Copyright 2005 Associated Press All Rights Reserved Associated Press Worldstream
These materials may not be republished without the express written consent of The Associated Press
November 23, 2005 Wednesday 2:32 PM Eastern Time
SECTION: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
DISTRIBUTION: Europe; Britian; Scandinavia; Middle East; Africa; India; Asia; England
LENGTH: 435 words
HEADLINE: Brazilian general denies accusations of human rights violations in Haiti vs-ma/ml-jr
BYLINE: VIVIAN SEQUERA; Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: BRASILIA, Brazil
BODY:The Brazilian general formerly in charge of U.N. peacekeeping troops in Haiti on Wednesday denied allegations that his forces had carried out executions or other atrocities in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro told the foreign relations committee of Brazil’s lower house of Congress that the accusations were spread by gangs linked to former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in an attempt to sully the peacekeepers’ legitimacy.
He said many of the allegations arose from an operation in the Cite Soleil slum that resulted in the death of gang leader Emmanuel “Dread” Wilme. He said the operation caused little harm to civilians.
“One hour after the operation, local radio stations went there and did not uncover any of the alleged irregularities,” Ribeiro said.
On Nov. 15, human rights groups such as Global Exchange and the Institute for Justice and Democracy alleged that systematic massacres were carried out in Port-au-Prince by the Haitian National Police and by U.N. forces under Brazil’s command.
At the time, Brazil’s foreign ministry issued a statement denying the charges.
The general said claims that soldiers carried out executions began to appear a day after the operation. He said that any such killings were likely carried out by gang members seeking revenge on slum residents suspected of collaborating with peacekeeping forces.
“The majority of executions were people shot in the head. That is not characteristic of military operations,” Ribeiro said.
Ribeiro was in charge of the U.N. force in Haiti from June 2004 until last August, when he was replaced by another Brazilian, Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta.
Brazil has more than 1,100 soldiers in Haiti as part of the U.N. force trying to re-establish order ahead of elections to replace the interim government imposed after the February 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
U.N. troops have repeatedly traded gunfire with the gang members in the Pele neighborhood of Cite Soleil. The U.N. says its forces have killed five alleged gang members and arrested nearly 100 people.
Gang leaders, who describe themselves as a self-protection force for slum dwellers against Haitian police and soldiers, say 15 people have been killed – including unarmed civilians caught in crossfire.
Cite Soleil, home to about 200,000 people, is one of the most lawless and violent areas of Haiti. International authorities have pressed the U.N. forces to crack down on the gangs before the elections to replace the interim government imposed following the February 2004 ouster of Aristide.