[News] Haiti - 8, 000 Murders, 35, 000 Rapes and Sexual Assaults & UN Forces Open Fire

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 31 12:15:06 EDT 2006


Thursday, August 31st, 2006 - Democracy Now

Shocking Lancet Study: 8,000 Murders, 35,000 Rapes and Sexual 
Assaults in Haiti During U.S.-Backed Coup Regime After Aristide Ouster

A shocking new report in the British medical journal the Lancet on 
human rights abuses in Haiti finds that 8,000 people were murdered 
and 35,000 women and girls raped during the U.S.-backed coup regime 
that followed Jean Bertrand Aristide. Those responsible included 
Haitian police, United Nations peacekeepers and anti-Lavalas gangs. 
We speak with the co-authors of the report. [includes rush transcript]

A shocking new report published in the British medical journal The 
Lancet has found widespread and systematic human rights abuses in 
Haiti following the ouster of democratically-elected president Jean 
Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

New figures reveal that during the 22-month period of the U.S.-backed 
Interim Government, 8,000 people were murdered in the greater Port-au 
Prince area alone. 35,000 women and girls were raped or sexually 
assaulted, more than half of the victims were children. Kidnappings, 
extrajudicial detentions, physical assaults, death threats, and 
threats of sexual violence were also common.

Those responsible for the human rights abuses include criminals, the 
police, United Nations peacekeepers and anti-Lavalas gangs.

The findings are based on a new report published in the British 
medical journal the Lancet. The study is based on an extensive survey 
of households in the Port-au-Prince area .

    * Athena Kolbe, master's level social worker with the Wayne State 
University school of social work in Detroit Michigan. In December 
2005 she coordinated an extensive survey of households in the 
Port-au-Prince area to determine rates of human rights abuse under 
the interim Haitian government.
    * Dr. Royce Hutson, assistant professor of social work at Wayne 
State University. He co-authored the Lancet study on human rights 
abuses in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: The findings are based on a new report published in the 
British medical journal, The Lancet. The study is based on an 
extensive survey of households in the Port-au-Prince area of Haiti. 
Athena Kolbe is one of the authors of the report. She's a 
Master's-level social worker with the Wayne State University School 
of Social Work in Detroit, Michigan. She joins us from a studio in 
San Francisco. We're also joined by Dr. Royce Hutson, on the phone 
from Detroit, co-author of the report, assistant professor of social 
work at Wayne State University. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

Athena Kolbe, these are startling findings. 8,000 murdered. Over what 
time period? And how do you know this?

ATHENA KOLBE: We started -- well, basically what we did is we 
randomly selected households in the greater Port-au-Prince area, 
1,260 households, and then went and interviewed them about their 
experiences with human rights violations beginning in February 29, 
2004 with the departure of Aristide through December of 2005, which 
is the one-month period, where we did the interviews. So based on 
that, we found that 23 households out of the 1260 had members who had 
been assassinated in that time period. And the figure of 8,000 is 
derived from estimating that based on the population of the greater 
Port-au-Prince area.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, when you say "randomly selected," obviously in 
Haiti, one of the poorest -- the poorest country in the western 
hemisphere, a lot of people don't have phones -- or even locating 
folks. Could you explain your use of GPS to actually develop who 
would be the random households selected?

ATHENA KOLBE: This was actually kind of a unique type of a study, 
because this methodology hasn't really been used before in public 
health and human rights studies. It was a used a little bit in 
another Lancet study about Iraq just before and after the U.S. 
invasion of Iraq. But what we did is we randomly selected GPS 
locations, 1,500 of them, and then went and visited each location, 
eliminated the ones that weren't actually households, the ones that 
were, you know, the side of a mountain or the airport runway or 
whatever, and then went and interviewed people at the remaining ones 
that were households.

And we had an over 90% response rate, which is extraordinarily high 
and really indicates that even those that were legitimate sites, 
where we went and talked to people, most people were willing to talk 
to us, indicating that they had something to say and wanted their 
story to be told about their experiences with human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about who carried out these killings?

ATHENA KOLBE: Yeah. We had -- the largest number of perpetrators for 
most of the violations were criminals, indicating that there was high 
rates of criminal activity. But also, we also had a number of 
assassinations that were done by members of the Haitian National 
Police, as well as killings by UN soldiers and killings by 
demobilized soldiers from the ex-Haitian army that was disbanded by 
President Aristide in 1995.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the rapes and sexual assaults, because 
you said that you had -- you identified actually 23 families that had 
actually experienced assassinations or killings within their own 
families, and in terms of the raw numbers on the actual rapes and 
assaults, and then how you extrapolated those to this astounding 
number of 35,000.

ATHENA KOLBE: Dr. Hutson could actually talk a little bit more about 
that, because he has the figures right in front of him. But I believe 
that it was 93 families total out of the 1,260 that had sexual 
assault victims in their household. And some of those had multiple 
victims within one household.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Royce Hutson, could you follow up on that?

