Alleged assault fuels anger in Haiti


This man's sign reads: Brazil + Chile = Occupation


Thony Belizaire

As if Haiti hasn’t already been through enough.

Now their own peacekeeping troops are (allegedly) causing problems.

Protests erupted on the disaster-prone side of this Carribean island, as Haitians claimed that the United Nations force there to keep the peace had brought more grief than relief.

A top complaint: Haitians said that U.N. forces had raped an 18-year-old Haitian man. The incident was filmed on a mobile phone and apparently shows the young man being held down by several U.N. soldiers from Uruguay. Uruguay has apologized. The Washington Post found a doctor who examined the boy and found evidence of sexual assault. 

The U.N. and Haiti said they were investigating the incident.

The BBC  said about 300 people marched on the presidential palace, chanting “Rapist!” and “Minustah (the UN force) must go!” 

In addition to the alleged assault, U.N. troops also are believed to be behind a cholera epidemic, which is believed to have originated in sewage from a UN camp. The Haitian health ministry estimates that more than 6,200 people have been killed by the disease.

In a video of the day, protesters threw stones at police, who fired teargas near camps of displaced people. 

Many Haitians see the U.N. troops, which came in 2004 but gained an extended mandate after last year’s devastating earthquake, as occupiers.

It's not the first time that U.N. troops have been criticized for improper behavior. A recent New York Times article delves into the host of scandals that have followed U.N. troops, from Bosnia to Haiti now.

 In April, 16 peacekeepers from Benin were sent home from Ivory Coast — more than a year after Save the Children U.K. found that the soldiers traded food for sex with poor, underage girls. More than 100 troops from Sri Lanka were sent home from Haiti in 2007 because of widespread accusations of sex with minors.

Accountability remains a major problem. 

The United Nations has focused serious attention on addressing sexual crimes among the more than 120,000 personnel it has deployed in 16 peacekeeping missions globally, including widespread training. But the question that diplomats, advocates and even some United Nations officials ask is why the efforts still lag in terms of investigating accusations and, most important, making sure those who send troops and contractors abroad hold them accountable.

Judging by the protests, it seems Haiti is looking for more than an apology this time.