Peacekeepers in Haiti 'sex assault' probe

Several hundred Haitians demonstrated in support of an 18-year-old man who said he was sexually assaulted by peacekeepers from Uruguay on a UN base along the southern coast of Haiti.

Several hundred Haitians demonstrated in support of an 18-year-old man who said he was sexually assaulted by peacekeepers from Uruguay on a UN base along the southern coast of Haiti.

The alleged attack occurred on July 20 but only became public last week when a video taken by mobile phone was circulated and the United Nations announced an investigation.

The Uruguayan military has called the incident a prank that got out of hand and said a preliminary UN investigation shows no evidence of rape.

Haitian president Michel Martelly “vigorously condemned” the alleged assault in the town of Port-Salut, saying in a statement that it was an “act that revolts the national conscience”.

Protesters in Port-Salut called for reparations over the alleged assault, which threatened to worsen the reputation of the UN in Haiti.

Many Haitians view the world body as an occupying force and are still angry over a cholera outbreak that was inadvertently brought to the country by peacekeepers from Nepal last year.

In a statement on Sunday, the Uruguayan defence ministry said a UN preliminary investigation had found that the men did not sexually abuse the Haitian teen but that they committed misconduct by allowing a civilian into their barracks and could face severe penalties.

The video of the encounter is clearly sexual in nature. However, a UN spokeswoman in Haiti, Eliane Nabaa, said the UN had not come to any conclusions.

Dr Clifford Gauthier, a physician who examined the young man a month after the alleged attack, said he found evidence that was consistent with signs of sexual abuse even five weeks after the attack.

He said he asked the young man why he waited so long for treatment and did not get an answer.

Resting on a white sheet in a cinderblock home, the teenager recalled the encounter.

“I was scared, very scared,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday. The Associated Press typically does not identify possible victims of sexual assault.

His mother said: “When I saw the video, I stopped sleeping.”

The widely broadcast 50-second version of a mobile phone video that surfaced last week showed several Uruguayan troops pinning the young man down on a mattress as they laughed. They helped him up at the end and it was not clear what happened.

A Haitian judge, Paul Tarte, provided a slightly longer version, purportedly taken directly from a soldier’s phone, which is clearer.

It shows several Uruguayan troops pinning the young man face down on a mattress, laughing and pulling his trousers down.

They shout “What’s the problem here?” as the man repeatedly responds “No problem.”

Then, the Uruguayans laugh as a shirtless peacekeeper stands in between the man’s legs and seems to simulate a sex act until others shout “stop, Crazy”.

The peacekeeper then slaps the man’s naked rear end several times and steps away.

For several seconds toward the end of the episode, it is not clear whether the teen is laughing or grimacing.

Uruguayan Navy spokesman Sergio Bique told Uruguay’s El Pais newspaper that the preliminary UN investigation “doesn’t see this as an attempted rape, based on the attitude of the troops, who were all completely clothed”.

“This was a joke in bad taste, at a bad time and a bad place,” Mr Bique said.

The case has embarrassed Uruguay’s military, which has 900 troops among the 12,000 UN military and police personnel in Haiti, and it has fed complaints that the UN mission has been abusive to the local population.

Uruguay’s Defence Ministry has removed its military commander in Haiti, though it did not release his name, and it said on Sunday that officials began investigating the case as soon as they knew of the video.

The ministry said it is cooperating with UN and Haitian officials and that anyone found guilty would be prosecuted in Uruguay. The country’s Navy commander has threatened anyone convicted with a dishonourable discharge and loss of retirement benefits.

The military said the soldiers at least violated rules against having outsiders in their barracks.

The secretary of Uruguay’s presidency, Alberto Breccia, said later that the Defence Ministry had presented criminal charges against the peacekeepers. He did not specify the charges.

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