The International Criminal Court said Thursday it has ordered an independent probe into allegations that a staff member sexually assaulted four people under the court's protection in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Hague-based court said in a statement that an initial enquiry begun in April had "confirmed the seriousness of the allegations and the need for more detailed investigation".
The ICC on April 12 made public the allegation that a former ICC employee had sexually abused four people under the court's protection programme, saying it had a zero-tolerance policy towards such abuse and had communicated the allegations to national authorities.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP that people under the court's protection programme include witnesses and victims but also "anyone who might be in danger because of their contact with the ICC, such as intermediaries or drivers."
The ICC is investigating several allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes against different suspects in the DRC.
The court declined to say in connection with which case the allegations were made.
"We want to keep this as vague as possible so as to avoid as much as possible people being identified and so the enquiry can be carried out without there being too much pressure on those concerned," Abdallah said.
The independent review will be composed of four specialists and will be mandated to establish the facts about the alleged sex crimes "and to identify all responsible persons, including those responsible for exercising managerial oversight over the suspected perpetrator."
The court said it was already implementing unspecified changes to the way it operates pending the review's outcome.