Haitis poor struggle against inhuman horror

The University of Miami Law School's recently released report exposes widespread human rights abuses taking place in Haiti under the U.S.-imposed government. The U.S.-sponsored coup on Feb. 29, 2004 ousted elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. A team of investigators from UMLS’ Center for the Study of Human Rights visited Haiti, Nov. 11-21, 2004.

“After 10 months under an interim government backed by the U.S., Canada and France and buttressed by a United Nations force, Haiti’s people churn inside a hurricane of violence,” concluded lawyer Thomas Griffin, who led the investigation and authored the 60-page report.

Residents in poor neighborhoods told investigators that police and soldiers conduct frequent raids into their neighborhoods, indiscriminately killing and wounding people. One community leader charged that police attacked peaceful demonstrations demanding Aristide’s return and were committing open-air, midday massacres.

In Cite Soleil, both police and residents said, Andy Apaid of the Group of 184 — a business group that opposed Aristide — is paying gang members to kill Aristide’s Lavalas Party supporters.

In Port-au-Prince, young men do not leave the poor barrios; even those who suffer gunshot wounds during police raids refuse to go to hospitals because they fear police will arrest them.

The human rights group CARLI reports, “There are numerous cases of young men with gunshot wounds being taken from the general hospital emergency room by HNP [Haitian National Police] and later found among bodies at the morgue.” The group said most of the repression is aimed at Lavalas supporters, describing daily police forays into poor slums as “indiscriminate guerrilla attacks.”

Police officers spoke anonymously to investigators, reporting that former members of the military now control all top HNP positions. They confirmed that police operations against poor neighborhoods are aimed at killing specific targets. “Regarding current HNP operations in poor neighborhoods, the police explained that if ten civilians are killed, on average only four are ‘targeted individuals’ and six are innocent bystanders. Because ‘targets’ are being killed, rather than arrested, the police try to kill all witnesses,” according to the report. The police officers said honest officers, who refuse to accept bribes and carry out summary executions, would like to speak out, but do not do so because they fear for their lives and jobs.

Former soldiers are reestablishing the army, the report confirms. Aristide abolished Haiti’s military in 1994 after it overthrew him in 1991. The army governed the country brutally until Aristide was returned to power with the help of the U.S. military in 1994. Former soldiers assist police raids and carry out their own operations.

Investigators visited two prisons and found Lavalas supporters stuffed in overcrowded cells who had not been brought before a magistrate, according to law.

A high government official denied that there is political repression in Haiti. Officials from the U.S. embassy told investigators that while the human rights situation was “grave,” they questioned reports of police massacres and attacks and insisted that UN forces use deadly force to stop the current wave of gang instigated violence.

The report sheds light on the U.S. covert campaign to undermine the Aristide government through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). According to IFES employees, with millions of dollars given to them by the U.S. Agency for International Development, they organized opposition groups across the country — including the Group of 184 — to oppose the Aristide government.

IFES provided financial grants to CARLI to generate phony reports accusing the Lavalas Party of violating human rights. “CARLI staff admitted that, under pressure from IFES to produce and disseminate names of Aristide or Lavalas supporters accused of human rights violations, it often published names after a superficial investigation or no investigation at all,” the report said. IFES passed these reports on to the U.S. Embassy, the Organization of American States, the Canadian government and the anti-Aristide media in Haiti to undermine the legitimacy of the Aristide government.

The UMLS report concludes “many Haitians, especially those living in poor neighborhoods, now struggle against inhuman horror” and urges policymakers and citizens to take action to stop it.

The full text of the report is available at: www.law.miami.edu/cshr