Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Gunfire Kills 1 in Pro-Aristide Haiti Slum

One Killed After Haitian Police, U.N. Peacekeepers Move Into Pro-Aristide Slum
The Associated Press

Apr. 29, 2005 – Gunfire erupted as Haitian police and U.N. peacekeepers moved into a slum stronghold of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Thursday, and at least one civilian was killed, residents said.

Residents said Haitian police, escorted by U.N. peacekeepers, charged into the Port-au-Prince slum of Bel Air and started chasing and beating residents. Automatic gunfire echoed for hours in the narrow streets as peacekeepers crouched behind walls.

Bel Air, always a hotspot for violence, erupted anew on Wednesday when police fired into protesters marching to the U.N. headquarters to press their demands for Aristide’s return from exile in South Africa. At least five people were killed.

On Thursday, the bullet-riddled body of Jean-Michel Saint-Bert, 24, lay under a bloodstained white sheet in an alley. The victim’s wife said police charged into the neighborhood and started chasing Saint-Bert and others.

“The police said ‘stop.’ He said, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ Another policeman said ‘Just kill him,’ and they shot him,” said the wife, Nadia Joseph.

She said her husband, who doesn’t live with her, had not been involved in criminal activities and had been delivering money for their year-old daughter.

Police and U.N. officials could not immediately be reached for comment about Thursday’s events.

Human rights groups and Aristide allies have accused U.N. peacekeepers of accompanying police on raids in which the police are accused of summary executions of civilians in pro-Aristide slums in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti has been mired in outbreaks of violence that have killed at least 400 people since a three-week rebellion ousted Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.

U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police have struggled to assert control over sprawling Port-au-Prince slums where pro- and anti-Aristide gangs hold sway. They have also increasingly clashed with former soldiers who helped topple Aristide, control some rural towns, and refuse to disarm. Many fear the violence could thwart efforts to hold general elections in October and November.

Witnesses of Wednesday’s shooting said police fired as demonstrators approached the headquarters of the peacekeeping mission.

“The police came from the back of the protest and they opened fire on the protest,” said Lyonel Pierre, a radio journalist who covered the event.

Dan Moskaluk, a spokesman for the U.N. civilian police in Haiti, said U.N. personnel called to the scene after the shooting found five bodies.

The shootings come as the U.S. State Department has confirmed its plans to waive an arms embargo to allow sales of thousands of arms for the Haitian police.

Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen on Thursday abducted Jean Henold Buteau, a physician who leads the center-left Movement for National Reconstruction, as he was getting out of his vehicle in front of his private clinic in the capital, Port-au-Prince, said his wife, Evelyn Buteau.

The kidnappers have demanded $30,000 ransom, and the family is negotiating, she said. It was not clear whether the kidnapping was purely criminal or also politically related.

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