Haitians in this remote seaside town are demanding an investigation into allegations that United Nations peacekeeping troops pinned down an 18-year-old Haitian man and subjected him to a humiliating sexual assault.
The alleged assault occurred in July, but graphic cell phone video surfaced in recent days, showing what appears to be the four UN troops in camouflage and some wearing the trademark sky blue berets attacking the man. As the video began circulating through the coastal village, it sparked a growing sense of outrage there and prompted the victim's mother and father to seek criminal charges against the United Nations peacekeeping officers, who are from Uruguay. Both parents submitted written depositions on Wednesday in Port Salut's courthouse.
A medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and obtained by ABC News, alleges the victim was beaten and had sustained injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.
Word of the alleged attack quickly made its way up the chain of command at the United Nations, both in Haiti and in New York, where officials are now vowing to see the incident investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice. Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesperson for peacekeeping operations based in New York, told ABC News that officials in his office first became aware of the allegations Saturday. They sent a diplomatic note to the Uruguayan mission requesting the country deploy a national investigative officer to Haiti immediately.
"The defense minister of Uruguay has expressed deep concern and said they will take all the necessary action," Bonnardeaux said. "We see this as a breakdown of the command and control structure. If the allegations are proved, the assailants must be brought to justice."
Messages left Friday with the Uruguayan mission in New York were not returned.
Bonnardeaux said the troops involved in the incident have been confined to their barracks.
Under an agreement between Haiti and the U.N., peacekeeping troops are only subject to discipline and legal action from their country of origin. Uruguay has deployed 1,100 troops to the quake-battered island nation. Bonnardeaux said the primary purpose for the U.N. troops being in Haiti is to insure the protection of Haitian civilians.
But that is not what appears to be happening on the one-minute video, which pans out from a sideways close-up of the alleged victim's strained face to reveal his body being held down on a mattress by the uniformed men. The alleged assailants can be heard laughing as a shirtless soldier kneels behind the Haitian victim and appears to be assaulting him. The video ends as a soldier grabs the bedraggled young man's arm and seems to try pulling him onto his feet.
Interviewed by a reporter at the courthouse, the young man said he was snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base. He alleged he was beaten and sexually molested. "They're bad people -- vagabonds," he said. The young man's mother, a street merchant, held up a pair of black pants to show they were torn. She said it was not until the video surfaced that she discovered what had happened.
"He had stayed in his bed during about two weeks but he never told me what was wrong with him," she said. "We're humiliated ... After I saw the video, I couldn't stop crying."
Uruguayan Navy Lieutenant Nicolas Casariego confirmed to ABC News that the video is real. He spoke through the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the base where the alleged incident took place.