UN probes assault charge of 18-year-old Haitian

AP News
Posted: Sep 02, 2011 8:07 PM

The United Nations is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cellphone camera, a spokeswoman said Friday.

U.N. spokeswoman Eliane Nabaa said the soldiers are confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe, which is looking for information on possible victims, witnesses and perpetrators. The U.N. mission learned of the charges last week.

"If the allegations are proved, perpetrators must be brought to justice, and we welcome the firm commitment of the Uruguayan defense minister in this regard," Nabaa wrote in an email message.

As part of the inquiry, investigators are trying to determine the authenticity of video, Nabaa said.

A 50-second video on ABC News' website purports to show the alleged incident in Haiti.

The video shows several men laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress. One of the men is shirtless. But the cellphone video jumps around, the alleged victim's face is blurred out and it's not clear what is happening.

It's also not clear how ABC News obtained the video.

"We don't know the origin or authenticity of the video," Nabaa said. "It's being investigated."

The United Nations also asked Uruguayan authorities to conduct an investigation of their own.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has been in Haiti since 2004, after former President Jean-Bertrand was toppled in a violent rebellion.

Relations between the troops and many Haitians are strained, with critics accusing the force of using heavy-handed tactics.

Tensions worsened last year after a unit of peacekeepers from Nepal was blamed by many people for an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. The epidemic has killed more than 6,200 people and sickened more than 438,000, Haiti's Health Ministry says.