DR. ROYCE HUTSON: Sure, absolutely. Yeah, actually, Athena, it was 
94, but very close. Yeah, so we took 94, and we essentially 
extrapolated it to the greater Port-au-Prince area with the estimated 
number of females in the greater Port-au-Prince area that we got from 
our own sample. Census data wasn't really available with regards to 
what the average household size, what percentage of the population is 
female. So we had to sort of construct those figures for ourselves. 
And then we took those constructed figures and extrapolated our 
findings to the greater Port-au-Prince area. And we got to 35,000, 
roughly, female sexual assault victims.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break, and then we're going to come back 
to this discussion and also go to Haiti, some videotape that is quite 
shocking of UN forces moving into the neighborhood around Cite Soleil 
and opening fire. We're also going to talk with an attorney who has 
brought a lawsuit against a man who now sits in a New York jail. He's 
sitting there for mortgage fraud charges, but he's a leader of a 
paramilitary death squad, Emmanuel Constant, and they have brought a 
lawsuit against him for sexual abuse and rape of women in Haiti. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: On the phone with us, Athena Kolbe, social worker with 
the Wayne State University School of Social Work in Detroit. We're 
also joined on the telephone by Dr. Royce Hutson, assistant professor 
of social work at Wayne State. Athena is in a San Francisco TV 
studio. Athena -- Juan, a question.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. I'd like to ask Dr. Hutson, these findings are so 
startling that obviously a lot of people are going to question them, 
because this is something that really has not been extensively 
reported in the past. So I'd like to ask you, in your figures you 
claim that over 50% of the murders were committed by government 
forces or anti-Lavalas groups and the bulk of the others by 
criminals, very few by Lavalas supporters themselves. And also in the 
rapes, about a quarter of them were committed by either government 
forces, police or anti-Lavalas groups. Now, obviously this is a 
peer-reviewed study, appearing in the Lancet, but your defense of 
those who will say that you're basically extrapolating from very 
small numbers of people that you actually interviewed who were 
victims of these crimes?

DR. ROYCE HUTSON: Well, actually, I would argue that it was not 
really that small of a number, though it was 1,260 households that 
really represented 5,720 individuals. And in survey methodology, 
that's considered a rather large number of people to be surveying. If 
you looked at our -- for instance, if you looked at our confidence 
intervals, you'll find that for at least a number of -- in 
extrapolated figures, I should explain, that those are pretty tight 
figures, because our sample sizes are rather large.

With regards to who is committing these, we made a special point of, 
for instance, not using interviewers that are associated with Lavalas 
or less political parties, in the interest of trying to keep the 
study nonpartisan. I mean, of course, there's a possibility that 
people would claim that someone did something to them when they 
didn't. But we find that , in fact, probably was not the case, in 
that when we look at the figures, you know, it goes across the 
breadth of various anti-Lavalas groups -- the demobilized army, the 
HNP -- which are not exactly what I consider to be a sole entity. 
They are, in fact, separate groups.

AMY GOODMAN: And just to explain, Lavalas being pro-Aristide forces. 
Aristide removed in Haiti in 2004 in a U.S.-backed coup against him. 
We're talking about this period after his removal.

DR. ROYCE HUTSON: That's correct. We didn't find any -- we didn't 
detect any Lavalas atrocities with regards to murder or sexual 
assault. We did detect some physical assaults by Lavalas members and 
some threatening behavior by Lavalas members. So they're not 
completely exonerated from any human rights abuses. However, as the 
questioner noted, a vast majority of the atrocities that weren't 
committed by criminals, but by others, were from groups affiliated in 
some fashion with anti-Lavalas movements.

AMY GOODMAN: Athena Kolbe, who are the restaveks?

ATHENA KOLBE: The restaveks are unpaid domestic servants. They are 
children, usually from the countryside, who come into the city, and 
they work with Haitian households in exchange for room and board. And 
we found that girls who were restaveks were particularly at risk for 
sexual assault, more so than other children, although children in 
general were particularly at risk, but also more so than even adult women.

And this really begs the question of, when you have so many restaveks 
who were sexually assaulted -- and when we're talking about sexual 
assault, also I want to clarify, we're not just talking about 
molestation or someone grabbing someone sexually when they don't want 
it. We're talking about more than 90% of the sexual assaults in our 
study involved penetration. And some of the them involved multiple 
perpetrators, involved penetration with inanimate objects, like a 
piece of metal. These were very brutal sexual assaults that we 
recorded. And when we're looking at such high numbers of children 
being sexually assaulted by officers from the Haitian National 
Police, and then particularly this vulnerable group of child domestic 
servants, it really makes you wonder what exactly was going on under 
the interim Haitian government in regards to the sexual assault of 
children by police officers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about the international peace monitoring 
force that is stationed there? Did you find any indication of 
violations, human rights violations, by them?

