[News] Haiti - Summary of Findings of Massacre by UN forces

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 14 08:55:54 EDT 2005


Growing Evidence of a Massacre by UN Occupation Forces in Port-au-Prince 
Neighborhood of Cite Soleil



A Summary of Findings of the US Labor and Human Rights Delegation to Haiti
July 12th, 2005

Contact: Seth Donnelly ph:650-814-8495 sethdonnelly2000 at yahoo.com

Background Information:

The San Francisco Labor Council sent a small delegation of US trade 
unionists and human rights workers to participate in the National Congress 
of the Confederation of Haitian Workers, held in Port-au-Prince July 1st 
and 2nd, as well as to investigate the labor and human rights conditions in 
Haiti. Toward the end of our mission, on July 6th, we received an 
eyewitness report from local Haitian human rights workers that UN military 
forces had carried out a massacre in one of Port-au-Prince's poorest 
neighborhoods, Cite Soleil. We extended our trip to investigate the report.

Extending up from the capital's port, Cite Soleil is a vast ghetto -- 
reminiscent of the "townships" in South Africa under apartheid -- of tin 
shacks, unpaved roads, open sewage streams, lack of stable electricity and 
plumbing, as well as widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, and disease. It 
is also a community of political resistance, consisting of thousands of 
people -- young and old -- who provide part of the militant base in 
Port-au-Prince of Lavalas, Haiti's majority political party. Many residents 
of Cite Soleil emphatically told us they will accept nothing less than the 
restoration of the democratically elected government of President Aristide.

Since the coup on February 29th, 2004 that toppled the Aristide government, 
the people of Cite Soleil and other popular neighborhoods in the capital 
have been the target of systematic repression -- including extrajudicial 
executions -- by the Haitian National Police. Armed networks established by 
young adults in Cite Soleil -- labeled "gangs" by the authorities -- have 
attempted to provide security for a community facing almost daily 
incursions and shootings at the hands of the National Police. The community 
networks also provide vital social services such as education and food for 
the population.


The UN Mission in Haiti ­ MINUSTAH -- has insisted that these networks turn 
in their arms, but has not shown the capability or willingness to rein in 
the police units that have been terrorizing the population of Cite Soleil. 
The grass-roots networks have refused to disarm under the prevailing 
conditions, and have clashed with both police and UN military forces on 
multiple occasions.

Investigation Methodology:

Our delegation, joined by Haitian human rights workers, carried out the 
following steps to investigate the massacre allegation:

1) We viewed film footage taken by a Haitian who was on the scene when the 
UN operation was occurring on July 6th and we also took down his eye 
witness testimony.

2) We visited Cite Soleil on July 7th, the day after the UN military 
operation there, conducted interviews with many community members, 
videotaped these interviews, and also videotaped physical damage to 
people's homes and neighborhood infrastructure, as well as corpses still on 
the scene.

3) We carried out an interview the following day, July 8th, with the 
military high command of MINUSTAH, Lt. General Augusto Heleno and Colonel 
Morneau regarding the operation.

4) We paid a return visit to Cite Soleil on July 9th during the community 
funeral service for a community leader slain during the operation, gathered 
more information from community members, filmed more infrastructure damage, 
and interviewed the Cite Soleil Red Cross staff.

5) We interviewed the staff at Medecins Sans Frontieres, the primary 
hospital in Port-au-Prince that serves the people of Cite Soleil. [Unlike 
other hospitals, it does not charge a fee for service.] The staff shared 
with our delegation their registry records on the number of Cite Soleil 
residents treated on July 6th, the nature of their wounds and treatment, 
and the comparison of this day to other recent days.


In sharing our findings, we will not use the name of the Haitian human 
rights workers or anyone currently living in Cite Soleil for their protection.

Investigation Findings:

Our delegation uncovered extensive evidence that indicates there was indeed 
a massacre conducted by UN military forces in Cite Soleil on the morning of 
July 6th. We will first present the official version of events, as rendered 
by the military command staff of MINUSTAH and a MINUSTAH spokesperson. We 
will then proceed to share the evidence we gathered that contradicts their 
version of events.

