January 16, 2018 / 6:39 AM / in a year

Magistrates dismiss sex abuse case against French soldiers in Africa

French soldiers walk towards Seleka fighters in Bambari May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

PARIS (Reuters) - French magistrates have dismissed a case brought against a group of French soldiers accused of sexually abusing children while on deployment in the Central African Republic in 2013-2014, a judicial source said on Monday.

Paris prosecutors called last year for the case to be dismissed because some of the testimony was deemed inconsistent and some elements could not be confirmed, even if they could not exclude that abuses took place.

The accusations emerged in April 2015 after the leak of an internal United Nations document containing the testimony of six children who said they were sexually abused by French soldiers in exchange for rations while at a displacement camp in the capital Bangui.

The abuse was said to have taken place between December 2013 and June 2014 after France intervened in its former colony to stem violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels.

According to the leaked U.N. report, at least 13 French soldiers, two from Equatorial Guinea and three from Chad were implicated in the abuse.

Then French President Francois Hollande promised to show no mercy if the allegations were confirmed.

The French soldiers were not operating under U.N. command at the time. But a later U.N. mission, known as MINUSCA, was also accused of widespread misconduct, including 12 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.

ECPAT, an organisation that campaigns against the sexual exploitation of children, told Reuters it did not rule out the possibility of appealing the magistrates’ decision.

Reporting by Simon Carraud; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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