Minister: Uruguay should apologize to Haiti

AP News
Posted: Sep 07, 2011 12:07 AM
Minister: Uruguay should apologize to Haiti

Uruguay's defense minister said Tuesday that his country should apologize to Haiti and give reparations to an 18-year-old man allegedly sexually assaulted by Uruguayan U.N. peacekeepers in the Caribbean country.

The alleged attack, which occurred on a U.N. base in the southern city of Port-Salut, has sparked protests in Haiti as well as investigations by the United Nations, Uruguay and Haiti.

Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said the Uruguayan investigation will "go to the bone."

Uruguay "should apologize as urgently as possible to the people and government of Haiti, give reparations to the victim of these abhorrent acts, be exhaustive in its investigation and apply the maximum imaginable sanction against those responsible," Fernandez Huidobro told reporters in comments on the ministry's website.

The encounter took place on July 20 but only became public last week when a video taken by cell phone was circulated. The Uruguayan military initially called the incident a prank that got out of hand.

But Fernandez Huidobro said members of the armed forces are prohibited from "referring to this episode as a joke, since the use of that word is shameful for any armed forces' official because here there was no joke, but a serious aggression against a person."

In the video, several Uruguayan troops are seen pinning the young man face down on a mattress, laughing and pulling his pants down. They shout "What's the problem here?" as the man repeatedly responds "No problem."

Then, the Uruguayans laugh as a peacekeeper stands in between the man's legs and seems to simulate a sex act until others shout "stop, Crazy." The peacekeeper then slaps the man's naked rear end several times and steps away.

In Haiti, the half brother of the alleged victim, Dony Clivens, said by telephone that even if the family accepted money offered, U.N. troops wouldn't change the way they treat Haitians.

"The money isn't the only thing," he said. "Our integrity is more important than money."