Four Uruguayan sailors have been detained on charges stemming from an alleged rape of a Haitian man while
they were serving in a UN peacekeeping force.

The Uruguayan justice department said on Monday that the men were charged with "private violence", defined under Uruguay's penal code as using "violence or threats to force someone to do, tolerate or allow something to be done" to them.

If convicted, they could be sentenced from three months to three years in prison.

The scandal erupted in September 2011 after cell phone video images circulated on the Internet purportedly showing the UN peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year-old, Jhony Jean, in the southern Haitian town of Port-Salut.

The charges brought against the four stop short of sexual assault, however.

Enrique Rodriguez, the prosecutor in the case, told the AFP news agency last month that the evidence did not support a finding of sexual assault, only of coercion.

Lawyers for the Uruguayans are considering whether to appeal immediately.

One of the attorneys, Gustavo Bordes, claimed that the Haitian man lied and fabricated allegations to try to seek civil damages.

The case prompted protests outside the Uruguayan base at Port-Salut to demand the withdrawal of the UN forces.

Deployed since June 2004 under Brazilian leadership, the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti includes troops from 18 countries, but most are from Latin America.

After the January 2010 earthquake, the force grew from some 9,000 troops to 12,250 but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the time has come to begin a gradual drawdown.

The alleged victim, Jean, was questioned in Montevideo in May by Judge Alejandro Guido, responsible for a civil investigation launched in September 2011 at the request of the Uruguayan defense ministry.

Source: Agencies