The UN 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 UN 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 nine 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 UN staffers first heard the children’s stories. Pansieri’s comments and other leaked documents led the UN secretary general this summer to order an investigation into how the UN handled the case.
In a confidential statement for a separate internal investigation, obtained by the Associated Press, Pansieri said she had been distracted from the case by other issues, including budget cuts for several months. “I regret to say that in the context of those very hectic days, I failed to follow up on the CAR situation,” Pansieri said in the statement dated 26 March.
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 UN for months for more information.
No arrests have been announced, and it appears that the only person who has been punished is the UN rights staffer who first notified French authorities.
The French soldiers, who were not UN peacekeepers, had been tasked with protecting civilians in a chaotic camp for displaced people in Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, during vicious violence between Christians and Muslims.
In a brief note to staffers obtained by the AP, Zeid called Pansieri’s departure “unhappy news” and noted 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”.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had appointed Pansieri in March 2013.