GENEVA, Switzerland, April 29 (UPI) -- French peacekeeping troops allegedly sexually exploited children they were supposed to protect in the Central African Republic, a leaked report from the United Nations indicates.
The report was passed on to French authorities by UN Director of Field Operations Anders Kompass, a Swedish national, because he said the UN failed to stop the alleged abuse, sources familiar with the case told The Guardian.
Kompass has since been suspended by the UN and is under investigation by the Office for Internal Oversight Service. He faces dismissal from the organization.
The report, titled "Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces," says the peacekeeping troops allegedly raped starving and homeless boys as young as 9 years old in exchange for food. The alleged assaults happened between December 2013 and June 2014 at a camp for internally displaced people at M'Poko airport in Bangui.
"The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations' appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn't uncommon," Paula Donovan, co-director of the advocacy group Aids Free World, told The Guardian. "The UN's instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks -- ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble -- must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power."
The French government has been investigating the allegations since it received the report from Kompass in July 2014, the defense ministry told TheLocal.fr in a statement.
"The defense ministry has taken and will take the necessary measures to allow the truth to be found," the statement said. "If the facts are proven, the strongest penalties will be imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on soldiers' values."
Meanwhile one UN source told France24 the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations didn't understand why Kompass leaked the report during the "very final" stages of the investigation by the UN.
"The report was just about to be published," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It may have "compromised the investigation and rendered victims vulnerable to pressure from the accused state [France]," the source said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to comment on the report later Wednesday.