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25707: Holmstead (news): IPS- Group Charges Massacre in U.N. Raid (fwd)
From: John Holmstead <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Group Charges ?Massacre? in U.N. Raid
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 14 (IPS) - A group of U.S.-based
human rights and trade union activists is urging the
United Nations to investigate the alleged killings of
innocent civilians by its peacekeeping troops in the
Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince last week.
The activists, who were dispatched to Haiti by the San
Francisco Labour Council early this month to
participate in a labour conference there, said they
had evidence proving that U.N. military forces had
carried out a ?massacre? in Cite Soleil, one of the
poorest communities in Port-au-Prince, on Jul. 6.
?The evidence of a massacre by U.N. military forces is
substantial and compelling,? activist Seth Donnelly,
who returned from Haiti last Sunday, told IPS. ?It
completely contradicts the official version.?
Soon after the Jul. 6 incident, U.N. military
officials in Haiti justified their actions by saying
that the raid was ?designed to rout gangs? that have
been active in Port-au-Prince. A U.N. mission
spokesman said the operation ?killed or wounded
several gang members.?
But Donnelly and his colleagues, who interviewed
scores of local residents, doctors and human right
activists, said many among the dead were innocent
civilians, who were completely unarmed when the U.N.
military forces carried out the raid.
Haiti has been in the grip of escalating violence
since the overthrow of its democratically-elected
President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who is currently
living in exile in South Africa. Aristide has
repeatedly accused Washington of toppling his
government. He says he was kidnapped by the U.S.
military personnel from his bedroom on Feb. 28, 2004.
Haiti watchers say since Aristide's ouster from power,
the people of poor neighbourhoods like Cite Soleil
have faced extreme repression -- including
extra-judicial killings -- at the hands of Haitian
police. In order to protect their community from
police oppression, many young adults have set up their
own armed networks, which are labeled by authorities
The U.N. mission in Haiti is insisting that these
networks turn in their arms, but has failed to rein in
the police units that have been terrorising the
residents of poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince,
some critics say.
?The bandits tried to fight our men. They suffered
serious losses and we found five bodies in what was
left of a house,? U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Col.
Elouafi Boulbars told reporters a day after the
U.N. troops used helicopters, tanks, machine guns and
tear gas in the operation, according to residents, who
described it as the deadliest raid since the
peacekeepers were deployed there last year. Currently,
there are more than 7,000 U.N. troops stationed in
?We viewed film footage taken by a Haitian who was on
the scene when the U.N. operation was occurring,?
Donnelly said. ?The video shows many of the killings.
One can view at least 10 unarmed people either in the
process of being killed or who were already killed.?
In addition to interviews with the residents and
medical aid workers, Donnelly and his colleagues also
interviewed U.N. peacekeeping officials, Lt. Gen.
Augusto Heleno and Col. Jacques Morneau. The two
officials told activists the purpose of the operation
was to capture Dread Wilme, who led one of Cite
Soleil's armed networks.
Both the U.N. and the interim government have
portrayed Dread Wilme as a gangster. However, in the
eyes of many residents, he was a popular leader who
cared about his community. Last Saturday, thousands of
Haitians in Port-au-Prince took part in his funeral.
Activists say the testimonies they have gathered from
Cite Soleil and the video footage suggested there were
at least 20 people killed during and after the U.N.
operation, in addition to the five dead whose bodies
were buried by their families.
The eyewitness who filmed the incident reported that
people were killed in their homes and outside. One man
named Leon Cherry, 46, was shot and killed on his way
to work. A woman who was a street vendor was shot in
the head and killed. A mother and her two young
children were killed in their own home. A man named
Mira was shot and killed in his bathroom, the witness
?The video footage shows many of the killings while
they were occurring,? said Donnelly.
U.N. officials are tightlipped about the activists'
charge that the Jul. 6 incident was a massacre. A U.N.
spokesperson provided a translation of fragmented
notes from the U.N. military briefing in
Port-au-Prince suggesting the U.N. does not consider
the incident as a massacre.
?There were never any fire from any helicopters,? Lt.
Col. Boulbars told reporters in Haiti Thursday. ?On
the contrary, they (helicopters) stopped some of the
firing on the gang membersàThe gang activity is what
is harming relief and humanitarian effort.?
Meanwhile, Donnelly and other activists say they are
not going to give up until the U.N. Human Rights
Commission orders an inquiry into the issue.
?Haiti cannot have stability if you don't hold those
responsible for committing human right abuses,? he
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