Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images

UN official slow to investigate CAR child sex abuse allegations resigns

Official delayed addressing allegations against French soldiers; UN says she left job for health reasons

The United Nations rights official who admitted not following up for months on allegations of child sexual abuse by French soldiers in Central African Republic has resigned.

The U.N. confirmed on Wednesday that Flavia Pansieri has left the post of deputy high commissioner for human rights for health reasons. No more details were given.

The allegations by several children as young as 9 of trading oral sex and sodomy for food with French soldiers tasked with protecting civilians in the violence-torn country didn't become public until late April, almost a year after U.N. staffers first heard the children's stories.

Comments by Pansieri and other leaked documents led the U.N. secretary-general this summer to order an investigation into how the U.N. handled the case.

In a confidential statement for a separate internal investigation, obtained by The Associated Press, Pansieri said other issues including budget cuts had distracted her from the case for several months.

"I regret to say that in the context of those very hectic days, I failed to follow up on the CAR (Central African Republic) situation," Pansieri said in the statement dated March 26.

She said she and her boss, High Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein, had assumed French authorities were handling the allegations, even as France pressed the U.N. for months for more information.

It appears that the only person who has been punished over the scandal is Anders Kompass, a U.N. rights staffer who first notified French authorities. Kompass was suspended for breach of protocol after he leaked internal reports to French authorities in August 2014. He has since been reinstated in this job.

The French soldiers, who were not U.N. peacekeepers, had been assigned to protect civilians in a chaotic camp for displaced people in Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, during violence between Christians and Muslims between December 2013 and June 2014.

In a brief note to staffers obtained by the AP, Zeid called Pansieri's departure "unhappy news" and said that she had been on medical leave after a series of health concerns. He praised "the extraordinary dedication she has shown while fulfilling her very onerous workload."

Central African Republic’s public prosecutor was instructed in May to initiate an investigation into the allegations, with the intention to sue the French soldiers.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had appointed Pansieri in March 2013.

Wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter