May 17, 2005
Half Hour For Haiti: Urge the United Nations to Protect Protestors During Flag Day Celebrations
Thank you for everyone who responded to last week�s appeal for political prisoner, grandmother and folksinger Annette Auguste, �So Anne�. The Haiti Action Committee has collected over 600 signatories for that petition so far, but there is still time to sign on (http://www.haitiaction.com/News/HIP/5_5_5.html). Yvon Neptune, the subject of the previous week�s alert, is still alive, but still in prison. His condition continues to get worse (updates are available under �Recent News� at www.ijdh.org).
This week�s action is more time-sensitive than usual: tomorrow, May 18, is Flag Day in Haiti, and several dissident groups have announced protests. We are asking everyone to contact the United Nations, to ensure that the UN fulfill its mandate to protect these protestors from the Haitian National Police, which routinely shoots at unarmed demonstrations. Please take this action, if possible, on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. There will still be a chance to make a difference up through about 3PM ET on Wednesday.
Background: from May 14-18, 1803, black and mulatto military leaders fighting for independence from France came together for the Conference of Arcahaie. Up to that point, the French had been able to exploit divisions among Haitians of different shades, often inducing them to fight each other rather than fighting the slaveowners. But Jean-Jacques Dessalines, helped by the sadistic atrocities of the French Commander, Rochambeau and by French threats to reinstate slavery for all Haitians, was able to forge a united front. On May 18 all the generals agreed to fight under a single flag, which won Haiti�s independence by the end of that year.
Several organizations, including supporters of�Fanmi Lavalas and student groups are planning marches on May 18, especially in Port-au-Prince, to protest against the disunity that has once again placed Haiti under foreign occupation, and to call for the liberation of political prisoners, the end of political persecution and the return of the constitutional government. Two major peaceful demonstrations this year, on February 28 and April 27, have ended with police shooting at and killing demonstrators (See, Amnesty International Alert on Excessive Use of Force Against Peaceful Demonstrations, April 27, 2005, http://www.ijdh.org/pdf/AMR360032005.pdf;�Haitian Police Open Fire on Nonviolent March for Democracy, CommonDreams.org, February 28, 2005). Police have also routinely shot at smaller demonstrations.
The United Nations Support Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH), has over 7,000 peacekeepers in Haiti, and a mandate from the Security Council to �protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.� Although the UN did aggressively implement the mandate to protect peaceful protestors for a few weeks in the wake of the February 28 killings, the mission has resumed a more cooperative role with the police, which allowed the killings of April 27.
In light of the past routine police killings of protestors, participants in Flag Day marches will be protesting under the imminent threat of violence. Please contact the following UN officials, urging them to ensure that MINUSTAH fulfills its mandate to protect these citizens. Whether you communicate by telephone, email or fax, your communication does not need to be extensive. You can simply state �As you know, several organizations are planning demonstrations in Haiti on May 18. Also as you know, on several recent occasions, including April 27 and February 28, Haitian police have fired at unarmed demonstrators. Please ensure that MINUSTAH implements its mandate to protect citizens under imminent threat of violence by assuring that the Haitian police do not fire at demonstrators on May 18.�
MINUSTAH Military Commander in Haiti
Lt. General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira
Salutation: Dear Lt. General Pereira
Commissioner of CIVPOL – the UN Civilian Police in Haiti
Mr. David Beer
Fax: + 509 244 9366
Salutation: Dear Commissioner Beer
Thierry Fa gart
Director, MINUSTAH Human Rights Division