Nearly a hundred girls in the Central African Republic have claimed they were sexually abused by UN peacekeeping forces, with three claiming that a French military commander forced them to have sex with a dog in 2014.
The United Nations has announced an emergency investigation into allegations of rape and assault, saying reports dated back to 2013.
A delegation from its “Minusca” mission aiming to stabilise the war-torn country interviewed victims on Saturday, revealing shocking claims against UN forces and French troops.
The results of the investigation have not yet been made public but the Aids-Free World campaign group said sources had passed it details.
A spokesperson said three girls reported that they and a fourth victim, who has since died of an unknown illness, were tied up and undressed at a military camp by a commander from the French “Sangaris” force.
They said they were then forced to have sex with a dog before being given 5,000 Central African Francs (£6) each.
One of the victims said she was called “the Sangaris’ dog” by people in the community after the horrific attack.
The three surviving girls had sought general medical treatment, Aids-Free World said.
It is far from the only report of abuse in CAR, where peacekeepers have been accused of raping girls as young as 12.
A report leaked last year included claims that French troops forced refugee children fleeing violence to perform sexual acts for food.
UNICEF has stated that they have interviewed 98 girls who have been allegedly sexually abused by international peacekeeping forces in just one province of CAR.
The UN Secretary-General will consider dispatching high-level envoys to countries whose troops have been implicated and “prima facie allegations have been confirmed”, Aids-Free World reported.
The group said the information it received – including on the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by a peacekeeper in a hotel on Monday – is in the hands of senior UN officials.
Allegations of child rape and other sexual abuse have put the spotlight on UN peacekeepers in recent months, especially those based in CAR and Congo.
There have been similar allegations against troops from the French intervention, Operation Sangaris, which operates independently in CAR.
On Monday, the UN announced that a delegation had been sent to investigate reports in Kemo prefecture after it received new “allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse both by UN and non-UN forces and civilians”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described the latest allegations as “sickening” and said investigations would leave no stone unturned.
“We are taking these allegations – some of which are particularly odious – extremely seriously,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein added.
“It is vital that the victims are protected and receive all necessary care.”
Most of the allegations relate to Burundian and Gabonese contingents present in the Kemo region between 2013 and 2015, as well as to the separate French Sangaris force stationed in the same area during that time, a spokesperson said.
Relevant authorities in all three countries have been formally notified of the allegations against their troops.