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From: radman <resist@best.com>

GMN General News list

Sunday April 30, 2000


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr 29 (IPS) International human rights groups have
banded together to demand that Haiti's government ensure that
legislative and municipal elections are held by May 21.

The groups, six in all, have issued a report not only calling for
the elections to be held, but also for the government to intervene
to halt the spat e of violence that has accompanied campaigning
for the polls.

The elections have been postponed twice due to theft and vandalism
of material and property of the Provisional Electoral Council, the
body charged with the task of staging the polls, and President Rene
Preval's squabbling with the Council.  The thefts and vandalism,
the Council said, has set back its voter registration process and
hence the preparation of the voters' list.

The violence has extended to the destruction of private property,
street demonstrations and murders of activists of opposing parties.

"It's the president's and the government's responsibility to end
the escalating violence and bring those responsible for it to
justice," the report reads.

The groups, which issued their call this week, include Human Rights
Watch and the Washington and Latin American offices of Americas
Watch. They are also asking the international community to provide
the additional funding necessary to resolve the problems, which
have been plaguing the electoral process.

The report's signatories are urging former President Jean Bertrand
Aristide, now the head of the Lavalas movement, to speak out publicly
and condemn the threats and violence which have marred the electoral
campaign. The groups, which most often cause disturbances, claim
the charismatic ex-president as t heir leader.

The human rights groups, which supported the exiled Aristide's
eventual return to power in October 1994 after the 1991-1994 military
coup d'etat, feel that five years after the junta, democracy here
is still in the midst of a serious crisis.

They are asking political leaders who were opponents of the 1957-
1986 Duvalier dictatorship to reject political practices of the
past and recommit themselves to the building of a democratic society
which respects human rights.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of the newsletter of the Committee of
Haitian Lawyers for Individual Rights (CARLI) has criticized members
of the Haitian National Police (PNH). The newsletter says the police
have made no at tempt to halt acts of violence and flagrant violations
of human rights.

The CARLI bulletin, which was released Wednesday, also recalled
the turbulence that engulfed Port-au-Prince, the country's capital,
at the end of March this year.  Many CARLI members, who personally
observed police officers failing to protect property, denounced
the negligence of those charged with protecting the citizenry.

CARLI called on the country's leaders to insure that property rights
are respected, a right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and by the 1987 Haitian Constitution.

CARLI also accused the CIMO, a special police anti-riot unit, of
having tortured citizens during an operation at Miragoane, 96
kilometers southwest of the capital, in early March.

"Whether the problem with the police is due to their culture, their
mentality, or just the system itself, the Constitution cannot be
treated as if it's just a piece of paper," the newsletter said.

CARLI's members have called on civil society to get more involved
in establishing a true democracy in Haiti, which alone, they say,
can safeguard both individual and collective rights.

Inter-Press Service

The Grassroots Media Network 
1602 Chatham 
Austin, TX 78723