Congo abuse: Army clean chit to soldiers

The Army has given a clean chit to its soldiers who were indicted by an internal United Nations (UN) investigation for child abuse and sexual exploitation at a peacekeeping mission in Congo.

A year after the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services investigation accused close to 100 Indian peacekeepers of child abuse and paying Congolese girls in North Kivu for sex, the Army's own inquiry has not found any evidence against the soldiers.

"A detailed investigation was carried out but not a single shred of evidence has been found against Indian soldiers," sources revealed. The Army's inquiry found irregularities in the UN investigation, including a statement by a 'minor' girl who turned out to be 28-year-old adult, the sources added.

The Army's investigation, carried out in Congo and New Delhi, included interrogation of soldiers and statements by 'victims' identified by the UN. While close to 100 soldiers were questioned, the probe focused on allegations against 40, all of whom have been let off for lack of evidence.

This comes after the UN report, which as reported by this newspaper, was sent to the Ministry of External Affairs in August last year, severely indicting Indian peacekeepers for indulging in a child prostitution ring near a base camp in Masisi. The damning report, that had recommended action against Indian soldiers, had evoked a strong reaction from the UN.

Meanwhile, the UN has denied reports that it has asked India to cancel new deployments of troops in Congo.

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