Uruguay Apologizes to Haiti for Alleged Sexual Assault

Posted September 7th, 2011 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Uruguay's president has apologized to Haiti for the alleged sexual assault of a young man by Uruguayan peacekeepers.

In a letter sent late Tuesday, President Jose Mujica said his country would investigate the incident thoroughly, and impose the maximum penalties against anyone found responsible. He said Uruguayans were humiliated by the “criminal and embarrassing” behavior of a few soldiers.

The Uruguayan government dismissed a naval officer and recalled five of its soldiers after a video taken on a cell phone showed several Uruguayans taking part in what appeared to be an attack on the 18-year-old man.

President Mujica said in the letter he was also apologizing on behalf of Uruguay's armed services. Additionally, the letter was signed by Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro.

Haitian President Michel Martelly earlier this week “vigorously condemned” the apparent sexual assault, saying he is waiting for a detailed report of the incident. The United Nations and the Haitian courts are conducting investigations as well.

The young man in the video and his mother have testified before a Haitian magistrate.

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.

The relationship between the troops and Haitian public has at times been tense. Last year, there were protests after a cholera outbreak killed more than 6,000 people. Health investigators linked the outbreak to latrines in the camp of Nepalese troops.