February 14, 2007
Update: Thanks to everyone who helped make last week�s International Day of Solidarity With the Haitian People such a great success. The final tally was 53 events on five continents. For highlights and photos, click here. Some bad news on the political prisoner front: in December, the Port-au-Prince court of appeals heard the appeal on the case of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, currently on pre-trial release for medical treatment in Florida. Although the charges against Fr. Jean-Juste are baseless, and the prosecutor at the appeals court recommended that they be dismissed, last week the court decided it needed another hearing, with Fr. Jean-Juste present, in March.
Some good news from New York: on February 8, Emmanuel Constant, the former head of Haiti’s FRAPH death squad (1993-1994) plead guilty to bank fraud in New York. Mr. Constant was convicted in Haiti, in absentia, for murder at the fall 2000 trial for the Raboteau Massacre. �For more, see the Haiti Justiceblog.
Coming Attractions: Another person convicted for the Raboteau massacre goes to trial in a U.S. Court next week, this time in Miami. Carl Dorelien, the army�s chief of personnel during the de facto military dictatorship (1991-1994) will face a civil suit filed on behalf of victims of the de facto regime filed by The Center for Justice and Accountability. Dorelien won $3.2 million in the Florida lottery in the late 1990�s. We�ll have regular trial updates on www.HaitiJustice.org, and the Haiti Justice Blog.
This Week�s Action: MINUSTAH, the UN Mission in Haiti, continues to conduct deadly assaults on Cit� Soleil, in the name of fighting crime (see the headlines section of www.HaitiJustice.org). The people of Cit� Soleil, who bear the heaviest burden of crime in Haiti, understand that MINUSTAH�s brutal tactics merely feed the violence, while causing dreadful and unnecessary �collateral damage�: children, young adults and elderly, men and women killed or injured by UN bullets. Last Saturday, the New York Times published an article on the MINUSTAH raids that ignored both the civilian death toll and the deep-seated opposition to the raids within Cit� Soleil.
MINUSTAH will not change its tactics until public opinion outside of Haiti forces it to. This opinion will not be mobilized unless the international press fulfills its responsibility to present a balanced, accurate picture. Please help hold the New York Times to ordinary standards of journalism by writing a letter to the editor, in response to this alert issued by the Haiti Action Committee:
A February 10 New York Times article “UN Troops Fight Haiti�s Gangs One Street at a Time” about violent military operations in the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince by MINUSTAH, the UN Peacekeeping operation in Haiti, repeats justifications for the raids proffered by the UN, but fails to report on the operations’ “collateral damage”- dozens of people killed or wounded by MINUSTAH bullets. Nor does the article mention that the supposed beneficiaries of the attacks- Haiti’s poor- oppose them.
Reporter Marc Lacey’s 1600-word article about violence in the Cit� Soleil neighborhood quotes extensively from named and unnamed MINUSTAH sources, but uses only 48 words from Haitians living in Haiti. And none of them support the MINUSTAH raids. The article fails to mention the frequent, large-scale protests against MINUSTAH, even though its top photo shows a MINUSTAH soldier preparing to deploy teargas against a protest.
The Times uncritically repeats MINUSTAH spokesperson David Wimhurst’s denial that civilians are being killed by MINUSTAH bullets, ignoring ample contrary evidence provided by Cit� Soleil community groups, Haitian human rights groups, the mainstream media and even the UN itself (on January 31, MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, MINUSTAH’s head, publicly conceded that �there has been collateral damage, definitely�).
The president of the Haitian Senate’s Human Rights Commission described the massive December 22, 2006 UN military assault on Cit� Soleil as “a crime against humanity.” The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, Haiti’s most respected human rights lawyers, have documented 31 reported deaths (including children and the elderly), 33 wounded and 238 people displaced from the assault. Eyewitnesses reported that a wave of indiscriminate gunfire from heavy weapons began about 5 a.m. and continued for much of that day. Cit� Soleil resident Rose Martel told Reuters, “they [MINUSTAH] came here to terrorize the population. I don’t think they really killed any bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits.” John Carroll, a U.S. doctor who treated victims of the assault in their homes, was told that “a UN helicopter circled [Cit�] Soleil and fired bullets down on the homes of thousands of people.” The UN conceded its helicopter was there, but denied firing from it. Dr. Carroll’s patients showed him the bullet holes in their roof.
The Times uncritically accepts the chilling premise of the UN’s operation: that in the words of MINUSTAH’s top Commander, General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil, the UN can and should “cleanse these areas.” The article repeats the UN’s list of “trophies” from raids on January 25 and February 9- young men killed- but MINUSTAH does not tell and the Times does not ask about the procedures required by international, Haitian and almost any national law for pursuing people accused of criminal behavior: warrants, arrests, evidence and some judicial procedure before execution.
