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8119: Human rights situation in Haiti worsens - Amnesty (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
MIAMI, May 30 (Reuters) - The human rights situation in Haiti was
worse last year than at any time since a U.S. invasion ended military rule
in 1994, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Campaigning for elections which brought Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to
power was marred by killings of public figures and violent attacks by
political partisans, often supporters of his Lavalas Family party, Amnesty
said in its annual global report.
Armed groups operating under the orders of newly elected local
officials had also emerged, the London-based human rights organization
Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean nation of about 8 million people, has
a long history of repressive rule and political violence under a succession
Aristide, a populist former priest, was overthrown in 1991 shortly
after he was first elected president. He was restored by a U.S. invasion in
1994 and stepped down at the end of his term.
Local and legislative elections in May last year and a presidential
election in November which gave Aristide the presidency again were marred
by allegations of intimidation and irregularities.
Critics of Aristide, including foreign governments, have voiced fears
that the one-time champion of the poor is behaving in an autocratic fashion
Amnesty expressed concern that a United Nations human rights team had
pulled out of the country "when the human rights situation in Haiti was
more serious than at any time since the 1994 return to democracy."
The head of the Provisional Electoral Council fled for the United
States where he accused then President Rene Prval of rigging the May
election results in Lavalas' favor.
The November election was preceded by violence, including bomb and
grenade attacks. A number of electoral candidates and party members were
killed during 2000, most by unidentified assailants, Amnesty said. Others
went into hiding.
"Sometimes the police failed to intervene and on a few occasions
appeared to collude in the violence," Amnesty said.
Prominent radio journalist and human rights advocate Jean Dominique
was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his radio station in April
2000. A gang also burned down the headquarters of an opposition party.
Local and regional officials set up illegal security forces which were
responsible for a significant number of human rights violations. Most
supported the Lavalas Party, it said. There were also several reports of
unlawful killings by police.
There was no immediate response by the Aristide government to the