According to Lt. General Augusto Heleno and Colonel Morneau, a little more 
than 300 UN troops, led by a Jordanian contingent, surrounded Cite Soleil 
at approximately 3 AM on July 6th. They also surrounded the community with 
18-20 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), which appear to be like tanks, 
mounted with a cannon, but do not have tank treads. MINUSTAH military 
spokesperson Colonel Eloifi Boulbars stated that the number of APCs 
involved in the operation was 41, as reported by the Haitian media. Heleno 
and Morneau denied that the APCs used cannons in the operation. They stated 
that one helicopter was used, flying above the community at 3000 feet, for 
observation purposes only. They stated that this helicopter did not fire 
ammunition down into the community. They did not mention if grenades or 
tear gas were used. The number of troops and APCs had effectively choked 
off ways into and out of Cite Soleil by the time the operation began to unfold.

In our interview, Heleno and Morneau reported that the purpose of the 
operation was to capture Dread Wilme, a leader of one of Cite Soleil's 
armed community networks and viewed as a "gang" leader by the UN occupation 
forces. They acknowledged the UN forces surrounded the community and 
attempted to launch a surprise assault by a smaller contingent of 10-15 UN 
soldiers, but that "gang" members fired on them first, provoking a 
firefight. They claimed that the UN soldiers "never fire first" in their 
operations. They claimed that the UN forces launched the operation into the 
community at approximately 5:30 AM.

Both Heleno and Morneau said they did not know of any civilian casualties, 
nor had they received reports of such casualties from the Red Cross. 
According to Boulbars, again as reported in the Haitian media, "numerous 
bandits were killed during the operation, including five in the house of 
Dread Wilme." He stated to the media that bodies were not recovered because 
soldiers had other things to do. No UN soldiers were killed during the 
operation. Morneau suggested to us in our interview that the corpses still 
in the community after the operation could have been people killed by 
"gang" members and then falsely blamed on the UN forces. He suggested that 
ballistics tests be conducted on these bodies.


Lt. General Augusto Heleno defended the operation, asking the human rights 
delegation why they only seemed to care about the rights of the "outlaws" 
and not those of the "legal forces" in the country.

According to the eyewitness account from a Haitian (who shall remain 
anonymous for this report) who was present in Cite Soleil during the 
operation and who did get some film footage of the operation as it 
unfolded, a very different picture emerges. Like the official UN account, 
he reported that UN forces surrounded Cite Soleil, as stated by UN military 
command staff, sealing off the alleys with tanks [APCs] and troops. He 
reported that UN forces concentrated on the Cite Soleil districts of 
Boisneuf and Project Drouillard. He further reported that not one, but two 
helicopters flew overhead.

 >From this point on, his account diverges considerably from the official 
UN account. He reported that at 4:30 AM, UN forces launched the offensive, 
shooting into houses, shacks, a church, and a school with machine guns, APC 
cannons, and tear gas. The eyewitness reported that when people fled to 
escape the tear gas, UN troops gunned them down from the back. UN forces 
shot out electric transformers in the neighborhood. People were killed in 
their homes and also just outside of their homes, on the way to work. 
According to this account, one man named Leon Cherry, age 46, was shot and 
killed on his way to work for a flower company. Another man, Mones 
Belizaire, was shot as he got ready to go to work in a local sweatshop and 
subsequently died from a stomach infection. A woman who was a street vendor 
was shot in the head and killed instantly. One man was shot in his ribs 
while he was trying to brush his teeth. Another man was shot in the jaw as 
he left his house to try and get some money for his wife's medical costs; 
he endured a slow death. Yet another man named Mira was shot and killed 
while urinating in his home. A mother, Sonia Romelus, and her two young 
children were killed in their home, reportedly by UN fire after UN forces 
lobbed a 83-CC gas grenade into their home.

The video footage taken by this eyewitness during the operation shows many 
of these killings while they were occurring. While it does not show images 
of the UN troops as they were firing into the community, one can view at 
least 10 unarmed people either in the process of being killed or who were 
already killed. Many were killed by headshots, such as 31-year-old Leonce 
Chery moments after a gun shot ripped off his jaw. Chery was clearly 
unarmed. There are audible machine gun blasts occurring in the background. 
The video footage also depicts the bodies of Sonia Romelus and her two 
young children, lying in blood on the floor of their home. Apparently, 
Sonia was killed by the same bullet that passed through the body of her 
one-year old infant son Nelson. She was reportedly holding him as the UN 
opened fire. Next to their two bodies is that of her four-old son Stanley 
Romelus who was killed by a shot to the head. The video footage shows a 
weeping Fredi Romelus, recounting how UN troops lobbed a red smoke grenade 
into his house and then opened fire killing his wife and two children. 
"They surrounded our house this morning and I ran thinking my wife and the 
children were behind me. They couldn't get out and the blan [UN] fired into 
the house." The video also shows the grenade canister, apparently left in 
the house.

