Several women with children fathered by peacekeepers say they will now pursue claims for support against the absentee fathers and the U.N.
The first time Rosa Mina Joseph met Julio Cesar Posse he was hanging out in civilian clothes on the beach in her hometown in southern Haiti, where he was stationed as a member of a U.N. peacekeeping force.
Within weeks, she says, the Uruguayan marine was showing up every weekend at her family’s shack, pledging his love in Spanish and broken Haitian Creole.
But about a year later when his rotation ended, Posse quietly returned home. He left behind Joseph, a broken-hearted 17-year-old with an infant and no way to support the child without depending on struggling relatives.
“He promised me he’d marry me and would take care of me,” Joseph, now 22, tearfully said in a recent interview at her mother’s house in Port Salut, a town along the southwestern tip of Haiti.
After years of mounting frustration, she and several other women with children fathered by peacekeepers say they will now pursue claims for child support against the absentee fathers and the U.N.
Haitian human rights attorney Mario Joseph said he will file civil suits in Haiti this month. Joseph’s law firm also is involved in a high-profile claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims who blame the U.N. for introducing the disease. A U.S. federal appeals panel in New York is weighing whether the lawsuit can proceed or if the United Nations is entitled to immunity.
The peacekeeping force was sent to Haiti in 2004 to keep order following a violent rebellion that toppled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Since then, some peacekeepers have been accused of rape and other abuse, of using excessive force and of inadvertently introducing cholera because of inadequate sanitation at a base used by troops from Nepal.
U.N. troops have been accused of sexual exploitation elsewhere as well, most recently in the Central African Republic, and “peacekeeper babies,” have long been a legacy of their deployments, as they have for other military forces throughout history.
Rosa Mina Joseph, whose son was born in 2011, said she received an envelope with $300 in cash from the U.N. two years ago when it established paternity. She had to drop out of school to care for the son and her dreams of becoming a nurse have all but vanished.
Posse sent her $100 once from Uruguay, she said, but has not sent anything more.
While Joseph was a minor at the time she gave birth, potential criminal charges against the marine would confront a difficult legal challenge: U.N. peacekeepers can’t be prosecuted in the countries in which they serve under international agreements.
The Associated Press does not typically identify sexual assault victims, but Joseph gave permission as long as a photo of her face was not published.
“I want him to take responsibility to care for his son because I don’t have the means by myself,” she said in the yard where she spends her days doing laundry and cooking.
The U.N. force in Haiti currently includes 4,899 uniformed personnel, a combination of military and civilian police, from more than a dozen countries. That’s down from over 13,000 peacekeepers following Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.
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SOURCE: David McFadden / AP