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Senior UN team heads to Haiti in wake of alleged sexual abuse by peacekeepers

14 September 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent a senior team to Haiti to enforce the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy on misconduct by its personnel following the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by Uruguayan members of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Caribbean nation.

The team, led by Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Banbury from the Department of Field Support, Military Adviser General Babacar Gaye and Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler, will meet with leaders of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to support all necessary measures that it is taking to enforce zero tolerance, spokesperson Martin Nesirky told a news briefing in New York.

It will also meet with the Haitian authorities to convey how seriously the UN and Mr. Ban himself take the allegations of misconduct and sexual abuse.

“The UN appreciates the swift response of the Government of Uruguay, including the investigation that is under way, and the Government’s stated commitment to taking all appropriate disciplinary and, if required, judicial measures following the investigation,” Mr. Nesirky said.

In an open letter yesterday, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative and MINUSTAH head Mariano Fernández underscored the zero-tolerance policy, noting that the mission immediately opened a preliminary investigation as soon as it received news of the alleged abuse, ordered the confinement in their barracks of the soldiers involved, and referred the case to the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN.

According to the agreements between the UN and the troop-contributing countries to peacekeeping missions, it is up to the authorities of those countries to shed light on such allegations. A Uruguayan team is currently in Haiti investigating the alleged attack.

“We are deeply outraged,” Mr. Fernández wrote. “Such acts are inexcusable, and they have tarnished the image of MINUSTAH. But the acts of a few should not also tarnish that of thousands of military, police, and civilian personal serving MINUSTAH and Haiti impeccably since 2004.”

The UN has a strategy to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse “which we intend to apply,” he added, referring to legal, medical and psychosocial aid should the allegations prove true.

The 12,000-strong MINUSTAH has been in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, and in his latest report, Mr. Ban calls for it to be extended for another year until 15 October 2012.

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