 and June 2014.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in the CAR since December 2013, when Christian militia launched coordinated attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group, which toppled the government in March 2013.
Paris has deployed forces to the CAR under the pretext of helping the African Union peacekeepers to contain the deadly violence there.
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