Open Letter to Human Rights Watch

Letter to the U.N. Security Council on the Renewal of the Mandate of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

TO: Human Rights Watch RE: Letter to the U.N. Security Council on the Renewal of the Mandate of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) DATE: May 17, 2005

Dear HRW,

In your recent letter to the U.N. Security Council dated May 16, 2005 you stated, “During 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 recently carried out jointly by MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police (HNP), neighborhoods such as Cite Soleil remain paralyzed by violence.” You then follow this statement several paragraphs down with, “Given Haiti’s upcoming elections, we encourage you to ensure that MINUSTAH has all necessary resources for establishing a stable and secure environment for the electoral process. In addition to the mission’s efforts to support the process of national dialogue and to address logistical and administrative problems, it should also take concrete steps to ensure the safety of all participants in the electoral campaign. Specifically, we encourage you to enhance MINUSTAH’s capacity to provide security for protests and public marches. MINUSTAH should also undertake to ensure that the police do not use lethal force unnecessarily against demonstrators, as occurred during the February and March 2005 demonstrations in Cite Soleil. To this end, we encourage you to consider deploying additional Formed Police Units to assist and train the HNP in crowd-control techniques compatible with international human rights standards.”

These two statements are clearly contradictory.The first places the blame for violence on “armed gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide” and follows with praise for “security operations recently carried out jointly by MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police (HNP)…” Later you make a weak criticism of the PNH for massacres they have committed during peaceful demonstrations while avoiding a call for a public investigation to make the police accountable for these very same killings. With one-hand you praise the Haitian police for raids into poor neighborhoods of the capital with the U.N., where evidence also exists of human rights violations, and with the other hand you acknowledge abuses by the police during peaceful demonstrations without holding them accountable to justice.

As an independent journalist living in Haiti who puts his camera between the Haitian police and demonstrators to cover this story, I am deeply disappointed with your letter because it falls short of demanding the Haitian police be investigated for documented cases of human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings. Not only does this place journalists such as myself in greater danger, but I wonder how I will explain your position to the families of the victims slaughtered by the Haitian police who are merely asking for justice and accountability? Do I tell them that Human Rights Watch agrees with the Haitian police that their loved ones are expendable because they are suspected of being members of “armed gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?” Despite the fact that it is well-documented they were shot in cold-blood during a peaceful demonstration? Do I tell them Human Rights Watch agrees with the documented tactic of the Haitian police of planting guns on the corpses of unarmed demonstrators after they kill them? if you disbelieve me then trust you own eye and visit: . Look at the 35 five images of the handiwork of the Haitian police with your own eyes and know that this is what you are dismissing with your half-hearted and ,apparently biased, human rights work in Haiti.

For my part, I will publicly encourage my readers and listeners to discontinue responding to fund raising appeals by your organization. I will tell them that whenever they read statements released by you they should be suspicious and return any fund raising appeals they receive by you marked: “What about your position on Haiti? Hold the Haitian police accountable!!” I will continue to do this until Human Rights Watch stops dismissing victims of the Haitian police as defacto “collateral damage” and begins to demand a public investigation into human rights abuses committed by the Police Nationale de Haiti (PNH).


Kevin Pina Editor, Haiti Information Project Associate Editor, Black Commentator Haiti Special Correspondent, Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica Frequent guest commentator on Haiti for several local, national and international radio programs

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