Uruguay Withdraws 5 UN Peacekeepers From Haiti

The South American country promises severe punishment if its countrymen are found guilty of sexual assault.

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U.N. troops in Haiti (Getty Images)

Uruguay has announced that it is withdrawing five peacekeepers from the U.N. military mission in Haiti in response to allegations that a Haitian teenager was sexually assaulted. A graphic video widely seen on the Internet shows several soldiers holding a young man down on a bed and laughing as he is allegedly assaulted.

Uruguay is one of 16 countries -- including Brazil, Argentina, Japan and Nepal -- that have contributed troops to MINUSTAH, the U.N. force assigned to keep order in Haiti. The BBC reported Sunday that Uruguayan authorities promised that the men would be punished to the full extent of the law if found guility.

A Haitian magistrate told the AFP news agency on Friday that he had turned the case over to prosecutors after viewing the evidence and after the alleged victim and his parents gave depositions in a courthouse in Port Salut, the southern seaside town where the alleged sex attack is said to have occurred.He said he was also investigating allegations of sexual relations between Uruguayan peacekeepers and young Haitian females who had become pregnant.

Uruguay's defence ministry earlier this week ordered an "urgent investigation" into allegations that its troops had committed "aberrant acts" against a Haitian. Uruguay contributes 1,110 soldiers and police officers to the UN's more than 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in Haiti, according to UN figures released in July.

The one-minute video, which has circulated on dozens of mobile phones in Port Salut, pans out from a sideways close-up of the alleged victim's strained face to reveal his body being held down on a mattress by light-skinned men wearing camouflage-coloured clothes. Some of them are seen wearing sky-blue caps in the style of those worn by UN peacekeeping forces. As the men's laughter grows in volume, a shirtless soldier kneels behind the man, slaps him and appears to thrust towards him.

The video ends as the bedraggled young man is grabbed by the arm and pulled onto his feet.

Nabaa said the UN inquiry had not yet proven the video's authenticity, but that "the results of the investigation will determine the facts".

Source: Al-Jazeera.

This latest incident follows reports that U.N. troops from Bangladesh introduced a cholera epidemic that has killed hundreds of Haitians. Haiti has suffered an embarrassment of hardship, from corrupt governments to the devastating 2010 eathquake to a deadlock in getting a working government off the ground. What it doesn't need is a U.N. presence that seems more like an occupation every day.

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