Flavia Pansieri, the UN’s deputy high commissioner for human rights, is leaving her post, citing “health reasons” after admitting that she failed to follow up on allegations of child sexual abuse, UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Wednesday.
The UN is under fire for failing to take harsher steps after discovering that children may have been sexually abused by the French troops in the CAR between December 2013 and June 2014.
Pansieri, according to a March 2015 confidential statement by her, had learned about the accusations in September 2014, but “failed to follow up” on the matter.
The statement was leaked by Code Blue, a non-profit organization seeking greater accountability over sexual assault allegations against peacekeepers.
In the leaked statement, she had written, “I take full responsibility for not having given the matter the necessary attention.”
An internal review by the UN in July 2014 found that children may have been sexually assaulted by French troops, who at the time were not under the UN command.
The CAR has been convulsed by turmoil since December 2013, when armed Christian groups launched coordinated attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group which had toppled the government in March that year.
French and African Union troops were involved in the CAR conflict before UN peacekeepers arrived.
The allegations of sexual abuse were made by four boys, who said the abuse took place in the CAR capital, Bangui, located in the southern part of the country.
Two other boys said they had witnessed the abuse. All six children were aged between 9 and 13 when the alleged abuse happened.
A senior staff member also from the United Nations, Anders Kompass, leaked the internal document to French authorities in August 2014. Kompass was soon suspended because of the leak, but, later reinstated to his post.
France opened a judicial inquiry into the allegations in early May.
The UN took over peacekeeping operations in CAR in September 2014 from the African Union (AU), French and European Union troops.
Close to 6,000 AU, 2,000 French and 800 European troops had been deployed in the former French colony.
Many of the forces, including the AU troops were later integrated into the UN force.