ATHENA KOLBE: We certainly did. Although the rates were lower than 
some people might have expected, we found that they had very high 
rates of threatening behavior, of committing death threats, threats 
of sexual and physical violence. And by threats, we mean not just 
pointing your gun at someone, because when you're a peacekeeping 
soldier, you know, you carry a gun. If you have to point it at 
people, then some people might interpret that as a threat. We didn't 
count that as a threat. We counted threats as something verbal, a 
verbal, you know, "Do this, or I'll kill you," where the person 
really felt like they were legitimately threatened, like their life 
was really at stake or the life of their family was really at stake. 
And they had actually relatively high numbers of death threats and 
threats of sexual and physical violence, which is perhaps indicative 
of a pattern of perhaps a lack of training, or since it was so many 
troops from different countries, as well, who are involved in this 
threatening behavior, that perhaps the United Nations forces are not 
interacting with the Haitian populous in a really appropriate way.

Thursday, August 31st, 2006
Eyewitnesses Account: UN Forces Open Fire on Poor Haitian Neighborhood

United Nations troops in Haiti opened fire last week on a poor 
neighborhood outside of Cite Soleil. We show footage of the raid, 
speak with a writer and activist who witnessed the raid and hear from 
the mother of a nineteen year-old who was killed in the raid. 
[includes rush transcript]

Is life in Haiti improving under the new presidency of Rene Preval? 
Well just last week, UN forces opened fire on a poor neighborhood 
outside of Cite Soleil. An international delegation of activists was 
in the area and witnessed what happened. They also caught much of the 
raid on tape. In a moment we are going to play some of that tape. But 
first we are joined in our firehouse studio by one of the witnesses. 
Ben Terrall is a writer and activist. He just returned from Haiti this week.

    * Ben Terrall, writer and activist who just returned from Haiti. 
His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, In These Times, the San 
Francisco Chronicle and else where.
We go back to the day of the UN raid in Simon Pele. These are members 
of the international delegation describing the scene:

    * Witnesses describe the UN raid as it is caught on tape.
Nineteen year-old Wildert Sanedy was shot and killed by UN troops in 
the raid. The delegation caught up with his mother, Adacia Sanedy, 
four days after the shooting. She spoke about her son.

    * Adacia Sanedy, son killed by UN troops in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to stay on this issue of UN forces. Is life 
improving under the new presidency of Rene Preval? Just last week UN 
forces opened fire on a poor neighborhood outside Cite Soleil. An 
international delegation was in the area and witnessed what happened. 
They also caught some of the raid on tape. In a moment, we'll play a 
clip of that tape, but first we're joined in our Firehouse studio by 
one of the witnesses, Ben Terrall, who is a writer and activist, just 
returned from this delegation in Haiti. Ben, would you set the scene 
for us about what we're going to see?

BEN TERRALL: Well, I was with other members of this delegation on a 
road in Simon Pele, which is adjacent to Cite Soleil. It joins it on 
one side. And we saw two armored personnel carriers come in as we 
were there and go down one street, and on a perpendicular street 
there were two other APCs. And I personally saw five or six Brazilian 
UN troops run out of one of the APCs into the neighborhood. And we 
went towards the APC, and we got footage.

AMY GOODMAN: This footage is quite something. Let's go to the day of 
the UN raid in Simon Pele. These are members of the international 
delegation describing the scene.

SASHA KRAMER: We're in Pele in Cite Soleil, and we just heard several 
rounds of gunfire. We saw soldiers jump out of the tank and run into 
the houses nearby. Sounds like they were shooting from inside the houses.

HAITIAN CIVILIAN: [translated] Last week, there were several groups 
in Cite Soleil who said they would turn over their weapons. But 
since, MINUSTAH has continued to shoot on the population. They have 
not done that. As you can see right here, they are continuing to 
shoot on the population.

DELEGATION WITNESS: There's the MINUSTAH soldiers firing from their 
tank into a residential neighborhood. And the blue helmets signify 
that it's UN soldiers. They're wearing the Brazilian uniforms. 
They're getting instructions over the radio right now. They don't 
seem to be at all deterred by our presence. More troops have moved 
into position here, and it looks like a military operation underway. 
The foot troops are going into the area -- the infantry troops are 
going into the area. They're positioning themselves for some kind of 
an attack in this civilian neighborhood.

HAITIAN CIVILIAN: [translated] This is the same formula they used 
when they killed Dred Wilme on the 6th of July last year. So they are 
cutting off a street here using bulldozers, so people can't get in 
and out. They say they are looking for bandits. But we do not know 
exactly who they are looking for.

