Sunday, August 14, 2005

Haitian police provide machetes for attacks, UN bears responsibility

Reports continue to come in of UN and Haitian police attacks on civilians;
go to http://www.indybay.org/news/2005/08/1758961.php for an August 10 alert
from the Haiti Action Committee, which includes chilling details of
paramilitary thugs attacking unarmed civilians with machetes. Haitian media
outlets report that the machetes were distributed out of a National Police
car. The attack described in said alert took place in Solino, a neighborhood
which was under siege when I arrived in Haiti last month (see my post from
Friday, July 22, 2005 : quick note on Friday).

The action alert quotes a community leader: "They are trying to dismantle
the grassroots leadership of Lavalas by killing them -- in one neighborhood
after another. This is all in preparation for the sham elections they have
cooked up for this fall to try and legitimize the February 29, 2004 coup
d'etat and the coup regime. By 'they' I mean the death-squad government and
their US, UN, French and Canadian backers."

On our July visit to Haiti, my colleague Doug Spalding and I spoke to a
community-based journalist who has been documenting UN and Haitian police
attacks in popular (i.e. pro-Lavalas) neighborhoods during the current coup
period.

The journalist, who I will call Pierre (for security reasons I prefer not to
risk using his real name) has been denouncing massacres on radio stations in
Miami and on MegaStar in Haiti. Pierre was told by a friend with the Haitian
Police that certain police will kill him if they see him, as a special death
squad called ³Zero Tolerance² is after him. Already, police have shot at
Pierre.

Pierre describes himself as ³the human rights guy in the popular
neighborhoods,² which is why he¹s being hunted. He has been in hiding for
several months but continues to risk his life by documenting human rights
abuses committed by police and UN peacekeepers.

Pierre showed us video footage of a July 11 police operation, where about 15
people were killed on Rue Tiremase downtown, near Bel Air.

He also showed us footage of the aftermath of a July 5 combined operation
between Haitian police and UN peacekeepers. It included images of a Bel Air
resident named William St. Mercy, who was in a wheelchair in the courtyard
in front of his residence when UN troops burst through the courtyard¹s gate
and blew the top of his head off. William¹s sister testified on camera that
Brazilian UN troops fired gas and came into courtyard with no provocation.
After the operation, a UN spokesperson said that ³peacekeepers² killed seven
³bandits², which included William in his wheel chair and a cobbler at work
in his second floor residence. Pierre witnessed eight people shot in the
operation, four of whom let him film their injuries. The survivors testified
that UN soldiers were shooting ³without any control.²

Pierre explained the situation: ³Right now there is a campaign in the media
to describe popular neighborhoods as unsafe, which keeps journalists from
going into area to see what¹s really going on there. There is no justice
for the people in this country, one day the situation will be different,
that¹s why I¹m risking my life to document that the coup government is
shedding Haitian people¹s blood. So that one day, even if I¹m not alive,
there can be justice for these crimes. It doesn¹t make sense that the
international community maintains silence. People just want access to food,
education, health care, justice, but it¹s still a situation where a wealthy
few control the society. People are really suffering in the popular
neighborhoods. People are shot in the head so that others will be terrorized
and won¹t come out in the streets. I have footage of a massacre at Fort
Damanche, where a resident was hiding under a bed, and got shot multiple
times at close range‹these are summary executions.

³In the poorest neighborhoods people don¹t have anything, and often can¹t
survive. The government has excluded them from economic decisions. The
government also created conditions where armed actions are sometimes taken
for survival.²

Good luck finding such analysis in the mainstream. Typically, the emphasis
is on violence attributed to the sectors who have been under attack since
the February 29,2004 coup which ousted not only President Aristide but also
his entire government. A good example of such accepted framing can be found
in a May 16, 2005 letter from Human Rights Watch to the UN Security Council
on the Renewal of the Mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti
(MINUSTAH). The Washington-based NGO writes, ³During a recent mission to
Haiti, Human Rights Watch documented daily acts of violence in
Port-au-Prince. We found that much of the violence is perpetrated by armed
gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Despite security operations carried out jointly by MINUSTAH and the Haitian
National Police (HNP), neighborhoods such as Cite Soleil remain paralyzed by
violence.²

Whether or not the UN participates in attacks on civilians (sometimes they
are joint operations, sometimes just the Haitian police), under its new
mandate, the UN has responsibility for oversight of police. But the UN¹s
approach is to not acknowledge the realities of repression it is in Haiti to
support. In response to demands for an investigation of July 6 Cite Soleil
attacks in which UN forces killed women, children and men, a UN press
release claimed, ³MUNUSTAH forces take all possible measures to reduce the
risk of civilian casualties in their operations. MINUSTAH forces did not
target civilians in the operation on 6 July, 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 security operation."

For another example of MINUSTAH¹s slippery approach to the truth, see photos
of holes blown in roof of Cite Soleil dweller's home by
a helicopter which the UN denies fired any weapons:
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0532,hunterweb,66630,2.html

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben, may your guardian angels be with you and help you to continue to be a voice for the voiceless. May people's hearts be warmed to hear your truth. Praying for peace for the people of Haiti forever...

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