MINUSTAH Chief Open Letter on Zero Tolerance Policy on Abuse

Written by Mariano Fernandez

Thursday, 15 September 2011 16:15

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - The Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Mr. Mariano Fernandez, released a statement reiterating the "zero tolerance" policy of the mission regarding abuse.

We have been deeply shocked and saddened to learn, some ten days ago, that soldiers of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) would have had an abusive and degrading behavior against a young Haitian.

Since 2004, MINUSTAH has been working intensively with Haitian authorities to stabilize the country, strengthen its institutions and consolidate the Rule of law, and thus the economic and social rights of Haitian citizens.

The United Nations has a "Zero Tolerance" policy with regards to any breach from its staff of his obligations to observe the expected standards of conduct of an international civil servant. The absolute respect for the dignity and sovereignty of the host country and its people, traditions and culture are among these obligations.

As soon as we were informed that soldiers would have committed some serious abuses against a Haitian citizen in Port-Salut , we took drastic decisions.

We immediately opened a preliminary investigation to collect and preserve all elements and evidence relating to this incident.

At my request, my Force Commander immediately ordered the confinement in their barracks of the soldiers involved in this incident, to ensure that they could not exert any influence on the fact finding process.

Meanwhile, we immediately referred the case to the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations in New York. According to the agreements between the UN and the troop contributing countries to peacekeeping missions, it is up to the authorities of those countries and not to MINUSTAH to shed light on such allegations. An Uruguayan team of investigators arrived then in Haiti on 4 September and the investigation is ongoing.

We have also welcomed the humble and dignified letter of the President of Uruguay to President Martelly in which the former, on his behalf and that of Uruguay and its people, apologizes to the authorities and people of Haiti for the abuses committed by these soldiers. We also warmly welcomed the strong commitment and immediate action by the Minister of Defense of Uruguay in this regard as well as the decision of the Uruguayan Armed Forces to suspend of his functions the commander of the Naval Unit in Port-Salut, as a precautionary measure. We also appreciated the determination of the Uruguayan authorities to follow through the investigation of this incident and apply the maximum penalties in accordance with the acts and responsibilities of all soldiers involved.

For our part, we follow up with the home country of the suspects to ensure that, as the case may be, they are brought to justice and that appropriate sanctions are imposed.

The United Nations has also a strategy to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse which we intend to apply.

We are deeply outraged. 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.

Mariano Fernández
UN Special Representative of the Secretary General in Haiti
Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

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