What Happened to Gerald Jean Gilles?

September 21, 2010

September 14, São Paulo based Brasil de Fato reported on the death of 16 year old Gerald Jean Gilles. The paper reports that the death may have been caused by MINUSTAH soldiers in the city of Cap-Haïtien. Thalles Gomes writes for Brasil de Fato (translated by lo-de-alla.org):

“They are suffocating me,” was the cry heard on August 17 by employees of the Henri Cristophe Hotel, in Cap-Haïtien, capital of the Nord department of Haiti. The call for help came from the Formed Police Units base belonging to MINUSTAH, the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti. On that same day, Nepalese United Nations soldiers reported that Haitian Gerald Jean Gilles had entered their military base and had hanged himself.

The report issued by the UN did not explain how the young Gerald had managed to get into the military base, tie a rope on the patio and hang himself without any soldiers noticing.

Their version is contested vehemently by Gerald’s family and friends. According to them, the young man had been doing odd jobs for the Nepalese soldiers for some time in exchange for money or food. And the suspicion that Gerald had stolen 200 dollars from one of the soldiers was the reason the Nepalese soldiers tortured and suffocated him to death.

In fact, the real reason for the death of Gerald Jean Gilles is still undetermined. That is because MINUSTAH only released the young man’s body for autopsy more than 72 hours after his death, which could have changed the results of the forensic investigation. Death by suicide, meanwhile, has been ruled out since none of the victim’s cervical vertebrae were damaged.

This is not the first time Nepalese UN troops have been accused of misdeeds and abuses of authority. Several days before Gerald’s death, the local press reported charges that a Nepalese soldier had detained and tortured a minor openly in a public square in Cap-Haïtien, to the extent of “forcing his hands into the youth’s mouth in an attempt to separate his lower jaw from his upper jaw, tearing the skin of his mouth.” In 2008, the rape of an adolescent Haitian girl by soldiers from the Nepalese unit had international repercusions. After an internal investigation the UN declared that it would punish and remove the guilty parties.

To read the complete article, click here (or here for the original). For more background on past abuses by MINUSTAH soliders, click here.

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