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20 octubre, 2011

Video of UN Peacekeeper Sexual Assault of Haitian Prompts Calls to Focus on Post-Quake Rebuilding | Democracy Now Daily Digest for 09/0

AMY GOODMAN: The commander of the Uruguayan Navy’s United Nations mission in Haiti has been dismissed after the circulation of a video that allegedly shows Uruguayan peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man. Haitian President Michel Martelly yesterday condemned the alleged abuse and said the victim had been subjected to, quote, "collective rape."

The attack occurred in July, but graphic cell phone video of the alleged attack only surfaced in recent days. The video appears to show four U.N. troops in camouflage attacking the young man, named Johnny Jean.

The video continues showing the men laughing and standing over Jean while he lies face down on a mattress, his trousers pulled down. Several men are shown restraining his arms and hands. The uniformed men speak Spanish, but it’s inaudible. The Uruguayan Defense Ministry said yesterday it had begun a "repatriation of the troops involved" in the attack.

This latest episode follows others by U.N. forces. In December 2007, 100 Sri Lankan soldiers were deported from Haiti following charges of sexual abuse of under-age girls. In 2005, U.N. troops went on the rampage in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince, killing as many as 23 people, including children.

Yesterday there were demonstrations in Port Salut, the seaside town in Haiti where the attack is alleged to have occurred. Independent reporter Ansel Herz spoke to resident Katia Daniel at the protest.

KATIA DANIEL: We are here in support of Johnny Jean, because of what happened to him. It could happen to my brother. It could happen to my sister. It could happen to anybody. So, that has to stop. It’s not the first time that happened here in Port Salut. It has to stop. It cannot be—that cannot be continuing in the country. Those people are here [inaudible] peacekeeper, but they are not peacekeeper here. [inaudible] for the rest of the world to see what those people are doing to the poor country of Haiti. When they come to Haiti, that’s what they are doing. They are not helping us. They’re not coming here for help. They’re coming here for abuse. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them here. They have to leave. They have to leave. And we need justice, justice for Johnny Jean and the others.

AMY GOODMAN: Katia Daniel was speaking with Ansel Herz. He’s an independent journalist who has lived in Haiti for two years. He’s joining us now from Port Salut in Haiti. He broke this story of the cell phone videotape.

Ansel, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what has unfolded, how you got this videotape, and what has happened since.

ANSEL HERZ: What happened is, in late July—it’s not totally clear exactly what date it occurred—Johnny Jean was assaulted in some form inside the base. That’s what the cell phone video appears to show. And what I’ve understood is that one of the soldiers who was present in that room was, you know, making a video of this on his cell phone. He then, you know, came outside of the base one day about a week later, and two young Haitian men were walking by the base. They were playing some music on their cell phone. And the soldier said, "Hey, I like that music. I’d like it on my phone." And so he came over, and he gave the two Haitian men his phone. These guys were then looking through his phone to see kind of if he had any good music on his phone, this soldier. They saw this video on this soldier’s cell phone, and one of the young men recognized his own cousin, Johnny Jean, in that video and was shocked. He transferred that video, using Bluetooth, over to his friend’s phone. And, you know, at that point, the video had gotten out.

And so, those boys later gave that video to a local journalist and activist. They were later also in a meeting, they told me, with MINUSTAH officials. MINUSTAH is the acronym for the U.N. peacekeeping mission here. And, you know, they told me that the MINUSTAH official who was there denied that this had happened. And then they showed him the video, and he broke out sort of sweating. He was shocked at what he was seeing. So that’s how the video came out.

I arrived here in Port Salut on Wednesday for the first time. And when I arrived, the family of Johnny Jean was making a criminal complaint at the courthouse about this incident. You know, time had passed, and Johnny Jean had not spoken out about this. I think that he was afraid. His mom said that he stayed in the house for two weeks after it first happened, and she didn’t know what was going on. And then somebody was walking by her house and asked her, "Hey, do you know that MINUSTAH soldiers raped your son?" And she was, of course, shocked, and she questioned him. And then they decided to go forward with this criminal compl—sorry, criminal complaint. And they gave me a copy of the video last Wednesday.

AMY GOODMAN: It has led to the dismissal of the head of the Uruguayan Navy U.N. mission in Haiti. And explain just what MINUSTAH stands for, for people who aren’t familiar with the U.N. forces in Haiti.

ANSEL HERZ: Yeah, MINUSTAH stands for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. It came into the country after a 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’état drove President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti. You know, MINUSTAH was kind of used in tandem with a police force under the interim government that followed to, I think, repress demonstrations by Lavalas supporters, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of Aristide. And since then, you know, they’ve kind of had ups and downs, I think, in their relationship with Haitians at large.

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