JUBA, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has rejected a request by the South Sudanese government to carry out joint investigations into the alleged sexual exploitation by a unit of Ghanaian blue helmets serving in the east African country.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement that the complaint will be handled by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), an independent office within the UN, because the case is not a criminal one but a breach of UN code of conduct.
"This agency is not part of UNMISS. It is an independent office and reports directly to the United Nations General Assembly," UNMISS said.
"It is, therefore, appropriate that the OIOS investigate," the UN mission added.
On Friday, South Sudan rejected the UN-led probe into the alleged sexual exploitation and instead demanded that the government be included in the investigation or else an independent body be formed to handle the issue.
UNMISS said on Feb. 24 that it recalled a unit of 46 Ghanian police officers from the northwestern town of Wau and confined them to their base in Juba for preliminary investigation after it received a complaint of sexual abuse on Feb. 8.
The Formed Police Unit (FPU) were accused of engaging in transactional sex with women under their protection in the UN Protection of Civilians ( POC) site.
UNMISS said the decision to withdraw the police unit was taken immediately on the basis of a preliminary investigation to protect potential victims and witnesses.
"Our priority is to put the victims' rights and dignity first and ensure that there is transparency and accountability for such actions," UNMISS said.
"UNMISS has a zero tolerance, no excuses, and no second chances approach," it added.
The UN peacekeeping mission currently has some 17,000 blue helmets in South Sudan, including soldiers and police tasked with protecting civilians and maintaining peace in the war-torn east African nation.