Haiti: did UN “peacekeepers” kill a teenager?

Students at the Faculty of Ethnology at the State University of Haiti (UEH) in downtown Port-au-Prince said on Sept. 4 that they are planning to file complaints with international agencies about a May 24 incident involving soldiers from the 9,000-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The soldiers invaded the campus and arrested a student, Frantz Mathieu Junior, for allegedly throwing rocks. MINUSTAH released the student the same day, and the force’s acting head, Edmond Mulet, apologized on May 25, but the students asked why more than three months later no soldiers have been disciplined. Various groups are planning a demonstration against the UN force on Oct. 15, the date on which the UN Security Council is expected to renew MINUSTAH’s mandate for another year.

MINUSTAH was one of the targets of a demonstration by hundreds of people in Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien in the north, on the weekend of Aug. 21. In addition to accusing the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of partiality in the upcoming Nov. 28 general elections, the protesters raised suspicions that MINUSTAH elements were responsible for the death of 16-year-old Gérald Jean Gilles, whose body was found inside MINUSTAH’s Formed Police Units (FPU) base in Cap-Haïtien on Aug. 17.

MINUSTAH spokespeople said the youth, who did odd jobs for the Nepalese soldiers at the base in exchange for food and money, had hanged himself. But people who live near the base reportedly saw a soldier assaulting Gilles, and officials at the nearby Roi Henri Christophe hotel they had heard someone shouting: “They’re strangling me.” Senate president Kélly Bastien has demanded a thorough investigation of the case.

MINUSTAH units have been charged with serious crimes in the past, including a case involving statutory rape of a teenage girl by members of a Nepalese unit. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, Aug. 23; Adital, Brazil, Sept. 2; Caraib Creole News, Guadeloupe, Sept. 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 5.

See our last post on Haiti.