Police in Haiti have clashed with hundreds of protesters demanding United Nations troops leave the country after peacekeepers allegedly sexually assaulted a young man.
Police in the capital city of Port-au-Prince fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators Wednesday, while some demonstrators threw rocks at police.
The protest was sparked after a video taken on a cell phone showed several Uruguayan peacekeepers taking part in what appeared to be a sexual assault on an 18-year-old man. The video was widely seen on the Internet.
Uruguay’s president has apologized to Haiti, saying Uruguayans were humiliated by the “criminal and embarrassing” behavior of a few of their soldiers. The government has also dismissed a naval officer and recalled five soldiers over the incident. A Uruguayan team is in Haiti investigating the incident. When U.N. peacekeepers are accused of misconduct, it is up to their country of origin to investigate and discipline any offenders.
The U.N. said Wednesday it had also sent a senior team to the Caribbean nation to enforce the organization’s zero tolerance policy for misconduct. The team will meet with the leaders of Haiti’s U.N. mission as well as with Haitian authorities in an effort to show how seriously they take the allegations of sexual abuse.
More than 12,000 U.N. troops and police officers serve in Haiti, as part of a force created in 2004 to help stabilize the impoverished and politically volatile country. The U.N. increased the size of the force by a third last year after a devastating earthquake killed more than 220,000 people.
South American countries contributing troops to the Haiti mission have agreed to ask the Security Council to reduce the number of troops deployed there. Officials now believe conditions have improved enough to withdraw some of the additional troops, providing Haiti’s security is not comprised.
Haitian President Michel Martelly has condemned the apparent sexual assault. However, despite Wednesday’s protest, Martelly is not currently expected to ask that the entire force withdraw.