Uruguay Recalls Commander In Haiti Over Alleged Sexual Assault
September 5, 2011 By Roque Planas
Uruguay’s defense ministry said Sunday it would recall its commander and at least five officers from Haiti, in response to a controversy over alleged acts of sexual abuse. The ministry has opened an investigation into allegations that Uruguayan peacekeeping troops raped an 18-year-old Haitian man, after cell phone images allegedly showing Uruguayan peacekeepers in the southern town of Port Salut holding the man down on a mattress were diffused through the Web over the weekend.
A preliminary investigation into the incident has not found evidence of rape, the Uruguayan defense ministry said, but the peacekeepers were not allowed to bring a civilian into their barracks. The Haitian government is also investigating the allegations.
There are conflicting reports of the number of Uruguayans involved in the incident. Reuters reports that four Uruguayan peacekeepers have been detained in the case, while other agencies say that five Uruguayan troops were involved.
The incident is souring relations between the Haitian public and the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Haitian President Michel Martelly called the alleged abuse an “act that revolts the national conscience” in a statement released Sunday.
The controversy comes just weeks after Brazil’s new defense minister, Celso Amorim, said his country should begin drawing down its presence in Haiti.
“I’m in favor of a gradual exit from Haiti, because we’ve already completed our mission there,” Amorim told Brazilian daily A Folha de São Paulo. He added that he envisions Brazil playing a supporting role in Haiti’s economic development, but thinks the military facet of Brazil’s mission in Haiti is no longer necessary now that Haiti has succeeded in transferring power democratically from one president to another.
Haitian President Michel Martelly also wants to scale back the U.N. Mission’s military role in the future.
The video of the footage that sparked the controversy is available below, via ABC News. Discretion advised.