Half-Hour for Haiti: Stop “Collateral Damage” in Cite Soleil
The response to last week’s alert on behalf of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste was tremendous. Your faxes and phone calls forced the U.S. State Department to drop its claim that Fr. Gerry was receiving adequate medical care in prison. The Interim Government of Haiti and the U.S. Embassy agreed to an independent medical evaluation. We will let you know the results of that examination as soon as possible.
Amnesty International issued an Action Alert for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste on January 6, and an Appeal for political prisoner Annette Auguste, « So Ann » today.This week’s action:
MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, is under significant pressure to take stronger action in Cite Soleil. Although the pressure is articulated in terms of fighting crime, past MINUSTAH raids in Cite Soleil have included indiscriminate gunfire which killed or injured many innocent civilians. MINUSTAH troops also routinely use excessive force and make unconstitutional, warrantless arrests (see Keeping the Peace in Haiti ? by Harvard Law School Clinical Advocacy Project)
We issued an action alert following a July 6, 2005 raid on Cite Soleil in which at least 23 innocent civilians were killed, and dozens more were wounded. MINUSTAH initially denied any civilian casualties, but public pressure, including from the Half-Hour for Haiti program, forced an investigation. Today’s Independent (UK) reports that MINUSTAH’s investigation conceded that there may have been a number of “collateral victims.”
Let’s stop the next massacre before it happens. As the Alert from the Haiti Action Committee (below) describes, MINUSTAH is planning an imminent operation in Cite Soleil. Please fax or call the head of MINUSTAH, Juan Gabriel Valdes to say that continued “collateral damage” is unacceptable, and demand that any MINUSTAH operations in Cite Soleil scrupulously respect the rights of civilians under the Haitian Constitution and international law, including the right to life.
The best fax number for Mr. Valdes is 011-509-244-3512. The line works right now, but if you have trouble sending your fax, try: (206) 350-7986 (a U.S. number) or email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will make sure your message is delivered to Mr. Valdes.
********Urgent Action Alert from the Haiti Action Committee********
As UN’s Brazilian commander is found shot dead on his hotel balcony….
New UN massacres in Cite Soleil could come any day now
Be on the alert. The situation in Haiti is dangerous and moving fast.
In the nine days since January 1st, at least 23 civilians have been shot to death by UN forces in Cite Soleil, according to reports from human rights workers in the Haitian capital. Consider these developments:
1. Brazilian General Bacellar, who’s been commanding UN forces for barely four months, was found shot in the head Saturday on the balcony of the 5-star Hotel Montana. Officials called it an apparent suicide. Late last week, Bacellar had tense meetings with UN and coup regime officials and the right-wing business elite. They reportedly put “intense pressure” on the general “demanding that he intervene brutally in Cite Soleil,” according to AHP.
This coincided with a pressure campaign by Chamber of Commerce head Reginald Boulos and sweatshop kingpin Andy Apaid, leader of Group 184 [the business group that helped mastermind the February 29, 2004 coup that ousted President Aristide]. Last week Boulos and Apaid made strident calls in the media for a new UN crackdown on Cite Soleil, the sprawling, impoverished neighborhood that is a stronghold of support for President Aristide and his Lavalas Party and a center of resistance to the coup regime.
2. On January 6 the Chilean UN chief Juan Valdes announced that UN troops would “occupy” Cite Soleil, “and warned that civilians could be harmed,” reported Guy Delva for Reuters. Valdes told a local radio station: “We are going to intervene in the coming days. I think there’ll be collateral damage but we have to impose our force, there is no other way,” Reuters said.
According to “some UN officials” quoted by Reuters, Bacellar [who has not been shy about shooting up Cite Soleil in the past] “had opposed Valdes’ plan” to escalate even further the UN military operation in Cite Soleil. This is an operation characterized by repeated UN killings of innocent civilians throughout 2005 and so far in 2006 — “aggressive” by any standard, but not apparently aggressive enough for Boulos, Apaid and the US-backed coup regime.
3. Bacellar’s death comes on the heels of Boulos’s call for a “general strike” January 9, aimed at forcing the UN mission to get tough on Cite Soleil “bandits”— a code word for Lavalas supporters. Apart from the absurdity of the Chamber of Commerce calling a “general strike” — it was an employer strike basically ignored outside the capital — it does show that Haiti’s business elite is once again beating the drum for more brutal UN armed incursions against the poor. This brings to mind a similar high-pressure campaign by the business elite — just before the July 6th UN massacre of at least 60 civilians in Cite Soleil.
4. To justify a possible new crackdown in Cite Soleil, the coup regime has made absurd claims that Cite Soleil is a haven for “Colombian drug traffickers,” and a hiding place for the victims of kidnappings that have plagued the Haitian capital. But the kidnappers are hardly the poor residents of Cite Soleil, surrounded as it is by UN troops. The kidnappers are mostly well-connected to the business elite and coup regime. Even Police Chief Andresol admits the National Police are involved in much of the crime wave, including kidnappings. And what “Colombian drug trafficker” would be hanging out in a tin shack in Cite Soleil, without clean water or electricity, and sewage flowing in the street?
5. Replacing Bacellar as interim UN military force commander is General Eduardo Aldunate Herman, a Chilean army officer who served the brutal dictatorship of General Pinochet as an officer in the CNI, the Chilean political police. Aldunate Herman has been accused of participating in the 1973 overthrow of Chile’s elected government, and of involvement in the 1976 killing of a Spanish diplomat. He is a graduate of the US Army’s School of the Americas.
If we take UN chief Juan Valdes at his word, this could be another massacre in the making. UN troops showed on July 6, 2005 in Cite Soleil, and on many other occasions, that they will shoot and kill men, women and children in their homes, in their beds, as they go about their daily chores.
Now is the time to act — to let them know the world is watching and demands an end to the killings!
Contact the following official. Demand that he intervene to stop a new massacre and occupation of Cite Soleil!
* Juan Gabriel Valdes
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Haiti
Phone: 011-509-244-9650 or 9660 Fax 011-509 244 3512
Tune in to www.haitiaction.net for updates on what is happening.
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org.