Tuesday, July 26, 2005

this puts "gang" label into context, which Amnesty didn't

RIGHTS-HAITI:
UN to Probe Deadly Raid
Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 25 (IPS) - Following protests by human rights
groups in the United States, the United Nations mission in Haiti has
decided to investigate the alleged killing of civilians by its troops
there early this month.

In a statement Monday, the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, also
known as MINUSTAH, admitted for the first time that civilians might
have been injured or killed during the Jul. 6 raid on a working-class
neighbourhood in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

MINUSTAH is the sixth U.N. mission to hit Haiti in a decade, and comes
on the heels of the country's second U.S.-led invasion and occupation
in as many years.

Until recently, the U.N. mission had consistently and categorically
denied activists' claims that many innocent people had died as a
result of indiscriminate firing by U.N. troops in Cite Soleil, a
stronghold of the supporters of ousted president Jean Bertrand
Aristide.

"MINUSTAH forces did not target civilians in the operation on Jul. 6,"
U.N. officials said in a statement, adding that "the nature of such
operation in densely populated urban areas is such that there is
always a risk of civilian casualties."

The statement said the mission "deeply regrets any injuries or loss of
life during its security operation," but gave no count of the dead or
injured.

Right activists say community leaders in Cite Soleil had counted at
least 23 bodies, including those of women and children, as a result of
firing by U.N. troops. More than 400 troops took part in the assault.

U.N. mission officials said the security situation in parts of
Port-au-Prince remained "very tense," adding that for the past few
months different armed gangs had "terrorised" the population and
"disrupted" the economic activity of the city.

MINUSTAH and the Haitian police have collaborated on many missions in
the capital and in the countryside, carrying out raids, confronting
gang violence and providing security for events.

Justifying the Jul. 6 action, the U.N. mission said it had taken a
"robust posture to disrupt the activities of these armed gangs and
bring the alleged criminals to justice," because it was necessary to
create "a secure and stable environment within which the
constitutional and political process can take place."

In April, a delegation of 10 Security Council members, headed by
Brazilian Ambassador to the Security Council Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg,
and members of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council ECOSOC, visited
Haiti to pledge support for a disarmament campaign, reform of the
police force and justice system, economic and social development, and
national elections slated for this fall.

But U.S.-based activists, who have interviewed scores of local
residents and medical aid workers in Port-au-Prince, see things
differently. They say since Aristide's ouster from power, the people
of poor neighbourhoods like Cite Soleil have faced extreme repression
-- including extra-judicial killings -- at the hands of Haitian
police.

In response, some young people have set up their own armed networks,
which are labeled by authorities as "gangs."

While the U.N. mission in Haiti wants those youth to surrender their
arms, it has failed to rein in the police units that have been
terrorising people in the poor neighborhood, according to some Haiti
watchers.

Though welcoming the U.N. decision to probe the use of excessive force
by its peacekeeping troops, activists said that was not sufficient.

"That is not the way to conduct a professional police operation," Seth
Donnelly, an activist who closely watched the recent events in Haiti,
told IPS. "Rather this seems to be what the U.S. military did in
Falluja, Iraq to find insurgents."

The widely-publicised siege of Fallujah in April 2004, called in
response to the killings of four U.S. military contractors, included
massive air and artillery strikes, and resulted in hundreds of Iraqi
civilian deaths.

Donnelly and others insist that the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights
Commission, not MINUSTAH, should be given the authority to conduct an
inquiry.

"We are hoping that Human Rights Commission will conduct its own
investigation," said Donnelly. "It's clear that higher authorities are
involved here."

Earlier this month, Donnelly and his colleagues were sent to
Port-au-Prince by the San Francisco Labour Council to attend a major
labor conference there. They said they were still in Haiti when the
U.N. troops raided Cite Soleil and that they had access to videotaped
footage showing innocent people dying as a result of that operation.

"The evidence of a massacre by U.N. military forces is substantial and
compelling. It completely contradicts the official version," they
said.

Critics of the U.N. mission's way of handling the pervasive violence
in Haiti say the world body's mission there needs to strike a balance
in the conflict between Haitian police and members of the local
communities.

"The U.N. mission apologised to the Haitian police for its delayed
arrival on the scene of an incident where two police officers were
killed on May 22, but it has never once apologised for any of the many
documented instances where its troops killed civilians," said Pierre
Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee, a U.S.-based group.

Noting that under its most recent mandate, the U.N. has supervision of
the Haitian police, he added: "Instead of stopping the killing of
civilians, the U.N. is stepping up the slaughter. That must not be
accepted by the international community." (END/2005)
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3 Comments:

Blogger eRobin said...

I don't see your email address on the blog so I'll leave a comment here. Thanks for going to Haiti. I had a hard time finding bloggers who were blogging from there. If you find others, please link to them. Getting honest information from Haiti is a struggle, as you know.

There is a small but, I think, growing blog effort to bring attention to Haiti. I listed some of the bloggers who pay attention to the story here.

Thanks again.

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