Christmas Massacre in the City of the Sun

Months after Haiti's interim government stepped down, the United Nations MINUSTAH force and the Haitian police continue heavy-handed incursions into Port-au-Prince's poor communities.   The Port-au-Prince slums have been plagued with violence since the February 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after which the United States, France, and Canada put an interim government in place.  As reported in the Miami University humans rights study (http://www.law.miami.edu/cshr/CSHR_Report_02082005 _v2.pdf) ex-FAdH (Haitian military) refashioned themselves as interim police units and began launching assaults on impoverished supporters of the ousted popularly elected government.

While Haiti once again has an elected government (Preval/Alexis) the interim government's economic framework and many of its policies remain in place. Thousands of workers fired by the interim government remain unemployed. Members of the former military remain within the Haitian police and many government positions are filled with partisans of the organizations that ousted Haiti's elected Aristide government.  Political prisoners, such as Fanmi Lavalas activist Rene Civil, remain in jail.

On Friday, December 22, 2006 MINUSTAH, along with a detachment of Haitian police, led a large raid into Cité Soleil.  The assault was launched with 400 UN soldiers along with a column of armored cars.  Cité Soleil and other poor slum neighborhoods continue to experience running gun battles between urban youth/gangs and UN forces.  Local slum dwellers accuse the UN and Haitian police of carrying out massacres. A recent study published in the British Medical journal The Lancet, using random spacial sampling in the greater Port-au-Prince area, found that approximately 8,000 killings and 35,000 sexual assauts had occured during the 22 months of the interim government.  

AUMOHD, a Haitian Human Rights Advocacy Group, and HURAH (Human Rights Accompaniment In Haiti) explain:


We were appalled to learn today of the high risk operation carried out by the MINUSTAH Troops jointly with the Haitian National Police.  We wish to go on record as deploring this kind of approach to managing criminal activity.  The reports we received from the ground were that more than 20 people were killed and a school was totally destroyed.  We have seen the effects of MINUSTAH incursions before in Cité Soleil with huge holes going through walls of houses fired from 20mm canons.  This is more like fictitious war movies than a civilized government using non-violent conflict resolution with a small band of alleged criminals.  The risk is to the innocents who live in these areas.

Yahoo news reports:


At least nine people were killed in Haiti's largest slum on Friday during a raid by security forces targeting armed gangs blamed for a recent surge in kidnappings and other crimes in the capital Port-au-Prince...A Reuters photographer counted nine bodies from the clashes that ensued and eyewitnesses counted four others dead...As many as 30 people were wounded, humanitarian aid workers said.  All of the casualties were believed to be civilians. "The foreigners came shooting for hours without interruption and killed 10 people," Johnny Claircidor, a resident of Bwa Nef, told Reuters. "Then Belony's gang members started to exchange fire with them,' he said. 'I personally counted 10 bodies," Claircidor said.  The spokesperson for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Sophie De la Combe, declined to provide a toll.  "No one was killed or injured on our side, but it's difficult for us to know for now how many bandits could have been killed or wounded," said De la Combe.  The U.N. operation, conducted jointly with the Haitian police, was launched at about 3 a.m. and was led by Brazilian peacekeepers. "The operation was conducted to address the current insecurity caused by the recent wave of kidnappings in the capital Port-au-Prince," said Jean Saint-Fleur, the director of Haiti's Administrative Police. He too said he was unable to give an official death toll from the Cite Soleil fighting. "They came here to terrorize the population," Rose Martel, a slum dweller, told Reuters, referring to the police and U.N. troops. "I don't think they really killed the bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits," she said.
Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! reported on Dec. 26, 2006:
9 Killed in UN Attack on Haiti Neighborhood In Haiti, at least nine people were killed Friday in a UN raid on the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil. It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence Haiti has seen this year. The UN force in Haiti says it was targeting armed gangs. Dozens were left injured, including two children. Cite Soleil resident Alex Surin: "Since 5 o'clock this morning, there has been alot of shooting by MINUSTAH, alot of people killed by bullets. People cannot go out to get something to eat because of all the shooting. They are here to kill all of us in Cite Soleil. Lots of people here are still hungry."
Agence Haitienne de Presse (AHP) reports
"residents report very serious property damage and there are concerns that a critical water shortage may now develop because water cisterns and pipes were punctured by the gunfire..Local residents say the victims were ordinary citizens whose only crime was that they live in the targeted neighborhood.
The Haiti Action Committee reports
Initial press accounts reported at least 40 casualties, all civilians. According to community testimony, UN forces flew overhead in helicopters and fired down into houses while other troops attacked from the ground with Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs). People were killed in their homes. UN troops from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia took part in the all-day siege, backed by Haitian police. UN soldiers once again targeted the Bois Neuf and Drouillard districts of Cite Soleil — scene of the July 6th massacre. While reports are still coming in, this is what we do know right now: A Reuters photographer "counted 9 bodies, and eyewitnesses counted 4 others dead. As many as 30 people were wounded, humanitarian workers said. All of the casualties are believed to be civilians." (Reuters) One Haitian human rights observer personally counted at least 17 dead bodies on the ground. This eyewitness also reported: A woman 6-months pregnant was shot in the stomach, killing the unborn child. A man and his 8-year-old boy were in their beds when a helicopter rained bullets into their house, wounding both. A man named Jacquelin Olivier was killed in his bed when bullets pierced the walls. He leaves a wife and 3-year old boy. "The foreigners came shooting for hours without interruption and killed 10 people," said Bois Neuf resident Johnny Claircidor, quoted by Reuters. "They came here to terrorize the population," Cite Soleil resident Rose Martel told Reuters, referring to UN troops and police. "I don't think they really killed any bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits...According to Pierre Alexis, the Haitian Red Cross coordinator for Cite Soleil, the UN soldiers prevented the Haitian Red Cross from treating children injured during the assault. Alexis said that many children were suffering serious injuries, but that UN soldiers blocked Red Cross vehicles from entering Cite Soleil. AHP reported that "residents were outraged that [UN] soldiers refused to allow medical care...for people they had injured." Despite this, St. Catherine's Hospital in Cite Soleil reported receiving many wounded."

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Jeb Sprague can be reached at JebSprague-at-gmail-dot-com. Visit Jeb Sprague's University web page: http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~jhsprague/