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9356: Haiti slum deaths raise police brutality concerns (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Concern over police brutality in
Haiti, long a worry in the impoverished Caribbean nation, has risen sharply
amid allegations that officers killed three people in a slum area of the
capital earlier this month.
     A government prosecutor, Josue Pierre-Louis, said on Wednesday
authorities were investigating the deaths of three people in Cite Soleil
district after local residents and family members filed charges alleging
they were killed by police.
     He said an arrest warrant had been issued for a police inspector who
failed to show up for questioning on the issue.
     The three were buried on Tuesday. The dead included a 16-year-old boy
whose body was found on Oct. 12, according to respected local journalist
Michele Montas.
     Further muddying the waters were allegations that police roughed up a
local journalist investigating the deaths.
     Radio station Radio Haiti Inter sent a reporter to crime-infested Cite
Soleil on Oct. 13 after reports from residents that police had killed three
people during a sweep to clamp down on gangs.
     In testimony to a judge, reporter Jean Robert Delcine said he was
beaten by Police Inspector Yrvens Cesar in the presence of Cite Soleil and
Delmas district Commissioner Marcellus Camy after seeing Cesar drag a
wounded man out of his house. Delcine also said that Cesar pressed a gun
against his stomach and threatened his life.
     Justice officials did not return calls seeking comment.
     Delcine's radio station filed charges of physical aggression, death
threats and confiscation of work material against the two officers.
     Government prosecutor Pierre-Louis called in Cesar and Camy for
questioning on Oct. 18 and the meeting was interrupted by furious Cite
Soleil residents who called for justice for their slain family members and
neighbors, carrying tattered cardboard signs that read, "Down with
     Camy appeared for subsequent questioning though Cesar failed to show
up and Pierre-Louis said an arrest warrant had been issued for him.
     The present police force was set up after a U.S. military intervention
in 1994 ended rule by the army. It was trained by U.S. and other foreign
     But Haiti's justice system is still rife with problems, although it
made legal headway last year with two landmark trials that convicted
military leaders and police officers.
     In an attempt to curb crime, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide launched
a "zero-tolerance" policy in June, which encouraged police to take a tough
line on arrests. Since then, crime seems to have subsided but reports of
police killings have raised concerns.
     "The public has welcomed it, initially. There seems to have been a
drop in crime," said Paige Wilhite, a researcher from London-based Amnesty
International, during a trip to Haiti.
     "But it (zero-tolerance) also opens the field for police to execute
criminals without trials, without proof."
     Haiti has sought to establish democratic institutions and the rule of
law after decades of brutal dictatorships. Before his ouster in 1986,
Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" and his father Francois ruled the country for 29
years with an iron grip.