|Page (1) of 1 - 09/05/11||email article||print page|
Uruguay: Initial UN probe discards sex assault on Haitian; troops recalled, navy chief fired
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) ' A preliminary U.N. investigation has found no evidence for allegations that Uruguayan peacekeepers raped an 18-year-old man, Uruguay's Defense Ministry says, but the troops broke rules by having a civilian in their barracks.
The incident, captured on a widely broadcast cell phone video, has created outrage in Haiti and aggravated mistrust between Haitians and the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Haitian President Michel Martelly has "vigorously condemned" the act, calling it "an "act that revolts the national conscience."
The Uruguayan military has removed its commander in Haiti and is pulling the peacekeepers involved back to Uruguay. A ministry announcement Sunday said those found to be directly responsible will be dishonorably discharged.
The jumpy cell phone video does not make clear if a rape occurred, but it shows several men in camouflage uniforms laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress. The men seem to be saying "no problem" in Spanish as they hold the teen's arms and hands behind his back.
A magistrate in Port-Salut, the southwestern coastal town in which the assault allegedly happened, has gathered testimony from the alleged victim and his mother and filed it in court.
The alleged victim was snatched by a soldier outside the front gate of the U.N. base and was taken inside, according to the judge, Paul Tarte, and the alleged victim's mother.
The alleged victim, his friends and neighbors told The Associated Press that the youth often hung out at the gate of the base, cracking jokes with the peacekeepers.
"He's always talking to them," said Fredolain Cazir, 20, who lives beside the base.
Some residents in Port-Salut planned to demonstrate against the U.N. on Monday in support of the alleged victim and his family and to call for the ouster of the peacekeepers.
Martelly's office said the president asked Haitian officials to meet with U.N. officials to prevent such acts from happening again.
Martelly has called for a reduced U.N. presence in Haiti, with troops focusing more on development instead of security matters.
When he ran for office, he proposed a revival of the Haitian Army, which was dissolved in 1995 because of human rights abuses. It is unclear who would finance a new military, and the nearly 12,000 U.N. soldiers and police deployed nationwide have been key in supporting Haiti's economy and providing security.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission arrived in Haiti in 2004 after former President Jean-Bertrand was toppled in a rebellion. Relations between the troops and many Haitians have been strained, with critics accusing the force of using heavy handed tactics.
Tensions worsened last year after a unit of peacekeepers from Nepal was blamed by many people for an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. The epidemic has killed more than 6,200 people and sickened more than 438,000, Haiti's Health Ministry says.