Uruguay: UN Rape Case Opens in Montevideo

Posted on 11 May 2012.

Johnny Jean, a 19-year-old Haitian who claims to have been raped by Uruguayan sailors working for the UN, gave his testimony yesterday at a court in Montevideo.

Jean says that a group of Uruguayan sailors working for the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) sexually abused him last September in the UN military base, Port Salut. The defence team maintains that his accusations are “unsustainable”.

Accompanied by his mother, four lawyers – two from the United States, one from Uruguay and one from Haiti – and a psychologist, he made his statement in front of the judge Guido and the attorney Gómez.

After his testimony, he went on to identify four of the five sailors who had supposedly raped him. A large part of the prosecution’s case is based on a low-resolution video that allegedly shows the sailors violating Jean. The victim has undergone physical tests in Haiti which indicated that he had suffered anal penetration however similar tests carried out yesterday in Uruguay were inconclusive.

In an unrelated case, the five soldiers were tried and arrested by Uruguayan military police last year for a charge of disobedience and truancy.

“They ruined his life. They humiliated him and his life will never be the same,” Mike Pugliese, one of his North American lawyers said. “They used force on him and they are laughing. It’s terrible; I am an ex-policeman, I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years and I had never seen anything so brutal on a young man in my whole life. It turns my stomach.”

“You can see the rape in the video,” Edwin Merger, his other North American lawyer, who incidentally has been representing Haiti’s former dictator, Francois Duvalier, for years, said. “If you don’t realise what’s happening in this video, you’re not watching television.”

One of the defence lawyers, Gustavo Bordes, spoke to Uruguayan daily El País after the day’s proceedings and said that there were “clear and flagrant contradictions” and that the case was “unsustainable from every point of view.”

Protests against MINUSTAH

Johnny Jean and his family were met by his supporters outside the court as well as dozens of people who were protesting about the UN’s role in Haiti.

“The Haitian people live in misery and UN spends millions of dollars to keep occupation troops in Haiti,” a Haitian student living in Uruguay told El País.

His is an opinion is shared by many who believe the UN is doing more harm than good. “The Haitians say that the UN troops are only there to repress the people, a people that doesn’t accept the really miserable and exploitative situation in which they live,” Mónica Riet, the spokeswoman for the Coordination of the Removal of Troops from Haiti, told the BBC.

Jean, who arrived in Montevideo on Wednesday, is returning home today while the trial continues.


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