Haiti (Sputnik) – They were deployed by the UN to “restore a secure and stable environment” in Haiti, one of poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. However, what they actually did only added to the sufferings of Haitian young women, who revealed their stories to Sputnik Brazil.
She doesn’t have stand-out hair and wears only simple clothes. And while Martine Gestimé goes unnoticed in a crowd of people in the capital of Port-au-Prince, she has a shocking story to tell. For the first time, a young Haitian woman has decided to reveal how she was sexually abused by a Brazilian serviceman. Martine told Sputnik Brazil how it all happened ten years ago, in June of 2007.
The Haitian woman studied at a school near Cité Soleil, one of the extremely impoverished and densely populated slums in the Western Hemisphere. She had been starving for days. One afternoon, she was approached by an interpreter for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Franco. He translated what one of Brazilian peacekeepers wanted to tell her: he complimented her for her commitment to her studies and said that “learning was the only way to change her life.”
He had strikingly pale skin, dark hair and light-colored eyes. He praised me for my beauty,” the girl told Sputnik.
The servicemen started meeting her every time she finished her classes and soon invited her to his military base, promising to give her a pack of cookies. As she had not eaten all day, she eagerly left her school books at home and went for the promised treat.
Martine recalls that the serviceman asked her to wait in a room at the entrance. He soon returned without any food, locked the door and raped her. She kept it secret out of shame until she realized that she was pregnant. Her friend suggested an abortion and they covertly saved 1,000 Haitian gourdes ($15.5) from the money they were given for food.
The sum was barely a half of what was needed for the abortion medicine illegally sold in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
“My mother saw that I was not feeling well and realized that I was pregnant. She ordered me find the father of my child, but I was unable to confess that I was raped. She always thought that studying at the school was too dangerous. She would have blamed me,” she says.
Martine tried to find Franco, the interpreter, without success.
“Over and over again, I went to bed in tears praying to God to kill either me or the baby as I did not have any money to bring him up,” she confessed to Sputnik.
The baby boy, whom she called Ashford Gestimé, was born on April 8, 2008. Her mother had been constantly humiliating her and Martine was forced to send the boy to live with her brother in Delmas commune of Port-au-Prince. The boy is still convinced that his uncle is his real father.
Martine now lives in a three-square-meter room together with her aunt Jacqueline Louidor, her friend and her child. All of them sleep on one double bed. They have no windows and no bathroom and huge dumps at their doorstep.
“If I could find that man, I would have asked him to help my son to get an education. I would not have forgiven him, but Ashford’s life would have probably been better than mine,” the young woman said, adding that she would have definitely recognize the abuser.
In its comment to Sputnik Brazil, the Brazilian Defense Ministry responded that it knows nothing about Martine’s case. The website however turned to archives to find out who was in Haiti in June of 2007. It turned out that the military contingent on the base at that time swapped every week and there are no personnel records showing which servicemen stayed at any particular time.
Sputnik only managed to verify that it was servicemen of the 6th Motorized Infantry Brigade stationed at Santa Maria, Rio Grande doSul. There was no data about Franco, the interpreter.
The ministry replied to Sputnik that “according to the records of the UN Conduct and Discipline Unit, there had been no reported complaints over similar crimes of Brazil servicemen.”
It also noted that it should be a “reason for pride” that there had been no reports of any misconduct by Brazilian servicemen and if there were any occurrences involving Brazilian military personnel, such as an allegation of rape, it should had been reported to investigators, who would have looked into it to verify the facts.
The UN did not comment to Sputnik on any investigations into other reported cases of rape by Brazilian servicemen.
Only One Haitian Woman Received Compensation for Rape in 10 Years
The UN has always voiced a zero tolerance policy towards the sexual abuse committed by its peacekeepers. However more and more victims are now openly reporting sex crimes.
According to the statistics of Haitian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, there have been over 500 cases of sexual abuse on the country’s territory, which were not originally reported out of fear or shame.
Out of all the cases, 34 have been verified, but out of these 34 abusers only 11 ended up in jail and only one woman received compensation of any kind.
Jacquendia Cangé was raped by a Nigerian UN police officer. She made a report to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Unlike other victims, she knew the name and staff number of her abuser. She left the department with the promise to thoroughly investigate the issue but was never called back.
Sputnik Brazil has contacted the press service of the department in New York and got the response that Nigeria’s General Staff had been informed about the case of sexual abuse in September 2014. The case has not been investigated yet, although the department, together with the General Staff, continues to monitor the investigation.
“I don’t want to hear anything about this man. I was not praying to God to send me a daughter, but He had sent her to me and I will care for her. I don’t want the help of this man,” Jacquendia told Sputnik. She is getting ready to move to Sao Paulo to live with her brother.
It should be noted that the UN has taken a very tough stance on the reported cases of child sexual abuse committed by United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Its resolution 2.272/2016 bans the countries which refuse to investigate such cases from further peacekeeping missions. If even one reported case is ignored, the country could be forced to fully replace its contingent.
This report prepared by Sputnik