The video of an alleged sexual attack on a Haitian teenager by United Nations peacekeepers from Uruguay went viral months ago it is everywhere.
Even so, finding the young man who claims to be the victim of the assault seemed like it would be a mammoth task for us in Haiti. This is not the kind of place where you can flip through a phone book or call an operator for help.
Haiti has no solid infrastructure, so I was more than a little surprised when my producer called and told me “We found him”.
Tracking down Johnny Jean took less than an hour, a testament to our local staff and a slap in the face for the Uruguayan investigators who claim they can not find him.
Without his testimony, they say, allegations against their soldiers will not be pursued. But that was not the end of the surprises.
Jean and his family live literally within walking distance of our hotel in Port-Au-Prince, a location regularly used by the UN and world media. He is living within earshot of global broadcasters.
When I walked into his family’s home we were given a warm welcome, but immediately I could tell Jean was still carrying the burden of what he claims happened to him at the hands of those who were brought to Haiti to bring stability and security.
A tall, lean young man, he constantly wrung his hands as he told me his story.
“My whole family is poor,” Jean said. “After it happened, I was thinking about it so much I couldn’t sleep.”
He was reluctant to get into the details of his claims, but his mother Rose-Marie told me the alleged attack has brought so much shame on her family that they were forced to leave their hometown of Port Salut.
Even now Jean is reluctant to leave the house, he told me, because everyone has seen the video he is taunted in the streets.
He also claims that no one has been in touch with him for months but he is more than willing to give testimony.
“What do you mean they say can’t find me? If they want to find me they can,” he said.
This, then, seems like a case that some would rather have dropped off the radar. The UN’s reputation here has already been shattered by a litany of allegations, including food-for-sex scandals and mistreatment of Haitians.
People here also blame the UN troops for introducing cholera, which has taken the lives of an estimated 7,000 Haitians.
Yet, given that Uruguyan President Jose Mujica has apologized for the alleged attacked against the teenager and promised the “harshest sanctions” against those responsible, there is now renewed pressure to pursue the case.
When we called the UN here in Port-Au-Prince, they told us they will now help “facilitate” contact between Jean and the Uruguayan authorities.
Still, none of this confusion or the seemingly sheer inadequacy of the Uruguayan authorities’ efforts is helping a family torn apart by an alleged attack that has outraged Haiti.
Ultimately, the people here want to see the UN peacekeepers live by the standards that they are supposed to embody.
For his part, Johnny Jean wants closure to an incident he says will haunt him for the rest of his life.