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5477: From Amnesty Internation on Haiti

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
International *

10 November 2000
AMR 36/008/2000

The Haitian government must act on its words and ensure that
armed groups linked to local authorities are disbanded, said
Amnesty International delegates who took first-hand testimony
from key witnesses to the recent shooting incident in Hinche that
left five people injured.

     Following the violence at the peaceful demonstration and
reports that the mayors of Hinche and Maissade were among the
assailants, the Prime Minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, reminded
the mayors and other local officials that the Haitian National
Police is the only legal security force.  He also reminded them
that any effort on their part to create their own armed forces
would be considered illegal.

      "The Haitian government has quite rightly declared the
acts of violence as illegal," said Amnesty International
delegates in Haiti.  "We welcome the Prime Minister's words, but
unless there is sustained pressure, their words will remain empty
and there will be no action."

     Amnesty International has expressed its concern at the
appearance of armed groups acting on behalf of the mayors who
intervene with no legal basis or control:  "Several mayors have
declared themselves in favour of taking law and order into their
own hands.  If there is no clamp-down, we greatly fear that the
mayors will form their own militias," warned the delegation.

     The demonstration on 2 November was organized by the
Papaye Peasants' Movement (MPP) and members of the party of
Convergence Dmocratique (CD).  The Haitian National Police was
present, but was unable to stop the violence.

     "We are concerned about the insufficient response by
police during the disturbances, and we call on the Haitian
National Police to carry out its duty to safeguard public
security in a professional and impartial manner," said Amnesty
International.  "In the present political climate, this duty is
all the more urgent," the delegates added, reminding the Haitian
government of its obligations under domestic and international
law to ensure the safety of its citizens.

     Amnesty International delegates will be in Haiti until 13
November 2000, and they will continue to call on the government
to set up a committee to shed light on the violence. During their
visit, the delegates will be meeting with the local authorities
to seek assurances that the armed groups responsible for the
violence are immediately disbanded.

The violence in Hinche on 2 November took place at the end of a
day of confrontation between supporters of different political
parties during which a member of Fanmi Lavalas was injured.  At
the end of the meeting between MPP and CD members, attended by
several hundred people, assailants began throwing stones at the
building. Other assailants waiting outside then opened fire on
the participants as they fled onto the street. Two participants
of the meeting and two passers-by were injured by bullets in
front of the building. Another participant, Dieugrand Jean
Baptiste, was wounded by a bullet inside the building. Chavannes
Jean Baptiste car, the director of MPP, was hit by two bullets
as he was leaving the area.

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