UN police in Haiti facing new accusations of sexual abuse

MINUSTAH Uruguay, base in Port Salut.jpg

Photo by Ansel Herz

U.N. probes new charges of peacekeeper sex abuse in Haiti

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, whose members have been accused of rape, assault and sparking a cholera epidemic in the country, is investigating new allegations that peacekeepers sexually abused minors. "The U.N. Secretariat regrets to confirm that, on 16 January 2012, the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, alerted headquarters about two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving minors in Haiti," spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters on Monday.

He said one of the cases involved U.N. police officers based in the capital Port-au-Prince. "The accused officers have been removed from their duties to reduce any contact with the local population while the investigation is underway," he said.

He added that the second case involved at least one member of a U.N. police unit in Gonaives. "The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously," Nesirky said.

MINUSTAH is no stranger to negative press in Haiti. Many Haitians have called for the complete withdrawal of the force due to allegations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp latrines contaminated a river. That sparked riots in 2010.

Last year, the U.N. force faced renewed public protests over allegations a group of Uruguayan troops raped a man. In December the United Nations said it was investigating allegations of assault and attempted homicide by Brazilian peacekeepers.

In October 2011, the U.N. Security Council voted to reduce the size of the unpopular force by 2,750, bringing MINUSTAH to just under 10,600 troops and police. That brought the size of the force back to its level before the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince.

UN: Allegations of abuse by UN police in Haiti

By Anita Snow, Associated Press, AP, January 23, 2012 
UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The U.N. is investigating two new allegations of U.N. police abuse and "sexual exploitation" of children in Haiti, spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday. One case involves U.N. police officers in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Nesirky said. They have been removed from duty while under investigation, he added. The second case involves one or more members of a police unit in the northern city of Gonaives.

Nesirky did not release the nationalities of the police or provide any other details. "The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibilities to deal with them extremely seriously," Nesirky said. He said the organization's mission in Haiti alerted U.N. headquarters in New York last week about the allegations.
The new charges of abuse come just months after six Uruguayan troops with the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Caribbean country were accused of raping a young Haitian man. That case has been referred to the Uruguayan judicial system.* Nesirky said that while home countries discipline military members of peacekeeping missions, the U.N. disciplines police officers.
Allegations of abuse have dogged U.N. peacekeeping missions since their inception over 50 years ago. The issue was thrust into the spotlight after the United Nations found in early 2005 that peacekeepers in Congo had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money.
The U.N. peacekeeping department instituted a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse, a new code of conduct for its more than 110,000 peacekeepers deployed around the world, and new training for officers and all U.N. personnel. Nonetheless, allegations of sexual abuse persist.
Among the key reasons that Ban Ki-moon won U.S. backing to become U.N. Secretary-General in January 2007 was his pledge to restore the U.N.'s reputation--battered by corruption in purchasing and sexual abuses by peacekeepers--through effective oversight.
* The reporter is uninformed. A Uruguyan court dismissed charges in early January against the soldiers accused.