June 28, 2005
Half Hour For Haiti: Release the MINUSTAH Prison Massacre Report
Thanks to everyone who wrote to the Haitian Minister of Justice about political prisoner Jacques Mathelier. Last week a new Minister, Henri Dorléans, was named, so if you have not yet written to the Minister, you can now put a name into the letter (see http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_halfhourforhaiti_june-21-05.htm ). Mr. Dorléans has a good reputation, but we will soon see whether he intends to support the rule of law or continue his predecessor’s persecution of pro-democracy activists. So far, no political prisoners have been released.
Friday will mark seven months since the December 1, 2004 massacre in the National Penitentiary, when police and prison guards fired into a non-lethal prison protest. The police claim that ten prisoners were killed, mostly by other prisoners, while witnesses claim several times that number killed by police and guards. On December 20, IJDH released a preliminary report on the massacre, http://www.ijdh.org/Document2.pdf—”preliminary” because the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) would not allow independent human rights investigators or journalists to talk to prisoners or guards, or investigate inside the prison.
The IJDH report called for an independent investigation by MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. It noted that the “ events took place in a well-defined area over a defined period of time. There are hundreds of known witnesses, their names listed in prison and guard registers…. An effective investigation of the December 1 events becomes, therefore, not a test of investigative skill and resources as much as a test of a investigative will.”
Amnesty International also called for an investigation, and MINUSTAH did conduct one. But MINUSTAH has not released its report, seven months later. According to several news reports, the MINUSTAH report’s release has been delayed by a dispute with the Haitian Police over the number of dead.
Action: Write or fax UN Special Representative Juan Gabriel Valdés, urging him to release MINUSTAH’s prison report immediately, and to resist pressure from the Haitian police to minimize the number of casualties. A sample letter is below. Mr. Valdés speaks English, French and Spanish. His fax number is (dial 011 first from the US for an international line) 509 244 3512 .
Mr Juan Gabriel Valdés
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
387, avenue John Brown
Dear Mr. Valdés,
This Friday will mark seven months since the December 1 Massacre at the National Penitentiary, when Haitian police and prison guards opened fire on unarmed prisoners. I understand that MINUSTAH has investigated the incident, but has not released its report. According to Haitian media reports, the report has been complete for several weeks, but MINUSTAH has withheld it from the public due to a disagreement with the Haitian police over the number of prisoners killed.
I urge you to make every effort to ensure that the MINUSTAH report on the December 1 Prison Massacre is released without further delay, and that its casualty figures reflect the evidence available to MINUSTAH investigators, not the preferences of the Haitian police.
A credible, independent report on the massacre is important to establishing trust in the rule of law and in MINUSTAH. It is essential to fulfilling MINUSTAH’s mandate to monitor the human rights situation and combat impunity. This is especially true in this case, where the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) prevented independent journalists and human rights workers from conducting their investigations.
The prison massacre is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate MINUSTAH’s will to investigate alleged police killings, because it took place in a limited space and most of those present were recorded in prisoner and guard registers, which will allow a more certain determination of the numbers of dead. For the sake of the rule of law in Haiti and its own reputation, MUNUSTAH should not let this opportunity pass by.
Very truly yours,