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Uruguay: Initial UN probe discards sex assault of Haitian; troops recalled, navy chief fired
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) ' Uruguay's defense ministry says preliminary U.N. investigations have found no evidence for allegations that its troops in Haiti raped an 18-year-old man. But it says the troops broke rules by having a civilian in their barracks.
A cell phone video that has been widely broadcast has fueled growing protests in Haiti, increasing tensions between peacekeepers and the local population. It is not clear from the jumpy clip what happened, but the alleged victim has gone to a Haitian judge with his complaints.
The Uruguayan military has removed its commander in Haiti and is pulling the peacekeepers involved back to Montevideo. A ministry announcement Sunday said those found to be directly responsible will be dishonorably discharged.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) ' Haitian President Michel Martelly has "vigorously condemned" an alleged sexual assault by U.N. troops against an 18-year-old man, an incident that has aggravated mistrust between Haitians and the peacekeeping mission.
A news release from the president's communications office late Sunday described the incident as an "act that revolts the national conscience" and it said that Martelly is awaiting a detailed report. He asked Haitian officials to meet with U.N. officials to prevent such acts from happening again, it said.
The U.N. is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan naval personnel at a U.N. base in southern Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cell phone camera. The soldiers were confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe.
The U.N. mission learned of the charges last week and the scandal prompted Uruguay to sack its naval chief in Haiti.
The clip shot with a cell phone camera 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. The camera jumps around, and it is not clear from the video what's happening.
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
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 there.
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 called for 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.