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U.N. investigates abuse claims against Haiti peacekeepers

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:13 PM EST, Mon January 23, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officers in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives have been relieved of duty, the U.N. says
  • No details of the allegations have been released
  • Complaints of sexual abuse have dogged the peacekeeping mission

(CNN) -- Several police officers serving with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti have been relieved of their duties after they were accused of sexually abusing minors, a spokesman said Monday.

The officers were serving with two different units in different cities -- an undisclosed number in Port-au-Prince and one in the northern city of Gonaives, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. The officers "have been removed from their duties to reduce any contact with the local population while the investigation is under way," he said.

No details of the allegations were released. The officers' home countries have been notified of the accusations, and an investigative team flew to Haiti over the weekend to begin the inquiry, Nesirky said.

Complaints about sexual abuse have dogged the U.N. mission in Haiti, known by the French acronym MINUSTAH, for some time. An October review found that at least 60 complaints had been leveled at members by that point in 2011.

Susana Malcorra, the U.N. undersecretary-general who released the report, said that figure was down from 2010. But she said the peacekeepers' record "continues to be clouded by serious acts of misconduct by a few individuals, including inexcusable acts of sexual exploitation and abuse that continue at an unacceptable rate."

Nearly 12,000 people are assigned to MINUSTAH, including about 3,500 police officers. The mission was set up 2004, when a revolt by street gangs and police drove then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.

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