By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secret footage shows a Rwandan policeman in the blue helmet of a United Nations peacekeeper in Mali earlier this year carefully take aim at a civilian protester, squeeze the trigger and shoot, according to sources who saw the video.
The videotape, taken by a Chinese U.N. peacekeeper who was also at the scene of the violent demonstration, was part of the evidence presented in a U.N. inquiry into the incident which resulted in the Rwandan contingent going home.
Three sources said they had seen the video of the Jan. 27 demonstration in Gao, part an unstable region of northern Mali, occupied in 2012 by separatist Tuareg rebels and al Qaeda-linked Islamists before a 2013 French intervention.
The video was not mentioned when the United Nations announced the inquiry's overall conclusions last month, which found that members of a U.N. police unit "used unauthorized and excessive force" that killed three protesters.
The full report was not made public.
The police officers, U.N. and Western diplomats said, were under stress at the time of the incident. They had been pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails and many had at least minor injuries.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in April that the unit commander and police involved would be returned home to be held accountable for the shootings. He did not identify the nationality of the police.
The roughly two-minute video was shot from an elevated position and was the key piece of evidence in the internal U.N. probe, the sources said.
"What we see in this video is someone tracking and then shooting a protester, it's very disturbing and cannot be justified," a diplomatic source who had seen the video told Reuters.
Diplomatic sources said the United Nations had wanted the platoon involved repatriated, but Rwanda withdrew the entire police unit of around 140 officers.
It was not clear whether the police involved had been reprimanded or prosecuted, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Rwandan U.N. mission declined to comment on the video. The Chinese mission did not reply to emails asking about it.
Diplomats and officials describe Rwandan troops as among the best trained and most skilled peacekeepers. Punishment for crimes committed by peacekeepers is up to the U.N. member state they come from.
The behavior of peacekeepers is under fresh scrutiny amid allegations of sexual abuse by soldiers from France, Chad and Equatorial Guinea in Central African Republic in 2014 before the official creation of a U.N. mission there.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by David Storey and G Crosse)