The eyewitness source claimed that the operation was primarily conducted by 
UN forces, with the Haitian National Police this time taking a back seat.

In summing up his testimony, the source claims to have personally viewed 20 
people killed by UN forces during and after the operation, in addition to 
five people killed who were buried by their families and yet another five 
people from the community who have been missing since the operation was 
launched.

When our delegation, joined by other Haitian human rights workers, entered 
Cite Soleil the day after the operation, in the afternoon of July 7th, we 
gathered extensive evidence that corroborated his testimony and further 
indicated that the people being killed in the video footage were, in fact, 
killed by UN forces. The team gathered testimony from many members of the 
community, young and old, men, women, and youth.

Community residents said UN forces had reduced the entrances and exits into 
and out of the ghetto by blocking a street with a large shipping container. 
Our delegation filmed this blocked entrance. Immediately prior to the UN 
military operation on July 6th in Cite Soleil, there were scarcely more 
than two functioning pathways into and out of the community.

Community members spoke of how they had been surrounded by tanks [APCs]

and troops that sealed off exits from the neighborhoods and then proceeded 
to assault the civilian population. Reportedly, the assault involved at 
least one, if not more, helicopters firing down into the neighborhood. The 
community allowed the Labor/Human Rights Delegation to film the evidence of 
the massacre, showing the homes -- in some cases made of tin and cardboard 
-- that had been riddled by bullets, and what appear to be APC cannon fire 
and helicopter ammunition, as well as showing the team some of the corpses 
still on the scene, including a mother and her two children and one man 
whose jaw had been blown off.

The team also filmed a church and a school that had been riddled by 
ammunition. Allegedly, a preacher was among the victims killed. Some 
community members allowed the team to interview them, but not to film their 
faces for fear of their lives. People were traumatized and, in the cases of 
loved ones of victims, hysterical. One woman spoke of how her husband was 
shot and killed during the operation, leaving her stranded alone to fend 
for three children.

Community members also guided us to two electrical transformers in the 
neighborhood that had been destroyed, claiming that UN troops had shot them 
and caused a blackout in the course of the operation.

Multiple community residents indicated that they had counted at least 23 
bodies of people killed by the UN forces. Community members claimed that UN 
forces had taken away some of the bodies. Some community estimates range 
even higher.

The team returned to Cite Soleil two days later, on July 9th, during the 
community funeral ceremony for Dread Wilme in order to continue the 
investigation. Hundreds of people from the community -- woman and men, 
children and adults -- turned out for the funeral, held in a street. Armed 
young adults attempted to provide "security" during the ceremony. While 
they seemed to elicit no fear from the general population, the UN military 
forces did. Twice during the ceremony, a rumor traveled through the crowd 
that UN military forces, represented by several APCs in the near distance, 
were moving on the ceremony. People fled in terror, in a virtual stampede 
and then regrouped when they realized that such an operation was not occurring.

During the ceremony, the team interviewed a Reuters reporter who claimed to 
have filmed bullet holes in roofs in Cite Soleil, which he concluded were 
caused by machine gun fire from a helicopter assault during the operation. 
Our team subsequently filmed what appear to be gun shot holes in the roof 
of a community school and the roof of a nearby building. The Reuters 
reporter also reported that, while he was not present during the UN 
operation, he personally filmed seven dead bodies a day or two later.

In the early afternoon of July 9, the team left the ceremony and 
interviewed a staff member of the Cite Soleil Red Cross. She informed the 
team that the local Red Cross was not present during the UN operation, but 
that the Red Cross had transported approximately 15 people to a local 
hospital two days later on Friday July 8th. She did not know of how many, 
if any, people were killed during the operation. Additionally, she reported 
that about one week prior to the "operation", UN military forces had 
detained her, the President of the local Red Cross, and at least one other 
local Red Cross member and taken them to the local UN compound for 
interrogation. She described the detention as intimidating.

