In Haiti, the reputation of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force has been complicated to say the least. Since the January 12th earthquake more than a year ago, the force has been accused of abuse as well as bringing cholera to the island. Now, with the most recent scandal involving the sexual assault of a young Haitian man, public outrage around the country has reached its boiling point.
This week, video captured using a cell phone showed a UN Peacekeeper from Uruguay raping a young man with his face down on a mattress. On the video, the victim, 18-year old Johnny Jean, is shown being assaulted on the video while the Peacekeeper and several of his colleagues are heard laughing in the background. The attack took place in the southern town of Port-Salut.
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Both Jean and his mother, Rose Marie Jean, spoke out about the incident on local radio stations and testified beore a judge in a hearing on the July 28th assault. Initially, a preliminary UN report ruled out that a rape had occurred but the video made the charges impossible to ignore.
Since, Uruguay says they have dismissed the navy commander responsible for the assault and are launching an investigation as well.
In a letter apologizing to the Haitian people, Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Major General Luiz Ramos wrote:
As commander of the military forces of the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti, I want to express my sincere regret for the unfortunate events caused by a small number of soldiers of MINUSTAH in Port-Salut…It is very unfortunate that the bad actions of a few tarnish the many good works of many others. Every day, the vast majority of staff of the MINUSTAH is working to display a high level of professionalism and discipline, and build good relations with the Haitian people. We are guests in your country.
Speaking of the incident, Haitian President Michel Martelly called the attack “a collective rape carried out against a young Haitian” and said it would not go unpunished.