[News] Eyewitnesses Describe Massacre by UN Troops in Haitian Slum

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Mon Jul 11 19:05:33 EDT 2005


Monday, July 11th, 2005
Eyewitnesses Describe Massacre by UN Troops in Haitian Slum



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In Haiti, UN troops launched a pre-dawn raid on Cite Soleil, one of the 
most economically-depressed neighborhoods of Port au Prince. Local 
residents say it might have been the deadliest attack carried out by UN 
troops since they were stationed in the country last year. [includes rush 
transcript]

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On Saturday hundreds of Haitians gatherer for the funeral of Emmanuel 
"Dread" Wilme -- a popular community leader who lives in Cite Soleil, one 
of the most economically-depressed neighborhoods of Port au Prince. Wilme 
was killed last Wednesday when UN troops attacked the neighborhood in a 
pre-dawn raid.

Although the raid has received little attention, local residents say it 
might have been the deadliest attack carried out by UN troops since they 
were stationed in the country last year.

According to residents the UN troops entered the area at about three in the 
morning and opened fire. Eyewitnesses reported the UN troops used 
helicopters, tanks, machine guns and tear gas in the operation. The UN has 
admitted that its troops killed at least five people. UN military spokesman 
Colonel Elouafi Boulbars told Agence France Presse, "The bandits tried to 
fight our men. They suffered serious losses and we found five bodies in 
what was left of a house." Local residents put the figure at no less than 
20. Some estimates are even higher. Witnesses said innocent civilians were 
among the victims.

    * Witnesses in Cite Soleil describe the UN raid.

Another local resident lost her husband in the raid. She described what 
happened on Wednesday.

    * Cite Soleil resident describes her husband's death.

The United Nations has defended the operation by describing it as a 
necessary move to wipe out violent gang activity. Both the United Nations 
and the interim Haitian government have described the slain Dread Wilme as 
one of the country's top gang leaders. Cite Soleil is comprised largely of 
supporters of the Lavalas Party and ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand 
Aristide who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup 18 months ago. To local 
residents Dread Wilme was a community leader and the attacks were seen as 
politically motivated.

    * Cite Soleil residents talk about Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme.

We are joined in our studio by Seth Donnelly. He visited Cite Soleil hours 
after the killings and interviewed survivors. On Saturday he attended Dread 
Wilme's funeral. Seth Donnelly was in Haiti as part of a human rights 
delegation sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council.

    * Seth Donnelly, <http://www.sflaborcouncil.org>San Francisco Labor 
Council.

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT



AMY GOODMAN: Witnesses said innocent civilians were among the victims.

RESIDENT OF CITE SOLEIL: A lot of innocent civilians were killed and there 
are even some people that they kill and just take them with them. One of 
the worst things that happened is that they killed like a mom with two of 
her children, and they are still -- the bodies are still there.

AMY GOODMAN: Another local resident lost her husband in the raid. She 
described what happened on Wednesday.

RESIDENT OF CITE SOLEIL: I'm working at night, so when I was back in the 
morning, so at noon when I was back from my work, I found him just in his 
blood. He was the only one here. And my three children are in the 
countryside because I have them in countryside. And he is a very old guy. 
So they just get inside and pulled him out under the bed and killed him.

AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations has defended the operation by describing it 
as a necessary move to wipe out violent gang activity. Both the United 
Nations and the interim Haitian government have described the slain Dread 
Wilme as one of the countries top gang leaders. Cite Soleil is comprised 
largely of supporters of Lavalas and ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide overthrown in the coup 18 months ago, February 29, 2004, the 
President, Aristide, has described as a U.S.-supported coup. He said he was 
kidnapped in the service of a coup backed by the United States. To local 
residents, Dread Wilme of Cite Soleil was a community leader. The attacks 
were seen as politically motivated.

RESIDENT OF CITE SOLEIL: So Dread Wilme grew up with us. So, Dread Wilme is 
one of the guys who grow up in the community and who wanted to work for 
peace, who wanted to have, like, an improvement for the community, and he 
had, like -- he had developed a good relationship with all the people in 
the neighborhood as a professional. So Dread Wilme was a protector for us; 
he was like our dad. So they keep saying that Dread Wilme was like a gang 
and he was involved in the killings, but we never see this. We in the 
community, we have seen him as a peaceful guy but never as someone who was 
involved in killings of people. So, we want to say thank you to [inaudible] 
because he was the one who make this happen.

AMY GOODMAN: We are now joined in our studio by Seth Donnelly, who went to 
Cite Soleil a day after the killings last Wednesday. He interviewed 
survivors. On Saturday, he attended Dread Wilme's funeral. Seth Donnelly 
was in Haiti as part of a human rights delegation that was sponsored by the 
San Francisco Labor Council. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

SETH DONNELLY: It is good to be here. Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about what you learned, what you understand 
happened, what is the U.N.'s version of events. We tried to get the U.N. 
on. They did not respond to our calls.

