[News] Haiti - human rights violations & UN accused of killings

News@freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 29 12:18:27 EDT 2005



HAITI: ARMS PROLIFERATION FUELS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AHEAD OF ELECTIONS

PRESS RELEASE       PRESS RELEASE       PRESS RELEASE
07/28/2005


<http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGAMR360112005>http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGAMR360112005

Around 170,000 small arms are being used by former military personnel and 
criminal gangs to commit grave human rights abuses as the country prepares 
for elections, Amnesty International said in a new report issued today.

Amnesty International called on the interim government and the UN 
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to implement without delay a 
comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program.

“Small arms are being used by illegal armed groups and former military to 
kidnap, sexually abuse and kill Haitians with absolute impunity. Without 
disarmament and effective justice for the victims, Haiti will sink further 
into crisis,” said Amnesty International.

The report “Haiti: Disarmament delayed, justice denied”, shows how in 
several parts of the country, where state authority remains frail, armed 
groups and individuals continue to illegally control territory and 
population and commit criminal acts without being challenged by national 
authorities, including the National Police, or by MINUSTAH officials.

Attempts to disarm illegal armed groups have been insufficient, showing the 
Haitian authorities’ unwillingness to implement an effective disarmament plan.

In March 2005, 325 former military personnel symbolically turned in 7 
weapons in Cap-Haitien, marking their return to civilian life. Since then, 
no serious attempts have been made to disarm the former military and rebel 
groups.

The lack of political will from the interim government to put in place 
urgently needed reforms of the National Haitian Police (HNP) or to 
implement a disarmament program is hampering the efforts of MINUSTAH to 
solve the crisis.

"Lack of accountability of HNP officers and widespread impunity for human 
rights abuses by armed groups cannot lead to durable peace in Haiti. The 
interim government is failing in its international and fundamental 
responsibilities to protect Haitians and their most basic rights."

Amid increased violence and insecurity, MINUSTAH should take more decisive 
actions to fulfil its objectives of protecting civilians, promoting human 
rights and fighting impunity.

“Durable peace in Haiti will never be achieved unless those responsible for 
human rights crimes are held to account and the victims obtain redress.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Haitian interim government to:

    * Implement without delay a comprehensive disarmament, demobilization 
and reintegration program.
    * Investigate all reports of human rights violations and bring those 
responsible to justice.
    * Provide reparation for victims of human rights violations.
    * Reform the judicial system in accordance with international human 
rights legislation and end illegal arrests and long-term detentions for 
those awaiting trial.

In addition, Amnesty International is calling on the UN Stabilization 
Mission in Haiti to:

    * Work together with the interim government for the establishment of a 
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program and the investigation 
of human rights abuses.
    * Issue frequent, public reports on the human rights situation.
    * Vet police officers for human rights abuses and train all HNP 
personnel on human rights standards and international standards for law 
enforcement officials.

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



PEACEKEEPERS ACCUSED AFTER KILLINGS IN HAITI

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

Published: 29 July 2005

<http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article302259.ece>http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article302259.ece

Protesters tear up banners praising the UN's work in the streets of 
Port-au-Prince

Evidence is mounting that United Nations peacekeepers shot and killed 
unarmed civilians, including children, during a recent raid in Haiti. The 
UN said it was ready to investigate the alleged ‘use of unnecessary force.’

Independent witnesses say up to 23 people were killed during the raid and 
that many were shot in the head. Video footage seen by The Independent 
shows the bodies of many killed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and 
contains testimony from witnesses claiming the victims were killed by ‘blue 
helmets,’ common parlance for UN peacekeepers.

In a statement, the UN Mission in Haiti (Minustah) said: "[UN forces] did 
not target civilians in the operation ... but the nature of such missions 
in densely populated urban areas is such that there is always a risk of 
civilian casualties. Minustah deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life 
during its operation."

Yesterday, the most senior UN peacekeeping official appealed to the 
Security Council for specialized troops for Haiti  admitting the forces 
available were not trained for such raids.

The footage of the aftermath of the 6 July raid in the Cité Soleil slum was 
taken by a team led by Haitian-based journalist Kevin Pina. Pina said: " 
Numerous witnesses said the victims were killed by UN forces  the Haitian 
National Police (HNP) were not even there. I think the fact the UN did not 
bring a single doctor or ambulance with them on this mission is 
extraordinary  surely you would do that whether you were targeting 
criminal gangs or civilians? It is interesting that so many victims were 
shot in the head. I think the reason they did not bring ambulances is that 
they were not shooting to wound, they were shooting to kill."

The raid took place against a backdrop of violence in Haiti ahead of autumn 
elections. Authorities say much of the violence is perpetrated by criminal 
gangs with links to the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

But since the ousting of the democratically elected Mr Aristide last year, 
human rights groups have detailed repression of his supporters by the 
US-backed interim government and the HNP. A report by the human rights 
program at Harvard Law School said there were also "credible allegations of 
human rights abuses perpetrated by Minustah".

