Police-UN Killings in Haiti


This is a partial list of recent National Police/United Nations killings in Haiti, reported pretty unambiguously by mainstream sources. It’s instructive to check how widely and prominently these accounts were published, if they were at all.

• Miami Herald, March 1 2005: “Haitian police opened fire on peaceful protesters Monday, killing two, wounding others and scattering an estimated 2,000 people marching through the capital [on February 28] to mark the first anniversary of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster… ‘I’m not aware of any shots [fired] at the police,’ said Brazilian Navy Cmdr. Carlos Chagas Braga, second in command of the peacekeepers. ‘Everything was going peacefully. . . . We don’t know why they came to disband the demonstration.’”
 â€œPeacekeepers, whose orders are to support the police, stood by as the attack  occurred. The police quickly disappeared, leaving the bodies on the street. ‘When things like this happen we are in a bad situation,’ Chagas added. ‘We are supposed to support the Haitian National Police. We cannot fire at  them.’”

• Miami Herald, March 3 2005: “Two days after Haitian police opened fire on
a crowd of peaceful protesters and killed two, the head of the U.N. mission
here said police brutality is undercutting progress and such action will no
longer be tolerated. ‘We cannot tolerate executions,’ U.N. Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes said in an interview with The Miami Herald on Wednesday. ‘We can’t tolerate shooting out of control. We will not permit human rights abuses.’”
 â€œHe said U.N. peacekeepers will intervene – and use force if necessary – if
Haitian police attack unarmed civilians again… About 2,000 Aristide supporters marched through the slum of Bel Air to mark the anniversary of his ouster. Peacekeepers had the situation under control and told police commanders not to send any patrols in, knowing the hostility they create. According to a U.N. report on the incident, mid-level police officials decided to confront the protesters, and three trucks carrying 15-20 masked
officers pulled in front of the group.”
 “‘At that moment, the demonstration was absolutely pacific,’ according to a
U.N. official reading from the report. ‘No one was armed in any evident way.’ The crowd cursed the police, who then fired three tear gas grenades and began shooting wildly into the crowd, the U.N. official said. Police then left the scene.”
 â€œValdes and other U.N. officials were furious. ‘We believe that all we have
done in Bel Air is seriously threatened by this incident,’ Valdes said. On Tuesday, Valdes spoke at length with Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and Police Chief Leon Charles, and received promises that such an attack will not happen again.”

• Associated Press, March 24 2005: “Police opened fire Thursday during a street march in Haiti’s capital to demand the return of ousted resident Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Witnesses said at least one person was killed…. Associated Press reporters saw police firing into the air and toward protesters.”
  
• Associated Press, April 27 2005: “Police fired on protesters demanding the release of detainees loyal to Haiti’s ousted president Wednesday, killing at least five demonstrators, U.N. officials and witnesses said. Witnesses said Haitian police arrived as the demonstrators neared the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the capital of Port-au-Prince and fired shots to disperse the crowd… The incident marked the third time in three months that Haitian police have fatally opened fire on demonstrators in Port-au-Prince.”
  
 â€¢ Reuters, June 5 2005: “As many as 25 people were killed in police raids on Friday and Saturday in the slums of Haiti’s capital after the government said it would get tougher on gangs, morgue workers and witnesses said…. ‘The police arrived, they started shooting. There were other people shooting too, but they managed to flee,’ said Ronald Macillon, a Bel-Air resident. ‘The police killed a lot of people and set several homes on fire,’ Macillon said. Several other witnesses gave similar accounts.”

•  Reuters, July 15 2005: “Opposition groups and residents of two Port-au-Prince slums say dozens of innocent people were killed during anti-gang raids by U.N troops and Haitian police last week, but U.N. and police officials denied the accusations.”
 â€œThe Lawyers Committee for Individual Rights, a group known as CARLI and regarded as one of the most independent rights groups operating in Haiti, said U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police killed unarmed residents, including children and elders, in the slums of Bel-Air and Cite Soleil, strongholds of supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”
 “‘We have credible information that U.N. troops, accompanied by Haitian police, killed an undetermined number of unarmed residents of Cite Soleil, including several babies and women,’ Renan Hedouville, the head of CARLI, told Reuters this week.”
 â€œâ€¦On July 6, about 400 U.N. troops with 41 armored vehicles and helicopters, and several dozen Haitian police officers, conducted a raid in Cite Soleil, Haiti’s largest slum, to root out gunmen. The slum harbors a number of gangs, many of them loyal to Aristide.”
 â€œâ€¦Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it treated more than two dozen people that day, including a pregnant woman who survived surgery but lost her baby. ‘We received 27 people wounded by gunshots on July 6. Three quarters were children and women,’ said Ali Besnaci, the head of the MSF mission in Haiti. ‘We had not received so many wounded in one day for a long time.’”
 â€œA U.N. military spokesman, Col. Elouafi Boulbars, said U.N. troops killed five ‘criminals’ during the operation. But after those bodies were taken away, a Reuters TV crew filmed seven other bodies of people killed during the operation, including those of two one-year-old baby boys and a woman in her 60s.”

