Haitian who alleges abuse testifies in Uruguay
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — A 19-year-old Haitian man who has accused six former U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay of sexually abusing him in the poor Caribbean country presented evidence to a judge Thursday, and authorities now have two months to decide whether the case merits a trial.
During a closed-door hearing in Uruguay's capital, the Haitian identified the suspects, answered questions from the judge and received a medical examination, court spokesman Raul Oxandabarat said.
"It's not a penal trial but an inquiry to investigate alleged rape of this young man in Haiti," the spokesman said.
The man, whose case has further inflamed Haitian opposition to the continued presence of a U.N. peacekeeping force, entered the courtroom in the afternoon.
Oxandabarat said the accuser pointed out his alleged attackers. "There was a recognition (when) the marines filed by and he looked at them through a peephole," the spokesman said.
This "ends the evidence-gathering stage, and the judge has to pass the case to the prosecutor, who will determine whether the marines should be held accountable in the case, and for what crimes," Oxandabarat said.
He said the prosecutor would have 20 days to reach a conclusion about the evidence, and the judge would then have about 45 days to decide whether to proceed with a trial.
The young man arrived in Uruguay on Wednesday, accompanied by his mother, two lawyers and a Haitian foreign ministry official. The AP is not identifying the man by name because of the sexual nature of the charges.
Last year, the man alleged that he was sexually abused at a U.N. base by six Uruguayan marines who were serving in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. One of the peacekeepers recorded the rowdy scene on a cellphone, showing the accuser being pinned down on a mattress as a partially clothed marine simulated rape.
The suspects and their lawyer initially called it a prank that got out of hand, angering many Haitians who already had been demanding a departure by all U.N. peacekeepers.
In a preliminary investigation, the United Nations and Uruguay's navy determined that the man was not raped, but said peacekeepers broke rules.
The marines were sent back to Uruguay after the incident to Uruguay and held in prison for several months. They were released in late 2011 pending the investigation and a military trial.
Gen. Julio Halty, president of Uruguay's Supreme Military Tribunal, told the AP on Wednesday that the Haitian accuser would not be questioned by a military court. He had said earlier that if the marines were convicted by the military court and sentenced to more jail time than they already served, they would go back behind bars.
The 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti was established by the U.N. Security Council in 2004 to provide stability after a rebellion forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of office and into exile.
The U.N. force is unpopular with many Haitians. A cholera outbreak in October 2010 that was likely introduced by a battalion from Nepal further infuriated critics, touching off riots against the peacekeeping contingent. The cholera outbreak has killed more than 6,200 people since it surfaced, Haiti's Health Ministry says.