Calls mount for investigation into rights abuses
by Haiti's police
May 25, 2005
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©2005 Haiti Information Project A CIVPOL officer from Spain's Guardia Civil watches a Lavalas demonstration on May 4, 2005. The marchers stopped to protest in front of UN headquarters on Rue Pan-Americain. CIVPOL officers were present when PNH murdered Remissainthe Ravix as he "begged for his life."
©2004 Haiti Information Project - On October 28, 2004, the Haitian police entered the slum of Bel Air and shot these four young men execution style. Members of Aristide's Lavalas party fear the UN will do nothing to stop the police from further murders now that they control Bel Air.
This is the deceitful image the Haitian police wanted the world to see after planting a handgun on the corpse of an unarmed demonstrator on April 27, 2005
Following the march on May 18, 2005 the Haitian police attacked unarmed demonstrators returning to Cite Soleil. According to witnesses, Sanel Joseph was shot and killed by the Haitian police for no apparent reason. No U.N. security presence or U.N. police monitors were present as the police opened fire.
Before protestors leave from Bel Air on May 4 to march to UN headquarters on Rue Pan-Americaine, a cameraman with Chinese CIVPOL unit takes video images of the leadership of the march.

Calls mount for investigation into rights abuses by Haiti's police

by the Haiti Information Project (HIP)

Evidence of Human Rights abuses

The 11 year-old sat shaking on the table at St. Joseph's Hospital in the Bois Verna district of Haiti's capital. The bandages on his small back could barely contain the bleeding from the two gunshot wounds he received from a Haitian police revolver an hour earlier.

Elionord Gilles was brought in with an unidentified 15 year-old girl after police shot them on their way to school on May 25. The police said the children ran as they mounted an operation they claim was to thwart a kidnapping. Elionord tells a different version in his weak and barely audible voice, "They opened fire without saying anything as we were getting out of a truck to go to school."

Amid mounting evidence of a police force spinning out of control, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan recently stated, "There is an urgent demand for justice in Haiti. I appeal to the transitional government to set the example by promptly initiating an investigation into those human rights violations allegedly committed by national police officers." The U.S.-installed government is ignoring this appeal, like so many before it, as it whips up a new hysteria to justify the abuses of the police.

Reports of human rights abuses committed by Haiti's current police force and calls for an investigation are nothing new. Amnesty International detailed accusations of human rights abuses in a Nov. 11, 2004 press release entitled, "Haiti: Amnesty International calls on the transitional government to set up an independent commission of enquiry into summary executions attributed to members of the Haitian National Police." The press release cited the following examples,

- Tuesday, 26 October, Fort National, Port-au-Prince. Individuals reported to be members of the police burst into a house and kill at least seven people;

- Wednesday, 27 October, Carrefour Péan, Port-au-Prince. Four young men are killed in the street in broad daylight by individuals wearing black uniforms and balaclavas. Witnesses identify their vehicles as police patrol cars.

- Martissant, October. A 13-year-old street child is arrested near the National Theatre by the naval police. At the police station, he is questioned about the hiding places being used by the "chimeres" (armed groups said to be supporters of former President Aristide) are hiding and brutally beaten by police while handcuffed and blindfolded.

- Martissant, 20 October. A man is arrested in front of witnesses by individuals wearing black uniforms and balaclavas. They put a plastic bag over his head before brutally beating him. He is being detained at a police station in the capital.

Recent shootings of unarmed demonstrators by the police have also adversely affected the political climate as the U.N. prepares for upcoming elections. The Haitian police fired on a peaceful demonstration by supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the capital on Feb. 28. This prompted Brazilian Lt. Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro to speak out. According to the Associated Press (AP) Ribero said on March 1, "police killings had poisoned an atmosphere that peacekeepers had been working to improve for two months." Ribero continued, "But police went there and killed six people on Friday ... now we're being received with a completely different attitude."

After the police killings of Feb. 28, the U.N. bars the Haitian police from security duties during demonstrations the following week. This exclusion is short-lived as interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse claims that the limits placed on the police by the U.N. are illegal and usurp the rights of the Haitian state.

