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More sex abuse claims against EU troops in Africa

GENEVA -- The U.N. human rights chief says his staff have in recent weeks turned up six more cases of sexual abuse of children by European troops in Central African Republic.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein's office says a U.N. team interviewed girls who claimed their abusers were part of European Union and French military operations. The abuse allegedly took place near a camp for displaced people near Bangui Airport.

The U.N. rights office said the alleged victims "believed their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent." The alleged abuse took place in 2014 but only came to light in recent weeks.

It said Zeid last week raised the cases with the European, Georgian and French authorities, as well as with another country on a similar allegation for which additional corroboration is needed.

In December, an independent panel tasked with investigating the abuse in CAR accused the United Nations of "gross institutional failure" in not acting on previous allegations that French and other peacekeepers sexually abused children in the war-torn country, leading to even more assaults.

The independent panel found that the accounts by children as young as nine 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 panel, led by Canadian judge Marie Deschamps, found that U.N. staffers failed or hesitated to pass the children's allegations to more senior officials, sometimes because of political concerns with France involved; showed "unconscionable delays" in protecting and supporting the children; failed to further investigate the allegations; failed to properly vet peacekeepers for past abuses; and, overall, appeared more concerned with whether one U.N. staffer had improperly alerted French authorities.

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