September 15, 2011
Port-au-Prince (Reuters) – Haitian police on Wednesday clashed with demonstrators who demanded the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers in a protest against the alleged rape of a local man by a group of Uruguayan Marines.
Police in the capital Port-au-Prince used teargas to stop about 300 protesters from entering a square in front of the damaged presidential palace where survivors of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake are still sheltering in a tent and tarpaulin camp.
Traffic was disrupted as pedestrians and camp dwellers, many clutching small children, fled to escape the swirling teargas. Some demonstrators hurled stones at police officers.
The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has faced a public outcry since the emergence earlier this month of a video shot by a cellphone camera that shows laughing Uruguayan Marines pinning a young Haitian man face down on a mattress and apparently assaulting him sexually.
In the latest incident to besmirch the reputation of the more than 12 000-strong UN peacekeeping force in the poor Caribbean state, four Uruguayan troops suspected of being involved in the July 28 assault have been detained and are facing court-martial. The alleged victim has testified to a Haitian judge that he was raped.
Yelling “MINUSTAH has to go” and “Rapists”, the demonstrators marched through streets of the earthquake-scarred capital. Some carried anti-UN banners, one of which called the UN peacekeepers in Haiti an “occupation” force.
The police moved to stop the protesters from entering the Champs de Mars square in front of the palace as the government has prohibited public demonstrations from being held there.
MINUSTAH has launched an inquiry into the July incident, saying this will determine if a rape actually occurred.
Uruguay has formally apologised to Haiti and condemned the actions of the accused soldiers as “aberrations”. – Reuters
14 September 2011
BBC: “Haiti police battle anti-UN protesters”
Police in Haiti have used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding the withdrawal of UN peace-keeping troops from the country.
The clashes happened outside the presidential palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The protests were triggered by allegations that UN troops from Uruguay raped a Haitian man.
UN peacekeepers from Nepal have also been blamed for starting a deadly cholera epidemic last year.
Chanting “rapists” and “Minustah (the UN force) must go,” about 300 protesters marched on the presidential palace.
Some threw rocks at riot police who responded with tear gas.
Fleeing protesters disrupted a nearby camp for people made homeless by last year’s huge earthquake.
ControversyThe UN peacekeeping force was first deployed in Haiti in 2004 to restore order following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Its mandate was extended after the devastating earthquake in January 2010, and its strength was increased to around 12,000.
Minustah has helped post-earthquake recovery efforts and supervised this year’s presidential election.
But it has also drawn controversy, including allegations of excessive use of force.
Some Haitians regard it as an occupying force.
Its reputation was particularly damaged by last year’s cholera epidemic, which is thought to have been caused by sewage from a camp housing peacekeepers from Nepal.
Earlier this month the emergence of a video showing Uruguayan marines apparently abusing an 18-year-old Haitian man provoked widespread anger.
Uruguay has apologised for the alleged rape, and a full investigation is under way.
Haitian President Michel Martelly is expected to ask for a renewal of the UN mission’s mandate, which expires next month.
But he has said he wants the Minustah’s security role reduced and eventually replaced by a Haitian force.
South American nations – which contribute about half the peacekeeping force – have also said they want to reduce its size to pre-earthquake levels.