After the interview with the local Red Cross, the team left Cite Soleil and 
interviewed the staff at the Medicins Sans Frontieres Hospital in downtown 
Port-au-Prince. This is one of the few, if not the only hospitals in 
Port-au-Prince where people can from Cite Soleil can go because it provides 
free health care unlike other hospitals which charge a service fee. The 
staff at Medicins Sans Frontieres shared with the team their hospital 
registry records detailing the number of patients from Cite Soleil that the 
hospital admitted and treated on July 6th. Starting at approximately 11 AM, 
the hospital received a total of 26 wounded people from Cite Soleil who 
were reportedly transported to the facility by Red Cross "tap taps" (local 
minivans). Of these 26, 20 were women and children and 6 were men. Half of 
the total number were seriously wounded by abdominal gun shot wounds and 
were routed into major surgery. One pregnant woman lost her baby. Other 
victims seem to be in recovery, according to the hospital staff. All 
reported that they had been wounded by UN military forces during the 
operation and some spoke of their homes being destroyed. This number of 26 
stands in contrast to the hospital's records of Cite Soleil residents 
admitted on other days when the figures are much lower, such as 2 people on 
July 7th and none on July 8th. One Haitian human rights worker present 
during the meeting with the hospital staff speculated that the number of 
men from Cite Soleil who were admitted to the hospital was low because many 
men would fear being arrested by the authorities while in the hospital.

In addition, a Red Cross staff member stated that on Friday, July 8th, the 
local Red Cross transported 15 victims from the UN operation to a local 
hospital.

Putting all this evidence together, it is clear that there were substantial 
civilian casualties from the UN operation that were transported by the 
local Red Cross and by perhaps other means, to be treated in a local hospital.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the evidence of a massacre by UN military forces in Cite 
Soleil is substantial and compelling. The eyewitness account of the 
operation, and the film footage shot by Haitian human rights workers who 
were on the scene during the operation; the extensive videotaped testimony 
by community members themselves on July 7th, coupled with tangible, 
physical damage to their homes and infrastructure; the bodies still on the 
scene that we have on video; the intense fear of the UN military forces 
evidenced by hundreds of residents of Cite Soleil; the statements by the 
local Red Cross; and finally the registry records of the relevant hospital 
-- all of these pieces of evidence indicate that UN military forces in 
Haiti today are not engaged in the work of "peacekeeping" as much as they 
are in the business of repression.

Clearly, further investigation is required to determine the exact number of 
victims from the operation, their identities, and the reasons for their 
deaths. One can only wonder why UN forces in Haiti have not, apparently, 
contacted the relevant hospital or dispatched their own human rights team 
into Cite Soleil in order to assess the true "collateral damage" resulting 
from this and other armed incursions by the UN military forces.

****************

MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES
http://tinyurl.com/ab2qb

July 13, 2005


Violence intensifies in Port au Prince, Haiti

One injured man, transported to St. Joseph’s by a local taxi, was
arrested right in front of two stretcher-bearers before they could
take him out of the vehicle, and driven by the police to
Port-au-Prince’s general hospital, where he died an hour later, under
police guard and without care.
Pierre Salignon


Pierre Salignon, General Director of the international medical
humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in France,
recently returned from a visit to Haiti. He describes the extreme
violence reigning in Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods and how
the United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) —
far from restoring calm — has been drawn into a war against
supporters of former President Aristide. As the security situation
continues to deteriorate in Haiti's capital, MSF has called on all
armed groups in the city to respect the safety of civilians and allow
immediate access to emergency medical care for those wounded in
clashes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 It is about ten a.m. in Port-au-Prince. A
Haitian Red Cross ambulance pulls up to the emergency entrance of St.
Joseph’s Hospital, sirens wailing. Two Red Cross volunteers wearing
white helmets jump out of the car. They lift a man with a gunshot
wound out on a bloody stretcher.

He was gunned down, it seems, just a few moments ago on the streets
of the Haitian capital, during an exchange of gunfire between UN
troops and supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the
notorious Chimères. The hospital is a flurry of activity. Doctors and
nurses rush about.

Five emergency gunshot wounds have already been admitted this
morning. One man, stretched out on a bed, is giving blood for a
relative; another is undergoing surgery for a severe abdominal wound.
In all, a fairly ordinary morning in Port-au-Prince.