Minustah said its dawn raid, involving more than 400 troops, targeted the 
gang leader known as "Dread Wilme", who is accused of murder and 
kidnapping. He and four alleged associates were killed.

But other independent witnesses support Pina's evidence that civilians were 
also killed. David Welsh, of the US Labor/Human Rights Delegation to Haiti, 
was at a conference in Port-au-Prince that weekend. Delegation members 
interviewed witnesses and filmed the bodies of victims. He described the 
shooting as a "massacre": "Based on witnesses' testimony and the number of 
bodies we were able to confirm, we believe that at least 23 people were 
killed," he said.

Among the dead were four-year-old Stanley Romelus, who was shot in the 
head; his mother, Sonia, and his one-year-old brother, Nelson. The boy's 
father said they were killed in their house after UN forces threw smoke 
grenades. His testimony is to be included in a documentary Pina is 
producing based on the footage.

Christophe Fournier, Médecins Sans Frontières, which has a clinic close to 
Cité Soleil, said: "On that day we treated 27 people for gunshot wounds. Of 
them, around 20 were women under the age of 18."

Minustah claims it received "unconfirmed information" that criminal gangs 
were seen killing civilians after its operation. It said: " Subsequently, 
these elements attributed these atrocious acts to Minustah."

At UN headquarters yesterday, Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general 
for peacekeeping, asked for specialist troops for Haiti. "I have to 
acknowledge the forces we have do not have the kind of very specialized 
capacity ... that makes absolutely sure that there will be zero civilian 
casualties in a densely populated environment."

Evidence is mounting that United Nations peacekeepers shot and killed 
unarmed civilians, including children, during a recent raid in Haiti. The 
UN said it was ready to investigate the alleged "use of unnecessary force" .

Independent witnesses say up to 23 people were killed during the raid and 
that many were shot in the head. Video footage seen by The Independent 
shows the bodies of many killed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and 
contains testimony from witnesses claiming the victims were killed by "blue 
helmets" ? common parlance for UN peacekeepers.

In a statement, the UN Mission in Haiti (Minustah) said: "[UN forces] did 
not target civilians in the operation ... but the nature of such missions 
in densely populated urban areas is such that there is always a risk of 
civilian casualties. Minustah deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life 
during its operation."

Yesterday, the most senior UN peacekeeping official appealed to the 
Security Council for specialised troops for Haiti ? admitting the forces 
available were not trained for such raids.

The footage of the aftermath of the 6 July raid in the Cit? Soleil slum was 
taken by a team led by Haitian-based journalist Kevin Pina. Pina said: " 
Numerous witnesses said the victims were killed by UN forces ? the Haitian 
National Police (HNP) were not even there. I think the fact the UN did not 
bring a single doctor or ambulance with them on this mission is 
extraordinary ? surely you would do that whether you were targeting 
criminal gangs or civilians? It is interesting that so many victims were 
shot in the head. I think the reason they did not bring ambulances is that 
they were not shooting to wound, they were shooting to kill."
The raid took place against a backdrop of violence in Haiti ahead of autumn 
elections. Authorities say much of the violence is perpetrated by criminal 
gangs with links to the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

But since the ousting of the democratically elected Mr Aristide last year, 
human rights groups have detailed repression of his supporters by the 
US-backed interim government and the HNP. A report by the human rights 
programme at Harvard Law School said there were also "credible allegations 
of human rights abuses perpetrated by Minustah".

Minustah said its dawn raid, involving more than 400 troops, targeted the 
gang leader known as "Dread Wilme", who is accused of murder and 
kidnapping. He and four alleged associates were killed.

But other independent witnesses support Pina's evidence that civilians 
werealso killed. David Welsh, of the US Labor/Human Rights Delegation to 
Haiti, was at a conference in Port-au-Prince that weekend. Delegation 
members interviewed witnesses and filmed the bodies of victims. He 
described the shooting as a "massacre":

"Based on witnesses' testimony and the number of bodies we were able to 
confirm, we believe that at least 23 people were killed," he said.

Among the dead were four-year-old Stanley Romelus, who was shot in the 
head; his mother, Sonia, and his one-year-old brother, Nelson. The boy's 
father said they were killed in their house after UN forces threw smoke 
grenades. His testimony is to be included in a documentary Pina is 
producing based on the footage.
Christophe Fournier, M?decins Sans Fronti?res, which has a clinic close to 
Cit? Soleil, said: "On that day we treated 27 people for gunshot wounds. Of 
them, around 20 were women under the age of 18."

Minustah claims it received "unconfirmed information" that criminal gangs 
were seen killing civilians after its operation. It said: " Subsequently, 
these elements attributed these atrocious acts to Minustah."

At UN headquarters yesterday, Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general 
for peacekeeping, asked for specialist troops for Haiti. "I have to 
acknowledge the forces we have do not have the kind of very specialised 
capacity ... that makes absolutely sure that there will be zero civilian 
casualties in a densely populated environment."


© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

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