• Miami Herald, September 1 2005: “The police carried assault rifles and wore black masks. The gang they accompanied had brand-new machetes. According to witnesses and U.N. investigators, they stormed into a soccer match during halftime, ordered everyone to lie on the ground and began shooting and hacking people to death in broad daylight as several thousand spectators fled for their lives.”
 â€œThe Aug. 20 attack left at least six dead and has raised fears among U.N. officials trying to stabilize this lawless city that bands of police — working with gangs and guided by some unknown player in Haitian politics — are ‘cleaning up’ before November’s elections.”
 â€œâ€¦[T]he attack on the soccer match in Martissant, caught on videotape and broadcast by a local TV station, was the most brazen [police raid], providing the biggest piece of evidence yet for allegations of police brutality under the current government.”
 â€œAn estimated 5,000 people attended the soccer game, which was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development to promote peace in the crime-plagued neighborhood. One witness, Fontaine Lenaud, said more than a dozen police trucks filled with anti-riot officers surrounded the stadium around 5:30 p.m., just as the second half was set to begin.”
 ‘‘At first people seemed to be happy,’ said Thierry Fagart, chief of the Human Rights Section of the U.N. mission in Haiti, who viewed the tape and interviewed witnesses. ‘And then you hear one gunshot. You see police ordering people to lie down. People were running.’ Lenaud, like everyone else, tried frantically to escape. ‘People were jumping over walls trying to get out,’ he said. ‘With my own eyes I saw six or seven bodies.’ Witnesses told Fagart that police distributed machetes to local gang members, who pointed out rivals from a pro-Lavalas gang at the match. Some were handcuffed and shot in the head by police, witnesses said. Others were hacked to death. ‘All the executions were outside the stadium,’ Fagart said. ‘Some were hit by machetes and then finished off with a shot to the head.’”
 â€œFagart estimated that at least nine people died, but added that investigators were unable to confirm this because bodies are often dumped in the hills outside the city. [Mario] Andresol, the police chief, told the AP that six people were killed. He said an investigation determined the only people at the scene with guns were the police, “so we know police did the shooting.’

• Washington Times, August 30 2005:  “Witnesses to the Aug. 20 massacre said about 6,000 spectators were packed into the soccer stadium when police officers ordered everyone to the ground. Shots rang out, and people ran for the walled field’s only exit.
Police fired wantonly into the crowd, witnesses and relatives of victims said. Outside, they said, civilians armed with machetes and more police officers attacked people trying to flee the chaos.”
 â€œâ€¦[W]itnesses at the soccer match said the killings there were neither spontaneous nor carried out with popular support. They said they recognized some of the machete-wielding civilians as ‘attaches,’ or local criminals who reportedly are paid police informants and assassins.”

Addendum

• One of the few reporters to raise these killings with a high-ranking leader of the countries (U.S., France, Canada) that supported the overthrow of the Aristide government and the installment of the interim one has been independent journalist Dru Oja Jay (www.dru.ca). This is his exchange with Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew at a Montreal press conference, June 17, 2005:

Pettigrew: Well you’re talking about allegations that we do not accept. We have here the very chief of MINUSTAH, we have here the minister from the transitional government, and you can pretend all kinds of things but what I can tell you is that I’m very proud, very proud of the Canadian police contribution in the MINUSTAH led by Mr. Valdez. I think the Haitian police is doing its very best in extremely difficult circumstances. and obviously, obviously, Canada would never condone any activity by which a force would not respect the rule of law. Of anyone.

Oja Jay: So just to follow up, do you deny the reports in the international press –

Pettigrew: Well if you are referring to the study –

Oja Jay: In the Associated Press, in Reuters – do you deny those reports, where journalists have had eye-witness accounts that they have witnessed Haitian police killing unarmed protesters. I just want to clarify…

Pettigrew: If they did, I have not heard of that. If you are talking about the Miami University study* that is pretending all kinds of things that might have been taking by some of the members of the press, I absolutely think that it is propaganda which is absolutely not interesting. What interests me is the future of Haiti, it is the future of Haitians, and the progress of the rule of law.

* University of Miami School of Law Centre for Human Rights, “Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004”, http://www.law.miami.edu/news/368.html.

 

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