A report released Thursday has found “gross institutional failure” on the part of the United Nations for failing to investigate claims that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in the Central African Republic—a failure that ultimately led to more cases of abuse.

The Associated Press reports:

The independent panel found that the accounts by children as young as 9 of trading oral sex and other acts in exchange for food in the middle of a war zone in early 2014 were “passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple U.N. offices, with no one willing to take responsibility.”

Among those said to have looked the other way were the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, as well as human rights staffers.

“The welfare of the victims and the accountability of the perpetrators appeared to be an afterthought, if considered at all,” reads the report.

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The Guardian reports that the peacekeepers were from “a unit known as the Sangaris force, which was operating under authorisation of the security council but not under UN command.” It has now been over a year and a half since the first cases were reported, but no one has been arrested.

“I express my profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in a statement. “Though the soldiers who committed the abuses were not under United Nations command, the Report shows that the United Nations, which uncovered the abuse, did not subsequently handle the case with speed, care or sensitivity required.”

Ban also noted that he had asked for the resignation of the UN’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic.

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“The handling of sexual exploitation and abuse is particularly complicated when, as in this case, troops are not under United Nations command,” the statement continues. “This in no way diminishes the responsibility of the United Nations to speak out when other troops commit violations.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty.