Uruguay sorry over alleged rape by UN peacekeepers

A video shows laughing Uruguayan marines pinning the young Haitian face down on a mattress.

Montevideo: Uruguayan President Jose Mujica apologised to Haitian President Michel Martelly over the alleged rape of an 18-year-old Haitian man by Uruguayan UN peacekeeping troops in the poor Caribbean state, Uruguay`s government said on Tuesday.

Public outrage in earthquake-ravaged Haiti has surged over a video shot by a cellphone camera and circulating on the Internet that shows laughing Uruguayan marines pinning the young Haitian face down on a mattress and apparently assaulting him sexually.

"We apologise for the abuse that some soldiers of my country perpetrated," Mujica wrote in a letter to Martelly.

"Although the damage is irreparable, have the certainty that we will investigate thoroughly and apply the harshest sanctions against those responsible," Mujica said.

He also apologised on behalf of the country`s armed forces, which he said, where humiliated by "the criminal and embarrassing behaviour by a few" soldiers.

Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro, who also signed the letter, said earlier that Uruguay would compensate the victim.

The alleged victim, Johnny Jean, and his mother, Rose Marie Jean, told Haitian radio stations he had been raped by Uruguayan marines and provided testimony to a judge in the southern town of Port-Salut, where the incident allegedly took place on July 28.

Martelly has said the perpetrators of what he called "a collective rape carried out against a young Haitian" would not go unpunished.

Haitian authorities, the UN Mission in Haiti and Uruguay`s Defence Ministry launched an investigation into the video. The four troops suspected of being involved have been detained and Uruguay`s Navy has replaced the head of its naval contingent with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

In a preliminary report, the UN ruled out that Jean was raped but said blue-helmet peacekeepers broke rules when they allowed a civilian to enter a military camp.

UN peacekeepers in Haiti have faced public anger before, especially over allegations that Nepalese UN troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp latrines contaminated a local river. This triggered riots last year against the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping contingent.

The current UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, was established by the UN Security Council in 2004 and has been helping Haiti`s short-staffed and ill-equipped police to maintain security in the volatile Caribbean state, especially during elections plagued by fraud and violence.

Defence and foreign ministers from nations that make up MINUSTAH are scheduled to meet in Montevideo on Thursday to discuss a gradual troop pullback from Haiti.

Bureau Report

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