(DAKAR, Senegal) — The United Nations botched its investigation into accusations of sexual abuse in Central African Republic, letting down victims, according to a draft report.
The report, written in 2017 but not yet made public, was leaked to The New Humanitarian and seen by The Associated Press.
A senior U.N. official disputed the findings in the draft report, which the U.N. said were not included in the final report.
An Associated Press investigative series in 2017 uncovered roughly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers around the world over a 12-year period.
The roughly 11,000 peacekeepers in Central African Republic had the most sexual misconduct allegations – 52- of any U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2016.
“The leaked review … gives a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the U.N. system investigates claims of sexual abuse and exploitation by its own peacekeepers – and shows why it often fails the victims it is supposed to serve,” according to the New Humanitarian.
The failed investigation into the allegations in the Central African Republic cost the U.N. more than $480,000.
Inadequate storage ruined DNA samples that had been collected to connect victims to their alleged perpetrators, according to the report.
“Most were already rotten. It is therefore hardly surprising that positive results could not (be) obtained,” the report said of the DNA samples. Many of the samples were taken from March to May 2016, and then they were stored in Bangui for months and were not delivered to the Nairobi office for the investigation until April 2017.
The report noted the importance of the role of DNA evidence in linking a possible perpetrator to a victim. “It was noted that none of the DNA samples collected was deemed usable by labs retained for that purpose,” said the report.
The lack of action on the investigation left victims feeling abandoned and without any recourse for the sexual exploitation they say they experienced at the hands of the Burundi and Gabonese troops, according to the New Humanitarian who spoke with victims.
But Ben Swanson, the director of the U.N. investigations division in the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the U.N.’s internal watchdog known as OIOS, said OIOS “did all of the DNA swabbing in Dekoa, when and where it was relevant, and we also followed up with