UN forces in Haiti go by the French acronym “MINUSTAH”: United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. After speaking with freelance journalists and social workers in Haiti over the last year we've heard multiple reports that there are MINUSTAH soldiers and police officers sexually abusing and raping Haitian women and teens.
Some of these women are apparently then giving birth to babies with a lighter skin color. These kids are commonly referred to as "MINUSTAH babies." The UN soldiers responsible for the abuse are either not held accountable or are repatriated to their home countries where they are rarely punished and the women are left with a living, breathing scarlet letter.
We will focus our investigation on the areas where these reports have originated, including the Cité Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, and the southern coastal town of Port- Salut. By shooting interviews with the mothers of MINUSTAH babies, their children (when appropriate), ex-patriot witnesses, human rights attorneys, tent camp leaders, and doctors, among others, we aim to paint a full picture of the situation. Our goal is to interview UN military and police units who come from all different countries, including Brazil, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Canada, among others.
This is a very sensitive story and not an easy one to tell as there are many gray areas. We will investigate whether these sexual encounters are rape, statutory rape, sexual abuse, exploitation, prostitution and/or abuse of power.
UN forces were sent to Haiti in 2004 to secure the environment and prevent human rights abuses, and it seems as though some of these MINUSTAH troops are taking advantage of their position of power. We believe this issue demands attention. It speaks to a broader culture of accountability and discipline within the UN peacekeeping forces globally. These troops do important and tedious work in countries around the world, but they are not exempt from a code of conduct.
WHY WE NEED YOU
Our team needs your help to fund our investigation in Haiti. What will the money be used for specifically? Travel, lodging, transportation, hiring a translator/fixer, security, film and sound equipment rental, post-production, processing fees. It will also cover interviews with victims who have since left Haiti, human rights lawyers in the US, and other relevant sources outside of Haiti. Depending on the extent of what we uncover, we aim to submit to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and other relevant distribution platforms.
ABOUT THE TEAM
GIANNA TOBONI is an Emmy-nominated television producer who has covered top news stories across the United States and overseas. Some of these stories include the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, the 2011 Somali pirate hostage rescue and the traumatic Joplin, Missouri tornadoes. Gianna is an on-camera contributor for KatieCouric.com and formerly for ABCNews.com.
KELLY MCGEE is the studio manager and producer at Gordon von Steiner Studio + Naakt House Productions, coordinating commercial and editorial photo and film projects. She also consults on script development for independent feature films, produces music videos and short films.
MAGGIE GILBRIDE is a graduate of NYU film school where she majored in producing. She currently works in production at ABC in New York. Maggie produced over 30 short narrative and documentary projects, and served on the production team of a documentary on Attica State Prison.
JUSTIN LEVINE is a cinematographer with years of experience in the studio and in the field. He has been around the world shooting documentaries and narrative productions. Justin has won national film festival recognition for his documentary camerawork and cinematography. He currently shoots documentary content for Beyoncé and behind the scenes content for the Mrs. Carter World Tour.
ANSEL HERZ is a freelance journalist who reports regularly from Haiti and speaks Haitian Creole. His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, Al Jazeera English and Seattle Globalist, among other media outlets. Ansel is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. Ansel uncovered the infamous video of four Uruguayan MINUSTAH soldiers brutally raping a teenage Haitian boy in July 2011.
Risks and challenges
Our first priority is the safety and health of the women we interview in Haiti.
We are aware it will be a challenge to get victims of gender-based violence to speak openly on camera and potentially accuse their protectors of a crime, some of whom may still be in a position of authority in their neighborhood. We will never share their story without their consent, and Gianna has experience interviewing people who have been traumatized. We are working closely with Haitian citizen journalists and camp leaders who are very aware of the situation and the people affected by it. We understand there is a risk involved for the women speaking out and we plan to offer anonymity when appropriate. Ultimately, we want to tell their stories to give them a voice and a means to improve their circumstances.
- (21 days)