U.N. Official Quits Amid Scrutiny of Response to Sex Abuse Accusations

23nations-facebookJumbo UNITED NATIONS — The most senior United Nations official to have been informed of accusations of child sexual abuse by French soldiers in Central African Republic last year, who took no action at the time, has resigned from her post, United Nations officials confirmed on Wednesday. The official, Flavia Pansieri, the deputy high commissioner for human rights, based in Geneva, is stepping down “for health reasons,” a spokesman for the human rights office, André-Michel Essoungou, said. Ms. Pansieri, a veteran of the United Nations system, has been at the center of explosive accusations, discovered by human rights investigators in Central African Republic, that several boys, ages 9 to 15, were sexually abused by French peacekeepers assigned to protect civilians in that country. Their testimony was collected by United Nations staff on the ground in Bangui, the capital, in May 2014. In mid-July 2014, their report was sent up the United Nations hierarchy to a director of field operations, a Swede named Anders Kompass, based in Geneva, who in turn informed his boss, Ms. Pansieri, of the findings in early August. Mr. Kompass has said he also gave a copy of the testimony, including the names of alleged victims and witnesses, to French diplomats in Geneva. Ms. Pansieri disputes that she was told at the time that Mr. Kompass had leaked the report. In any event, she appears not to have taken further action. Mr. Kompass has not explained why he offered the report to France before letting his superiors redact names — a standard practice to protect the privacy of victims and witnesses — and submit it officially. Nor has Ms. Pansieri explained why she appears to have taken no action until the following March, eight months after Mr. Kompass’s leak to the French. It was only then that the United Nations sent an official copy of its Bangui inquiry to the government of France, this time with names redacted. Mr. Kompass was suspended with pay, then reinstated to his post by an internal tribunal. He remains under investigation. Mr. Kompass was earlier accused of having leaked secret information to diplomats in connection with the disputed Western Sahara region. The sexual abuse accusations brought new scrutiny to Mr. Kompass’ role, as well as to his superiors. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a panel to review how the United Nations system as a whole handles accusations of sexual abuse against peacekeepers. Ms. Pansieri, an Italian, worked for the United Nations Development Program for many years. She came out of retirement two years ago to accept the deputy high commissioner’s post. “She has recently faced a series of health issues,” Mr. Essoungou said. Source