Many of the neighborhoods now under MINUSTAH siege are bastions of support for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected president whose government was overturned in a U.S.-backed Feb.29, 2004 coup, and Aristide’s progressive Lavalas Party, still the largest political formation in Haiti. Haiti’s poorest residents recall that the UN refused President Aristide’s request for help to support his embattled constitutional government in early 2004, but later sent MINUSTAH to consolidate the 2004 coup d’etat (the only time in history the UN has deployed a Peacekeeping Mission without a peace agreement to support, see Harvard Law School’s Keeping the Peace in Haiti?).
MINUSTAH’s bullets will not stop the violence in Cit� Soleil, any more than American bullets are stopping violence in Baghdad. The real enemy there is poverty, which can only be fought with weapons like food, healthcare and jobs, an approach taken by Aristide’s Lavalas government before the 2004 coup ended its progressive reforms. The UN will not recognize this unless public opinion forces it to, and public opinion will not mobilize unless the New York Times and other papers start covering MINUSTAH’s activities with integrity and balance.
So please write the Times today, to let the editors know that you care about Haiti and care about balanced media coverage. Letters must be sent by Friday 2/16. They must be 150 words or less, and contain your name, address, and telephone number. Letters can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (202)556-3662.
Sample letters are below. 150 words is not much space, so it is best to make one point clearly, and leave other points to others. Choose the issue that strikes you the most, and feel free to modify or personalize it.
For more background on the UN in Haiti:
For information on sending letters to the Times:
1) To the Editor:
The article “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti”(Feb.10), overlooks a fundamental question: why are huge numbers of residents of Cit� Soleil, Haiti’s largest shantytown, repeatedly protesting the presence of UN troops?
Your front cover photo shows demonstrators facing a UN peacekeeper with a tear gas canister, but the article does not mention any protests, or the UN’s role in legitimizing the coup regime which replaced the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February, 2004.
Nor does the article mention the readily available evidence (from numerous human rights groups) that the UN has engaged in excessive force, killing scores of civilians.
Why not cite people like the president of the Haitian Senate’s Human Rights Commission, who described a massive December 22, 2006 UN military assault on Cit� Soleil as “a crime against humanity”?
Instead of helping to demonize the poorest of Port-au-Prince’s neighborhoods, the Times should provide balanced coverage.
2) To the Editor:
“U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti” (February 10) ostensibly treats violence in Haiti’s Cit� Soleil, but of the article’s more than 1600 words, only 48 are from Haitians in Haiti, none of whom share the article’s positive impression of the U.N. raids.
The article fails to mention the frequent, large-scale protests against the U.N., especially in Cit� Soleil, even though its top photo shows a MINUSTAH soldier preparing to deploy teargas against a group of protesters.
The Times piece mimics the UN’s lethal error of not listening to the people of Cit� Soleil. Haiti’s poor bear the brunt of violent crime, and want it stopped, but they understand that the raids are not working and are killing innocent civilians. Until the UN hears this message, their efforts will continue to fail.
3) To the Editor,
The article “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti” (February 10) implies that UN military attacks on Cit� Soleil were carried out at President Ren� Pr�val’s insistence.
In fact, as documented by reports from the University of Miami and Harvard University Law School, UN “peacekeepers” have engaged in joint operations with the notoriously brutal Haitian police since the June, 2004 start of the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). And long before Pr�val’s February 2006 election, UN troops, at the urging of Haiti’s right-wing elite, launched military attacks on Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods which killed scores of unarmed civilians.
Haiti’s dire problems, a direct result of over two centuries of exploitation by the “international community”, cannot be solved militarily. Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive, democratically-elected Lavalas government understood this. It is to the eternal discredit of the U.S. that the Bush Administration backed the coup which ousted that government on February 29, 2004.
4)� To the Editor,
In “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti” (February 10), the commander of U.N. forces in Haiti declares that “there will be no tolerance for the kidnappings, harassment and terror carried out by criminal gangs.” Although the U.N aggressively pursues gangs in poor neighborhoods, it shows a high degree of tolerance for crime organized in Haiti’s comfortable neighborhoods or by the police.
Even Mario Andresol, Haiti’s police chief, concedes that as many as 1/3 of his officers are involved in kidnapping and other crime. Several members of wealthy families have been implicated in kidnappings.
The UN should fight crime in Haiti, but with a balanced approach, fighting crime wherever the criminals are, not just in poor neighborhoods. The Times should cover crime in Haiti the same way.
Haiti Action Committee