Uruguay to apologize over alleged rape by UN peacekeepers

MONTEVIDEO,  (Reuters) – Uruguay will apologize to  Haiti and compensate an 18-year-old Haitian man allegedly raped  by Uruguayan U.N. troops in the poor Caribbean state, the  Uruguayan defense minister said yesterday.

Public outrage in the earthquake-ravaged nation has  simmered over a video shot by a cellphone camera and  circulating on the Internet that shows laughing Uruguayan  marines pinning the young Haitian face down on a mattress and  apparently assaulting him sexually.

“Our biggest concern is to apologize to Haiti’s government  as soon as possible and to compensate the victim,” Defense  Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro told reporters after  meeting with lawmakers yesterday.

“We want to be thorough with the investigations and apply  the harshest of sanctions,” Fernandez Huidobro said.

The alleged victim, Johnny Jean, and his mother, Rose Marie  Jean, told Haitian radio stations he had been raped by  Uruguayan marines and provided testimony to a judge in the  southern town of Port-Salut, where the incident allegedly took  place on July 28.

Haitian President Michel Martelly has said the perpetrators  of what he called “a collective rape carried out against a  young Haitian” would not go unpunished.

Haitian authorities, the U.N. Mission in Haiti and  Uruguay’s Defense Ministry launched an investigation into the  video. The four troops suspected of being involved have been  detained and Uruguay’s Navy has replaced the head of its naval  contingent with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

In a preliminary report, the U.N. ruled out that Jean was  raped but said blue-helmet peacekeepers broke rules when they  allowed a civilian to enter a military camp.

U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti have faced public anger before,  especially over allegations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a  deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp  latrines contaminated a local river. This triggered riots last  year against the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping contingent.

The current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as  MINUSTAH, was established by the U.N. Security Council in 2004  and has been helping Haiti’s short-staffed and ill-equipped  police to maintain security in the volatile Caribbean state,  especially during elections plagued by fraud and violence.

Defense and foreign ministers from nations that make up  MINUSTAH are scheduled to meet in Montevideo tomorrow to  discuss a gradual troop pullback from Haiti.

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