AMY GOODMAN: 19-year-old Wildert Sanedy was shot and killed by the UN 
troops in the raid. The delegation caught up with his mother, Adacia 
Sanedy, four days after the shooting. She talked about her son.

ADACIA SANEDY: [translated] After I lost my son, I didn't even know 
what to do. I couldn't even stand up. I felt like I lost him in a 
very bad situation. My message to the UN is to thank them for the son 
that they killed. They are always looking for bandits. Apparently 
they didn't get them. At this time, any innocent civilians just 
passing can get shot for nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Ben Terrall, there is a grieving mother. Explain what 
she's saying, because maybe it misses something in translation, as 
she says I thank the UN troops.

BEN TERRALL: Well, I was going to ask her if she had a message to the 
outside world, but we just sort of let her talk about the experience. 
And she described how her son was fixing the radio on the roof as the 
snipers came in. And she said, 'This is my message to the UN: I want 
to thank you for killing my son. You come in here. I don't know why 
you're here. Civilians are killed all the time.' So this is part of a 
pattern. This operation --

AMY GOODMAN: She's being sarcastic.

BEN TERRALL: Completely sarcastic. Yeah, she's very obviously very 
bitter about this. And her son did nothing to deserve this. He wasn't 
connected to an armed group. He was just fixing a radio on the roof. 
And this has been true throughout these operations. I talked to an 
older man who was leaving the neighborhood, who said there had been 
many people killed. We have him on tape, as we were interviewing him. 
He said many people had been killed, and they weren't connected to 
armed groups.
So the UN, they're -- basically the UN is operating without 
oversight. They're operating with impunity. They're going in, and 
they're just, quote/unquote, "securing" these neighborhoods at the 
behest of the ultra-rightwing small elite in Haiti that want to kill 
as many people as possible in these areas. They're not going after 
death squads. They're not disarming the rightist-backed forces and 
the holdover forces from the coup, which unfortunately are still 
controlling the judiciary. They're controlling much of the Haitian government.

And though there have been a small number of high-profile political 
prisoners released, as well they've been targeting people. So this 
week I spoke with an incredible Lavalas organizer who's very close to 
Aristide. He had been with Lavalas from their early years. They come 
back from exile. His name is Rene Civil. He had come back from exile, 
and he was picked up for what looks to be a completely bogus charge. 
His lawyers denounced the charges on the radio. And I spoke to him, 
and it just looked completely ridiculous. He left his car in Haiti. 
He went to the D.R. They're charging him with crimes committed by the 
police, when they had his car when he was in exile.
So this guy spoke to us earlier in the week about a program he was 
running, which was getting scholarships to poor kids. He's working 
with the poorest of the poor, as the Lavalas movement is all about. I 
mean, their motto was "From misery to poverty with dignity." And 
apparently, the U.S. continues to just feel -- clearly the U.S., 
France, and Canada continues to not be willing to accept that. And 
their friends who are still in power there just want to target these 
people as much as possible and kill people and do all the things that 
we heard of in the Lancet reports.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I'd like to ask you about some of these incidents and 
the atrocities of the UN peacekeepers. What kind of coverage in the 
media -- first of all, in Haiti, because the rest of the world has 
already, like, forgotten Haiti, ever since Preval came back, was 
re-elected as president. But in terms of -- what's happened now in 
terms of the Haitian media?

BEN TERRALL: Well, the largely rightwing elite-controlled Haitian 
media is driven by these ultra-rich, ultra-right forces that want the 
UN to crack down further. They want them to kill more people. There's 
been a campaign of complete dehumanization of the poorest 
neighborhoods in Haiti. And so, you're not getting accurate 
information in most of the Haitian press and a small number of radio stations.
But certainly internationally, we don't hear the broader -- we never 
hear the broader context of what the UN has been doing, since the 
beginning of the coup, which is backing up the Haitian police, aiding 
and abetting slaughters. And this went on in the first two years. A 
key factor of this is this went on in the first two years. And they 
were provoking the population by engaging in vast numbers of 
killings, the police. And it's been thoroughly documented before the 
Lancet study by the University of Miami Law School, by filmmaker 
Kevin Pina, by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
So they kill off, they imprison, they torture the nonviolent 
leadership. And then a small number of people, after two years of 
these attacks, take up arms. But they're very limited in number. And 
it's something that I think people in Houston would do if their 
neighborhoods were under siege by armed forces for two years. And you 
have to remember, in the '91 coup, there were like 5,000 people 
killed, so people have this memory of that. And it's always -- in the 
media reporting, it's always taken out of that context.
And also, you never hear about the people that are running free, you 
know, the rightwing people like Guy Philippe, who was a key player in 
the coup forces that came in from the north, who was trained by the 
U.S., you know; and Jodel Chamblain is out now, too. And these people 
are running around. They're old Duvalier people running around, who 
were backing all these death squads, and nobody's disarming them.

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