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Independent Panel Says U.N. Failed To Respond To Abuse Allegations

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Canadian Judge Marie Deschamps, chair of the Independent Review Panel on U.N. Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Foreign Military Forces, at a news conference at the United Nations on Thursday.
Richard Drew, AP
Canadian Judge Marie Deschamps, chair of the Independent Review Panel on U.N. Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Foreign Military Forces, at a news conference at the United Nations on Thursday.

More than a year and a half ago, children sheltering in a camp for internally displaced people in the Central African Republic said French peacekeepers were offering them food or money for sex acts.

Now, the U.N. is coming under fire for "gross institutional failures" in handling the allegations, NPR's Michele Kelemen reported on Morning Edition on Friday.

Canadian Judge Marie Deschamps, who led an independent panel looking into it, says the report on the allegations was just passed from inbox to inbox, Michele reported.

"This report should have been sent to Geneva with a flag and then the High Commissioner should have been informed and the High Commissioner should also have stepped in to make sure that French authorities were informed."

Even after an official passed along the report to French authorities, Deschamps says the U.N. chose to "spend more energy investigating that man for the leak rather than responding to the actual abuse allegations," Michele reported.

The U.N. says "the alleged perpetrators were largely from a French military force known as Sangaris, which was operating under authorization of the Security Council but not under U.N. command." The incidents occurred "between December 2013 and June 2014, near the M'Poko Internally Displaced Persons Camp," the report says.

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The full report is available here.

Here's U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responding to the independent panel's investigation:

"I express my profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them. 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 the speed, care or sensitivity required. "

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