The United Nations announced yesterday that it is investigating two cases of sexual exploitation of children allegedly committed by UN police personnel in Haiti. One case involves the UN Police (UNPOL) in Port-au-Prince, while the other implicates one or more members of the Formed Police Unit (FPU) in the northern city of Gonaives.
UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) alerted UN headquarters of the allegations last week. “The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously,” said Nesirky in a statement. The UN has not disclosed the nationalities of the police officers in question, but confirmed that they have been removed from duty while under investigation.
Since peacekeepers first arrived in Haiti 2004 to restore order following the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the UN has had a sometimes tense relationship with the local population. Last September, five Uruguayan peacekeepers were recalled after being accused of sexually abusing a Haitian man at a UN base, while recording the incident on a cellphone. Four months earlier, an independent UN panel concluded that the Cholera epidemic that infected 344,000 Haitians and killed over 6,000 likely originated from poor sanitation by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed in Mirebalais. Both incidents resulted in protests and clashes between protesters and UN and Haitian police.
In an effort to ebb anti-UN sentiment in Haiti, the Security Council decided last October to withdraw 3,000 troops from the Caribbean nation, returning the force to pre-earthquake levels. Still, President Michel Martelly maintains that UN troops are a necessary presence in Haiti until the country’s police force—or a new military—can ensure security.