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Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti investigated for alleged assault

By Rafael Romo, CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
Uruguayan Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro is investigating an alleged assault in Haiti.
Uruguayan Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro is investigating an alleged assault in Haiti.
  • A cell-phone video circulating in Haiti sparks an investigation
  • The video shows a man being held down on a mattress by several uniformed men
  • The Uruguayan government confirms it is investigating some of its troops in Haiti
  • The Uruguayan troops are in Haiti as United Nations peacekeepers

(CNN) -- The Uruguayan Ministry of Defense confirmed Sunday it has opened an investigation into an alleged assault in Haiti involving at least five Uruguayan troops deployed in the Caribbean nation as United Nations peacekeepers.

The investigation, which has expanded to include a U.N. inquiry, was sparked by a cell-phone video that began circulating in Port Salut, a coastal town in southern Haiti where Uruguayan navy troops were deployed.

The one-minute video, obtained by CNN, shows a young man with his shorts down being subdued by several men in military uniforms. The alleged victim is on a mattress, facing down, while several men hold his arms and hands behind his back. The uniformed men speak Spanish, but it is garbled on the tape and not understandable.

At the beginning of the video the alleged victim is slapped in the face. He screams several times while the alleged perpetrators laugh. The laughter grows louder as a seemingly naked man approaches the alleged victim from behind. The young man is subsequently released and the video ends. The video obtained by CNN does not show an actual sex act.

Uruguay peacekeepers face assault probe

Leonardo Galante, a spokesman with the Uruguayan defense ministry, confirmed to CNN that top Uruguayan military officials have already received two internal reports regarding the incident and are waiting for results of an investigation launched by the U.N.

U.N spokeswoman Soung Choi told CNN Sunday that "the U.N. is investigating the matter," but would not elaborate on preliminary results or actions to be taken by the international organization.

The Uruguayan defense ministry said in a statement: "Immediately after the existence of the video became known, the Armed Forces ordered an urgent investigation. ... The National Defense Ministry has relieved of his duties the Chief of the Naval Contingent and began the repatriation of the [Armed Forces] members from Haiti."

Galante confirmed that Uruguayan Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro has recalled to Uruguay the navy commander in charge of the troops being investigated.

The statement did not give a date for the alleged incident or further identify the alleged victim, but some news reports have said the incident occurred in July and the man in the video is 18 years old.

"The (Uruguayan) Navy does not allow nor will it allow," the defense ministry said, "that a few of its members, through these sort of unbecoming actions, erode the prestige and excellent relations with the local population [in Haiti], which have characterized the performance of the Armed Forces throughout its rich history on Peace Missions under U.N. Mandate."

According to the statement, those involved could face dishonorable discharge from the navy for unbecoming conduct and the loss of retirement rights.