On March 14 the group Refugees International (RI) released a statement entitled, "Haiti: UN Civilian Police Require Executive Authority." In it RI states, "The misbehavior of the HNP [Haitian National Police] also poses a serious problem for the UN. MINUSTAH is mandated to assist in restructuring and reforming the HNP, including vetting and certifying new police candidates and advising and mentoring current HNP officers. Although these strategies may eventually resolve the behavior problems, in the meantime MINUSTAH's relationship with ordinary Haitians is gravely harmed. HNP actions smear the reputation of UN peacekeepers, who are often present during these operations but not involved. Haitians see peacekeepers standing by while bodies litter the street, and question what MINUSTAH is doing to help them."

On April 27, the Haitian police attack another peaceful demonstration and are caught on camera planting guns in the hands of their victims. Amnesty International commented in a press release dated April 28; "The use of lethal and indiscriminate violence by the police to disperse and repress demonstrators only serves to increase tension in an already violence-torn country."

An Insider's View

The problems of reigning in the abuses of the Haitian police are apparently a source of frustration for some members of the U.N. Civilian Police or CIVPOL. HIP received the following response to an article published May 8 entitled, "U.N. accommodates human rights abuses by police in Haiti." The author asked to remain anonymous fearing reprisal and dismissal,

"I read with interest your most recent article "UN Accomodated HR Abuses" with interest. Just want to reinforce your observations as all being accurate. I am one of the U.N. CIVPOL here on the ground in Haiti. As a group we are frustrated by the UN's and CIVPOL's unwillingness to interpret their mandate aggressively. [We] have been pushing them to conduct investigations into all the shootings and other significant Human Rights violations with no success- Unfortunately, I have countless examples. The corruption in the HNP is massive with little interest in addressing the problem. Just keep up the pressure, I don't know what else to do."

According to sources close to the mission, a major obstacle to holding the Haitian police accountable is the U.S.-installed interim government and the high command of the HNP. They cite as an example a proposal made for the creation of a Firearms Discharge Review Committee. Every professional police force in the world has such a committee that reviews every circumstance under which an officer on the force discharges a firearm. Such a committee existed in the HNP prior to the ouster of Aristide in Feb, 2004. Today, not only does such a committee no longer exist, but also efforts to resuscitate it are reportedly being blocked by interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse and the head of the police.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that there is currently no clear system of firearms registration within the police where a given weapon can be clearly traced back to a specific member of the force. According to anonymous international sources working closely with the police, one of the main reasons for this is that many members of the Haitian police are using "illegal and untraceable weapons" in their operations. They are currently not being monitored and supervised by the internal general inspection office of the HNP. Weapons oversight in the institution is said to be "non-existent."

Another frustration among some officers in CIVPOL is the lack of command authority in their mandate to supervise daily operations to implement an efficient institutional reinforcement program within the HNP. As it stands, the Haitian police are said to ignore the advice and mentoring components offered by the program and often don't show up to joint tactical operations planning sessions and briefings. They are most likely to act unilaterally to the dismay of many CIVPOL officers.

There is also increasing concern by some in CIVPOL over the vetting process for the enrollment of cadets into the police academy. A large number of former members of Haiti's military have been inducted into the force without apparently meeting basic psychological and physical standards required by most professional police forces. This does not even begin to address vetting conscripts for previous human rights abuses they may have committed. The latter has been a cause of great concern in diplomatic circles due to its potential for future politicization of the HNP.

CIVPOL: Complicity by default

The purported lack of command authority of the U.N. over the HNP has brought about charges of complicity in the abuses they have committed. Just as the U.N. military forces have been accused of standing by and allowing the HNP to kill unarmed demonstrators, reports have surfaced of CIVPOL members standing by as the HNP tortured and murdered political opponents. These reports do not only concern supporters of Aristide's Lavalas movement, but also members of the former military who challenged the current U.S.-installed regime.

According to an anonymous CIVPOL source, "There was a recent a joint operation between CIVPOL and HNP [targeting members of the former military who refused to lay down their arms]. At the end of the first day's operation Ravix [Remissainthes] was only wounded, begging for his life when HNP shot him with CIVPOL present and not intervening or taking any other action. The next day Anthony Jean, alias Grenn Sonnen, was killed in the operation but his second-in-command was only wounded. He was in a separate room where CIVPOL were not present. HNP went into that room and killed this subject as well. While CIVPOL did not directly witness this they were in the next room. Again, no intervention."

Haitian human rights groups in the capital recently offered harsh criticism of CIVPOL for not intervening as police reportedly tortured prisoners in their presence. The majority of prisoners held in the capital are said by several human rights organizations to have been arrested for their political affiliation with Lavalas.

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