The United Nations is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan naval troops at a UN base in southern Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cellphone camera.
The UN mission learned of the allegations last week and the scandal prompted Uruguay to sack its naval chief in Haiti.
The soldiers were confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe.
Shot with a cellphone camera, the clip shows several men in camouflaged 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’s 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.
Before the cellphone video emerged, the UN unilaterally denied these allegations. Inner City Press writes:
On August 17, Inner City Press asked Ban’s now departed deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:
Inner City Press: in Port-Salut there are complaints against the Uruguayan peacekeepers of MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], including on sexual abuse grounds –what is MINUSTAH’s response on this topic that Ban Ki-moon has recently said is so important to him?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: MINUSTAH is in fact looking into this to see about these allegations and whether there is any credibility to them.
The very next day on August 18, Haq began the noon briefing by reading out a denial:
“further to what I said yesterday on an investigation in Port-Salut, Haiti, the UN Mission there (MINUSTAH) tells us that the preliminary report of this investigation was finalized. After discussions with local authorities and members of the population in Port-Salut, the investigators found out that these allegations of misconduct could not be substantiated. The UN Mission in Haiti says that no supporting evidence was provided by anyone, and local authorities confirmed that these allegations were unfounded.”
Here’s the video. It’s not perfectly clear, but strongly suggests abuse.
Al Jazeera makes this point about the video evidence: it was shot by another MINUSTAH soldier, but the Haitians got hold of it.
Ansel Herz, a journalist in Port Salut, where the incident is alleged to have occurred, said the video footage was passed around via mobile phones after two Haitian men saw the video and copied it while they were exchanging music with a Ururguayan soldier via Bluetooth.
“The video was originally taken by a UN soldier who was there at the time,” he told Al Jazeera.
On Friday, a Haitian magistrate said he had turned the case over to prosecutors after the alleged victim and his mother gave depositions.
“Everybody was watching this video in the court case as the mother was making a complaint against these soldiers,” said Herz.