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Six Defence Ministry officials temporarily fired due to rape scandal in Africa

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, February 1
The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner’s report about the alleged participation of Georgian peacekeepers in the sexual abuse of local minors in Central Africaled to the temporary dismissal of six Georgian military officials.

However, the Minister of Defence of Georgia stated that based on preliminary information from relevant foreign bodies, “nothing has been proven that any abuse was carried out by Georgian soldiers defending international peace abroad”.

“The goal of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to timely study the facts. In case these crimes are proven, those who insulted the name and damaged the reputation of the Georgian military will be held responsible,” the MoD statement reads.

Several days ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein, reported on sexual exploitation and the abuse of local minors in the Central African Republic (CAR) by members of foreign military forces.

A joint UN team in the CAR recently interviewed a number of girls,aged between 14-16, who said they had been sexually exploited or abused by foreign soldiers, Georgians among them.

According to the Georgian Defense Minister, Tinatin Khidasheli, the Georgian side will cooperate with UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (UNCHR)and in case of finding any violations, all the offenders will be “very strictly punished”.

However, the Minister noted that according to preliminary data, no violence had been committed by Georgian military servicemen in the CAR.

“It is too early to say whether this information is true or not. I received information from the UN last week and I taskedthe military police with launching an investigation. We immediately decided to suspend those officials from their duties who are responsible for the Central Africa mission,” Khidasheli said.

The United States (US) Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, has also released a statement over the issue.

“We have seen the media reports and are pleased the Georgian Defence Ministry is taking this seriously and launching an investigation into the allegations raised by the UNCHR.

“The US has been proud to partner with the Georgian soldiers on numerous peacekeeping initiatives, and it would be a shame if the allegations were allowed to tarnish the Georgian military’s proud reputation,” says the Ambassador’s statement.

The President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, expressed concern regarding the issue. He advised everyone to wait until the investigation is over.

Georgia’s Military Representative to Central African Republic, Lieutenant Colonel Levan Buadze, said that he has not been informed about any sexual abuse committed by Georgian soldiers.

"I have never been informed about such facts. On the contrary, the locals have a very positive attitude towards us. They had the opportunity to come closer to the soldiers, however, we had not been in any close relationships with them," noted Buadze and added that the investigation will find out if Georgian soldiers are amongst the offenders.

The UN-mandated EU peacekeeping mission, commonly referred to as EUFOR RCA, is based in Bangui and the goal of the mission is to stabilise the area after more than a year of internal conflict.

Georgian troops are serving in EUFOR RCA mission since April 2014, while an agreement about the mission was reached in January 2014.

Georgia is represented by 100 soldiers in the mission.