SETH DONNELLY: Yeah. I'd like to start with the official version, and then 
we'll look at what the evidence of the massacre that contradicts the 
official version. I interviewed the top military command of the U.N. on 
Friday, July 8, with some Haitian colleagues, human rights workers. And 
Lieutenant General Augusto Heleno and Colonel Morano claimed that the 
operation was a success. They did state that about 300 U.N. troops led by a 
Jordanian contingent, surrounded Cite Soleil, which as you mentioned is one 
of the largest ghettos in Port-au-Prince. It’s one of the poorest 
neighborhoods in the world. And it has, even before this operation, it has 
been sealed off. According to locals, the U.N. had put shipping freight 
containers blocking various entrances into the community because it's been 
a hotbed of support for President Aristide. It is a Lavalas base of 
support, and there has been ongoing conflicts with U.N. and police in that 
community. So, the community was already relatively sealed off. But then 
the 300 troops came around 3:00 a.m. July 6, and then also according to 
U.N. high military command, they had 18 to 20 armed personal - armored 
personal carriers, which are basically like tanks without treads. They have 
cannons. And they had those choking off entrances and exits to and from the 
ghetto.

And then around 5:00 a.m., they launched the attack. They tried to locate 
Dread Wilme and capture him. They claimed he was killed. The community is 
acknowledging that he was killed. But the top level military command said 
they were unaware of any civilian casualties during the operation. So that 
was sort of – and they also mentioned that there was a helicopter that flew 
3,000 feet overhead just for observation purposes, but it did not shoot 
down into the community.

What we found actually when we went into the community the day after the 
operation was widespread evidence that the troops had carried out a 
massacre. We found homes, which when we say homes, we are talking basically 
shacks of wood and tin, in many cases, riddled with machine gun blasts as 
well as tank fire. The holes in a lot of these homes were too large just to 
be bullets. They must have been tank-type shells penetrating the homes. We 
saw a church and a school completely riddled with machine gun blasts. And 
then the community came out.

Once we had passed through, and we were -- the community understood who we 
were, women, children, old and young, came out en masse and started to give 
us their testimony. They clearly were not being coerced by (quote/unquote) 
“gang leaders” or “gang elements.” They took us into their homes. They 
showed us bodies that still remained. They gave us very emotional 
testimony. People were hysterical still. And they all claimed that the U.N. 
forces had fired into their homes, had fired into their community, and 
people were saying at a minimum 20, if not more, people were killed.

Then there's a Haitian human rights worker who was actually on the scene 
when the operation occurred and has video footage that unfortunately we 
cannot yet release, but there is a plan at some point for that to be 
released to the public, that shows people being killed during the operation 
quite graphically.

Thirdly, we went to the local hospital that serves people from Cite Soleil. 
There's one hospital in Port-au-Prince, it's Medicine Without Borders, that 
doesn't charge a fee so very poor people can go to that hospital. And we 
asked them if they would share with us their records, which they did. And 
we got the impression that nobody from the U.N. had spoken to them. Perhaps 
they did but we felt like we were the first human rights workers making 
contact with the hospital after the operation. And sure enough, their 
records show an influx of civilian casualties. Starting at 11:00 a.m July 
6, there is 26 people alone from Cite Soleil that came in suffering mostly 
from gunshot wounds. Out of that 26, 20 were women and children. One 
pregnant woman lost her child. And 50% of those 26 people had serious 
gunshot wounds to the stomach and had to go into major surgery right away.

Now, if the U.N. was committed to finding out the (quote/unquote) 
“collateral damage” of their operation, they would simply need to make a 
phone call or do what we did, which was to go to the one hospital in 
Port-au-Prince that serves the people of Cite Soleil or they could have 
spoken to the Red Cross in Cite Soleil, which admitted that they had 
transported 15 people out of there on tap-taps into the hospital. So the 
other --

AMY GOODMAN: Those are local buses? Local buses, tap-taps?

SETH DONNELLY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What did the U.N. military commander say when you were 
questioning him about your -- the eyewitness accounts that you heard?

