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Georgian UN peacekeepers are among those accused of sexually abusing children in Africa.

The United Nations said allegations have emerged that peacekeepers from Georgia, as well as France and another unnamed country, sexually abused children while deployed in the Central African Republic.

In a statement on January 29, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the "extremely serious accusations" needed to be investigated "thoroughly and urgently."

The UN said the alleged crimes, including rapes, mostly committed in 2014, only came to light in recent weeks.

The national authorities concerned, as well as the European Union, the UN added, have been informed and are investigating.

Some 150 Georgian soldiers were deployed in the African nation between February 2014 to March 2015.

Georgia's Defense Ministry said it received the allegations "with great concern," adding that "it is our goal to investigate this matter in great detail and in case such grave crimes are proven, perpetrators of such crimes will be brought to justice."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
Simin Fahandezh, a Geneva-based spokeswoman for the international Baha'i community. (file photo)

A revolutionary court in Iran’s Golestan Province has sentenced 24 believers in the Baha'i faith to as many as 11 years in prison each.

A Geneva-based spokeswoman for the International Baha'i community, Simin Fahandezh, said the 24 individuals are being imprisoned strictly because of their religious faith, which is not officially recognized by Iran.

"They’re innocent," Fahandezh said. "They haven’t committed any crime as the only charge against them is their membership in the Baha'i community.”

She said the prison sentences, ranging from six to 11 years, demonstrate that "human rights have no value for Iranian authorities."

She said those who've been sentenced were detained in 2012 in Golestan during a crackdown against the Baha'i community.

The sentences can be appealed.

Baha’i routinely face persecution in Iran.

Fahandezh said there are currently more than 80 Baha'is in jail in Iran.

She said the treatment of Baha'is in Iran has not changed since President Hassan Rohani took office and promised to improve Iran's human rights record.

"Baha'is are still being detained. Jailed. Young Baha'is are still being deprived of their right to study, and the number of Baha'i cemeteries that have been desecrated has increased," Fahandezh said.

Last year, the United Nations special rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, called on Iran to take concrete steps to protect Baha'is and other religious minorities in Iran.

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