People in Haiti are living in constant fear, caught as they are
between widespread criminal violence and an armed insurrection
against Prime Minister Gérard Latortue who was put in power in late
2004 after the autocratic President Aristide was pressured into
exile, mainly by the US and France.

More than a third of the city is considered “extremely dangerous” -
at the mercy of armed groups, most of them Aristide supporters. A
Haitian member of the MSF team gave this grim summary of the
situation: “When you walk down the street, you don’t know whether
you’re still alive or already dead.”

While the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN
“Stabilization” Mission in Haiti — 7,400 blue helmets and
international policemen, plus an additional 1,000 men for the
upcoming pre-electoral period — violence against civilians in Port au
Prince is a daily occurrence (the rest of the country is still calm),
and the number of wounded treated by MSF continues to grow.

In response to the lack of appropriate medical care for the wounded,
in late December 2004 MSF opened a 56-bed trauma center at St.
Joseph’s, a Port-au-Prince hospital. It is the only place that
provides free, high quality emergency medical and surgical care for
the many victims of violence. Since March 2005, MSF has also provided
post-surgical physiotherapy at a 27-bed physical rehabilitation
center.

The direct violence seen in this medical program (gunshot victims and
knife wounds, beatings, burns, head trauma) simply reflects the
deteriorating security situation and its direct effect on the
population.

By early July, the MSF team had treated teams have treated more than
3,100 patients ­ 1,112, for violence-related injuries. Almost half of
victims are women, children, or elderly, most often injured during
violent confrontations between either the Haitian National Police
(HNP) or UN forces and criminal pro-Aristide groups entrenched in
several of the capital’s slums.

Nearly 900, or one third, of the victims have been treated for
gunshot wounds — in some cases caused by exploding bullets. The vast
majority of the 30 or so deaths recorded at St. Joseph’s Hospital
between December 2004 and May 2005 were from gunshot wounds. About 40
women have also been treated for rape, with the victims receiving
both medical and psychological care.

Some of the wounded are brought in by the UN or by private taxis. But
most of the injured are referred to MSF by the Haitian Red Cross, who
put themselves at considerable risk every day in order to do their
work. In mid-June, two of their volunteers were seriously injured
(and treated by MSF) in the seaside slum of Cité Soleil, during an
exchange of gunfire between Minustah soldiers and the Chimères.

One of the gang leaders had warned, “If UN soldiers show up on our
streets, we’ll shoot.”

According to medical personnel, it is very hard for wounded men and
teenaged boys to get to St. Joseph’s. Suspected by the police of
belonging to armed opposition groups, they fear being arrested or
executed by the police before they can even receive care. One injured
man, transported to St. Joseph’s by a local taxi, was arrested right
in front of two stretcher-bearers before they could take him out of
the vehicle, and driven by the police to Port-au-Prince’s general
hospital, where he died an hour later, under police guard and without
care.

Faced with the ever-worsening security situation in Port-au-Prince,
in early July MSF made a public appeal to all armed actors to spare
civilians and facilitate the transfer of the wounded to hospitals,
particularly to St. Joseph’s emergency unit, which is trying to take
in all of the wounded, no matter who they are.

It is not easy. Civilians, young “combatants” from the slums, and
policemen lay side-by-side in hospital rooms, all wounded in the
violence wracking the Haitian capital. News of MSF’s treatment
program has progressively spread through all the neighborhoods,
particularly the poorest, but also to those involved in national and
international politics. There is a hope that this means greater
security for MSF’s patients and medical and surgical teams in this
difficult context.

But we should not delude ourselves. The situation could well
deteriorate further, leading to even more violence.

The international community bears a lot of the responsibility.
Minustah cannot “reestablish peace” in Port-au-Prince. Because of its
mandate from the UN Security Council allowing it to use force in
order to accomplish its “mission”, it has become an armed player in
the conflict, a source of violence against civilians during police
operations in the slums.

No longer taken aback by “collateral damage” caused by UN soldiers,
one of its representatives even sees it as the price that has to be
paid in order to “stabilize” Port-au-Prince. There seems little
concern if Minustah is now seen by a significant segment of the
population as an occupation force, buttressing a transitional
government with limited powers.

Meanwhile, Haitians continue to live in extreme poverty, faceless
victims of an almost forgotten conflict whose quick and peaceful
resolution appears highly unlikely.

********



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