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29208: Esser (news): Torture, Murder and Complicity (fwd)
From: D. Esser
September 19, 2006
Torture, Murder and Complicity
Canada in Haiti
By NIK BARRY-SHAW and YVES ENGLER
Does the Canadian-promoted "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine
include murder rape, and threats of violence?
That's the question we should be asking Canadian officials after a
study in the prestigious Lancet medical journal released at the end
of August revealed there were 8,000 murders, 35,000 rapes and
thousands of incidents of armed threats in the 22 months after the
overthrow of the elected government in Haiti.
In September 2000, Canada launched the International Commission on
Intervention and State Sovereignty. The commission's final report,
The Responsibility to Protect, was presented to the UN in December
2001 and at the 2005 World Summit, Canada advocated that world
leaders endorse the new doctrine. It asserts that where gross human
rights abuses are occurring, it is the duty of the international
community to intervene, over and above considerations of state
In January 2003, the Canadian government organized the "Ottawa
Initiative" where U.S., Canadian and French government officials who
met at Meech Lake decided that Haiti's elected president, Jean
Bertrand Aristide should be removed from office. The intervention was
justified, they reasoned, by the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.
In due course, Aristide was forced from office. And Canada's
intervention in Haiti has exacerbated, rather than improved, Haiti's
human rights situation.
Confirming numerous prior human rights investigations, the Lancet
study estimates that 8,000 people in Port-au-Prince were killed in
the 22 months after the toppling of Aristide's government. The Lancet
study gives an idea of the scale of the persecution of those close to
Aristide's Lavalas movement.
Of the estimated 8,000 people murdered--12 people a day--in the
greater Port-au-Prince area, nearly half (47.7%) were killed by
governmental or anti-Aristide forces. 21.7% of the killings were
attributed to members of the Haitian National Police (HNP), 13.0% to
demobilized soldiers (many of whom participated in the coup) and
13.0% to anti-Aristide gangs (none were attributed to Aristide
Canada commands the 1,600-member United Nations police contingent
mandated to train, assist and oversee the Haitian National Police.
Yet while Canadian police have been supporting them, the Haitian
police have been attacking peaceful demonstrations and carrying out
massacres, often with the help of anti-Aristide gangs. While UN
police have announced investigations in a few particularly egregious
cases, not one report from such investigations has ever been released.
The Lancet study also uncovered some evidence that Canadian forces in
Haiti were more than mere silent accomplices. Athena Kolbe, co-author
of the study, recounts an interview with one family in the Delmas
district of Port-au-Prince:
"Canadian troops came to their house, and they said they were looking
for (pro-Aristide) Lavalas chimeres, and threatened to kill the head
of household, who was the father, if he didn't name names of people
in their neighbourhood who were Lavalas chimeres or Lavalas
Canada took command of "reforming" Haiti's judicial system, yet by
all accounts huge numbers of political prisoners, including the
former prime minister, languished in prolonged and arbitrary
detention. The Lancet found an huge number of unconstitutional
The study also found a "shocking" level of sexual violence committed
since the coup, with an estimated 35,000 women raped in Port-au-
Prince, more than half of the victims under eighteen. In a harrowing
account the co-author, Athena Kolbe, discussed interviewing a mother
who had been raped with a metal bar, which destroyed her cervix.
Gravely ill, the woman was transported by Kolbe's crew to the general
hospital, where they offered to pay for medical costs. On discovering
that a uniformed police officer was implicated, the hospital refused
medical treatment. The victim eventually received medical attention
at another facility, but ultimately succumbing to her injuries. Kolbe
then paid for relocation of the traumatized family. (This
necessitated not including the rape in the Lancet survey data.)
Throughout the period investigated by the researchers from Wayne
State University in Michigan Canada was heavily involved in Haitian
affairs. After withholding aid to Aristide's elected government,
Canada gave nearly $200 million to the imposed Gerard Latortue
regime. Nearly five hundred Canadian troops with six CH-146 Griffon
helicopters were on the ground until August of 2004. And the imposed
Prime Minister was feted in Ottawa on a number of occasions.
On April 13, 2006, in Washington, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza
Rice praised "Canada's very important role in Haiti."
We suspect that anyone who has read the Lancet study does not share her praise.
Nik Barry-Shaw is a member of Haiti Action Montreal
Yves Engler is the author of two books: Canada in Haiti: Waging War
on the Poor Majority (with Anthony Fenton) and Playing Left Wing:
From Rink Rat to Student Radical.