SETH DONNELLY: Well, the Lieutenant General Augusto Heleno initially 
challenged us, our delegation, as to why were we concerned about the rights 
of the (quote/unquote) “outlaws,” the term that he used, and not the 
(quote/unquote) “legal force.” He seemed to write off community testimony 
as being part of community hostility and part of these (quote/unquote) 
“gang attacks” on U.N. forces. In that sense, I felt like he was sort of -- 
the subtext of what he was saying was that the community itself was an 
outlaw community, that the gang would presumably include all of these folks 
that came out to talk to us. Another -- the other military commander 
present suggested that some of the bodies that were shown to us were 
actually killed by (quote/unquote) “gangs,” and that we should try to have 
ballistics tests done on the bodies. I would be all for having ballistics 
tests done on those bodies, as well as getting more comprehensive forensic 
evidence from medical professionals.

AMY GOODMAN: Seth, you were also at the funeral of Dread Wilme on Saturday. 
Fears that there would be another U.N. attack?

SETH DONNELLY: Yeah. Hundreds turned out. Inside of Cite Soleil, I kept 
feeling like we were – it was sort of like a South African township during 
the apartheid days, cut off. And hundreds of people came out for this 
funeral. The way the community spoke about Dread Wilme – again, not just 
youth who, you know, often worked with Dread Wilme, but also the entire 
community, women and children, referred to him as a father figure or a 
protector. But there was twice during this funeral service where a rumor 
hit the crowd that U.N. troops were coming back. There was U.N. -- some 
APCs in the distance in Cite Soleil holding off checkpoints. And twice the 
rumor hit that they were about to roll on the crowd, and people fled in 
terror, including myself. It was a stampede running with the crowd, because 
you didn't know what was going to happen. That also was an indicator that 
something was very -- when you have hundreds of people fleeing in terror, 
it would indicate that something very wrong happened on July 6.

AMY GOODMAN: You're saying a lot of the eyewitnesses saw this as a 
political attack, Cite Soleil, long seen as a stronghold --

SETH DONNELLY: Oh, absolutely, the community is highly politicized, it is 
highly -- the community views itself locked in a long-term struggle for the 
restoration of President Aristide and for the removal of occupation forces 
from Haiti, and it views -- people view these attacks as part of the 
ongoing post-coup war on the poor majority that is occurring in Haiti, 
which, by the way, our delegation outside of this event in Cite Soleil 
found comprehensive evidence of an ongoing war on the poor majority on 
different levels that is being conducted by the coup regime itself, the 
interim government of Latortue

AMY GOODMAN: In other news from Haiti, paramilitary leader, Guy Philippe 
announced last week he plans to run in the upcoming Haitian presidential 
elections. Last year, he played a key role in the ouster of Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide, the president. Philippe, a former police chief who was trained by 
U.S. special forces in Ecuador in the late 1990s, involved with and has 
been accused of the masterminding of deadly attacks in Haiti. We're talking 
to Seth Donnelly. Last comments, Seth, as we wrap up right now about the 
significance of what happened in Cite Soleil last Wednesday.

SETH DONNELLY: Right, I certainly want to say that it’s one thing to 
describe this in words, but when a person actually enters Cite Soleil, and 
you see the open sewage streams, you see the shacks that -- how people are 
living, and then you think about 18 to 20 armored personnel carriers with 
tank-type cannons and you think about 300 troops with machine guns and a 
helicopter, by the way, which community people are saying fired down on 
them, and we did see what appears to be bullet holes in the roofs. It seems 
to me that this really was a Warsaw Ghetto-type attack on an impoverished 
community. And I do think this is emblematic of the ongoing war on the poor 
majority that is occurring in Haiti today, and it requires people in the 
United States to stand in solidarity with the people of Cite Soleil.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. has not sent military weapons to Haiti under the 
democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but was documented sending 
hundreds, if not a thousand rifles under the leadership, if you could call 
it that, of Latortue.

SETH DONNELLY: Sure, and then they froze aid to Aristide, but now the 
Latortue government is, you know, receiving all sorts of money from the 
U.S. Then you have the -- you have the issue with what is the U.N. role 
here. The U.N. role, they’re in all of the very -- they're in fancy 
bourgeois hotels. They drive around in these fancy SUVs. they have 
resources but I don't see schools being built. I think it could arguably be 
stated that Cuban doctors sent by the Cuban government have done more for 
the people of Haiti than the entire administer of the U.N. mission in Haiti 
since the coup.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Seth 
Donnelly a member of the U.S. labor human rights delegation who has just 
returned from Haiti, reporting to us on what happened last Wednesday, a 
pre-raid dawn by U.N. forces in a very poor area of Port-au-Prince, the 
capital of Haiti, Cite Soleil, long seen as a Lavalas stronghold, 
stronghold of the supporters of the democratically-elected president, 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It looks like at least 20 dead, according to the 
reports on the ground.

SETH DONNELLY: Estimates from the community are getting much higher. Yeah. 
The person who was on the scene has given the estimate of 30, at least 25 
confirmed dead as he sees it.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Seth, as we wrap up the show. 
Thank you.


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