Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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

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 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 P�an,
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 “chim�res” (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 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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