Georgian soldiers have been accused of sexually abusing children while on a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, according to United Nations human rights officials. Georgia's ministry of defense said it was investigating the allegations.
UN investigators have been researching claims that children in the CAR were abused by soldiers in a European Union peacekeeping mission in 2014. In a statement issued Friday, theUN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that some Georgians were among those accused.
"While the nationalities of some of the soldiers remain unclear, three of the girls said they believed their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent. The four girls were aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the alleged abuse," the statement said.
About 100 Georgian soldiers served in the peacekeeping force from 2014-2015. They were the second-largest troop contributor to the force, behind France. Georgia presented the mission, as it does its many contributions to American and European military endeavors abroad, as a means of raising Georgia's prestige in the West.
"You [have been] given a very difficult mission by your country, a mission for providing stability and peace in another state. We are very proud that Georgia is present on the African continent as well. This means that our country stands beside the civilized world,” said then-Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze at a December 2014 ceremony sending off a new battalion of Georgian soldiers to the CAR. "Your participation in the African mission is not only a peacekeeping act, this is a service for your country because your work gets us closer to NATO’s armed forces, the EU and world leading countries."
The Georgian MoD responded with a statement issued shortly after the UN's, saying it would investigate the claims and hold responsible anyone who committed a crime. And in the meantime it would suspend from service anyone "who was under a direct obligation to investigate the facts and establish the truth of this matter in 2014."
Today, after the report is published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, each and every one of those militaries participating in the mission will be treated as potential suspects. They have families, and most of them have served their country and international security selflessly and with great integrity.
This is the reason why it is unacceptable for the alleged actions of several individuals, in case these are proven, to shame the image and prestige of the Georgian Armed Forces. The Government of Georgia and first of all, the Georgian Armed Forces themselves, have been devoted to serving international peace and security missions over the course of seventeen (17) years and will continue to do so in future, in their role as the most reliable and trusted partner for the democratic states of the world. This is how our armed forces are perceived, this is how our soldiers are regarded and each and every one of us can be proud of our boys.
Pursuant to the above, it is our primary goal as the Ministry of Defence of Georgia to investigate the facts in the shortest time possible. In case these crimes are proven, specific individuals, who have taken such undignified actions for the Georgian Armed Forces, and insulted name and damaged reputation of the Georgian militaries, will be held responsible. Until the time when this is established and in accordance to the order of the Minister of Defence of Georgia, every individual who was under a direct obligation to investigate the facts and establish the truth of this matter in 2014, will be suspended from carrying out their professional duties.
Separately, the International Criminal Court this week authorized its prosecutor to investigate war crimes committed in the 2008 war over South Ossetia by Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian forces. Tbilisi has downplayed the fact that among the crimes being investigated by the ICC are those allegedly committed by Georgians: “Intentionally directing attacks against Georgian peacekeepers by South Ossetian forces; and against Russian peacekeepers by Georgian forces.”
Georgia has welcomed the ICC's investigation, and Russian and South Ossetian authorities have criticized it. Among the South Ossetian complaints is that Georgia, as "wards of the West," will never actually face justice from the ICC, which throughout its existence has been criticized as
"[I]t is difficult to imagine that the ICC would violate the unwritten 'concepts' and put in the dock the wards of the West - the criminal Georgian servicemen and representatives of the Georgian authorities 'trained and equipped' by NATO members, who gave the criminal commands, State Adviser to the President of South Ossetia Konstantin Kochiev said.
"According to Konstantin Kochiev, it is generally known that the 'international justice' of The Hague is based on the principles of double standards, when the title of the US satellite is equivalent to the indulgence even for those who are obviously guilty of crimes against humanity," South Ossetia's de facto state news agency reported.