Five Uruguayan peacekeepers charged with practizing, by force, unlawful homosexuality with young Haitian man
MONTEVIDEO: Five Uruguayan marines have been jailed here after being indicted for the sexual assault of a young Haitian man while they were serving as UN peacekeepers in Haiti, the supreme military court announced yesterday.
“The investigation was opened on Friday, immediately after their return to the country, and the military justice began proceedings and indicted them” late Sunday, said Marta Iturvide, a lawyer with the supreme military tribunal.
The scandal erupted earlier this month after video images taken with a cellphone circulated on the Internet showing the UN peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year old Haitian man in the southern Haitian town of Port-Salut.
They were charged with disobeying orders and dereliction of duty. The first charge is punishable by four months to four years of prison, and the second by up to three years in prison.
The head of the supreme military tribunal, Julio Halty, said their commanding officer also has been placed under preventive detention.
“There is also an officer, the officer who led them, who has been put at the disposition of the acting judge,” Halty said on local television without identifying the man.
After the scandal broke out, the suspects were placed in custody in southern Haiti, and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica apologized publicly for “the outrage” and promised to punish those responsible.
On September 5, the defense ministry filed a criminal complaint with the Uruguayan civilian courts, and an investigation was opened in Haiti.
The UN mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, expressed its regret over the incident and promised that the mission would provide for the medical care, and eventually material and financial support, for the victim.
The scandal has prompted protests outside the Uruguayan base at Port-Salut to demand the withdrawal of the UN forces.
Uruguay’s defence minister had earlier admitted that the incident had caused “a lot of damage” to the armed forces, which provide around 2,400 peacekeepers worldwide, mostly in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Deployed since June 2004 under Brazilian leadership, the mission has troops from 18 countries, but most are from Latin America.
On Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the time had come to begin a gradual drawdown of the UN force, which grew from some 9,000 troops to 12,250 after a devastating earthquake January 12, 2010 left much of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in ruins.