France to fight against sexual exploitation and abuse [fr]
Briefing on sexual exploitation and abuse in Central African Republic - Statement by M. François Delattre, permanent representative of France to the United Nations - General Assembly - 5 April 2016
I want to begin by thanking you wholeheartedly for calling this important meeting. I also want to thank the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Edmond Mulet, and Under-Secretary-General Atul Khare for their presentations on allegations of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic. We are also honored by the presence of Legal Counsel Miguel Soares, Special Coordinator Jane Lute, and Movses Abelian.
These allegations shock us deeply, not just because of their number, but also because of their extreme gravity. In this context, the considerable efforts made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the CAR, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, to combat sexual abuse within MINUSCA, are particularly encouraging and must be strongly supported. They illustrate the proper enforcement of the Secretary-General’s enhanced zero tolerance policy, spearheaded by the Secretariat. We applaud and fully support all efforts by the UN, the Secretariat, the General Assembly, and the Security Council to continue strengthening this zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse. I particularly want to laud the Secretary-General’s dedication and courage on this crucial issue.
These allegations are shocking not only to the United Nations and the people of the Central African Republic, but also to France, and deeply so. As President Hollande very firmly stated in Washington a few days ago, with regard to the allegations concerning our country, “We have expressed our resolve to get to the bottom of this matter, for the truth to be established, and for the matter to be brought before the courts” – this has now been done – “and to hand down exemplary punishments if the allegations are upheld, for there can be no impunity.” It is France’s honor that is at stake, as it intervened to keep the CAR from sinking into chaos.
That is why France responded immediately, through a battery of concrete actions focusing on three main areas:
1) First, in response to the latest allegations, as for previous allegations, the French authorities instituted legal proceedings as soon as they received information from the United Nations. The courts have already initiated an investigation. I want to remind you that in France, there is no military justice system, and military personnel are subject to common law and benefit from no special system. It is therefore up to the judicial system to independently pursue its investigation in order to establish the facts, respecting the right of confidentiality and the presumption of innocence. At the same time, on an administrative level, the Ministry of Defense has implemented all necessary means to shorten deadlines for carrying out an internal investigation, particularly by dispatching national investigators as part of foreign military operations when precise and detailed information is communicated to France concerning criminal allegations.
2) Second, with respect to prevention, our authorities have adopted important new measures with respect to training, adapting and strengthening existing programs and emphasizing zero tolerance of sexual abuse. Each soldier deployed on a peacekeeping operation now systematically receives a substantial amount of additional training on the UN policy on sexual abuse. Likewise, our authorities have adopted measures as part of an action plan published in 2015 to counter harassment, discrimination and sexual violence. On the ground, French soldiers receive very precise, very strict instructions concerning prevention.
Prevention implies an ongoing effort to reduce risks through training and very strict rules of behavior that must be implemented by both member states and all UN personnel.
3) Finally, and more broadly, protecting civilians, as you know, is our central priority and the focus of our peacekeeping doctrine. Armed forces are instructed to do everything they can to protect local populations and to prevent and combat human rights violations. To take just one example, working with EUFOR, France mobilized to provide backing for a Central African NGO supporting women and girls who have been victims of conflict-related violence, to build a clinic for these victims, and to protect the site during the construction of the clinic. I could of course give you multiple examples of this kind.
I want to state forcefully that France’s determination to prevent and combat the scourge of sexual violence is absolute. You can count on France’s full-scale mobilization and its unwavering support to fight all forms of sexual abuse and improve existing mechanisms, both nationally and internationally.