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9964: "IN TWO MONTHS, I WITNESSED THE EXECUTION OF ABOUT FIFTY PERSONS" (fwd)
From: Robert Benodin <email@example.com>
"IN TWO MONTHS, I WITNESSED THE EXECUTION OF ABOUT FIFTY PERSONS"
• LE MONDE | 11.12.01 | 12:34
The following is an excerpt from a testimony written in October, 2001, by a
member of the new Haitian police (PNH) assigned to a police station in
Port-au-Prince, the capital. It was received by a diplomat – with the help
of a Haitian friend – who released it to the General Secretary of the
Reporters Without Borders organization (Reporters sans frontières), Robert
Ménard, visiting Haiti from November 20 to 24.
"After two days, I can finally breath... For the first time, they did not
kill anyone in Port-au-Prince. I am a police officer. I joined the new
police force (PNH) in 1995. I graduated in the third class. I am no longer
proud to be a police officer and I often wonder what I am still doing in
this institution... But I am trapped. I am currently affected to a special
brigade of my police station. It is one of the five communal police stations
of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.
"Since Jean-Bertrand Aristide, president of the Republic, gave his ‘Zero
Tolerance’ order, I have been living a nightmare. On June 24, I was on my
way to the police station to begin my shift (from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.). When I
arrived, I went out on the streets with a group of 5 other police officers
to patrol one of the assigned areas. As usual, we conducted our operations
mainly by checking and searching vehicles. Around 11 p.m., we went back to
the police station to take a break.
"About midnight, my team leader called on us to go out again. Three
handcuffed individuals had been placed in our vehicle, in the back of the
pickup truck. I was one of the three police officers responsible for
watching them. I asked one of my colleagues where we were going and what we
were about to do. He answered me on... [missing text.] After we reached an
uninhabited area, the team leader got off the vehicle, and another colleague
handed black plastic bags to us. That officer covered the head of the first
prisoner who began to scream in terror. The other two tried to fight back
but they quickly realized that it was useless. A few seconds later, the
three men were lying on the ground in a pool of blood, each with a bullet in
his head. I vomited... I cried... The "Zero Tolerance" operation had just
started. There was no witness. We calmly returned to the police station
without saying a word.
"Since that night, my life has changed. I spent several days without sleep.
I did not tell anyone what was on my mind. Every night, at my police
station, as in four other stations in the capital, we go through that kind
of operation to neutralize individuals suspected of being gang members.
"IT HAS BECOME A ROUTINE"
"They are generally arrested and detained for a few hours; they are not
placed in official custody, as required by the procedure, but locked in a
secret place. During the night, one of the service patrols takes care of the
cleanup. It has become a routine. I have never been ordered to pull the
trigger myself. Some of my co-workers, who are the experts, always volunteer
for that dirty job. When I am on duty at night, I find a way to disappear
during the break preceding the deadly rounds. During two months, however, I
witnessed, and saw with my own eyes, the execution of approximately fifty
"Who are those victims? Suspects, people who should not have been in a
certain place at a certain time. The operation must not leave any trail...
The victims are left on the scene of the execution. The next day, a
different patrol picks up the bodies.
"A few months ago, the police received judicial powers and we no longer
bother to involve magistrates in cases like those. The PNH alone handles the
removal of bodies. We now have a very simple form to fill out and an
ambulance dedicated to this service. In some cases, the ambulance is used
both ways: to transport live victims to the scene of execution and to bring
their bodies to the morgue of the General Hospital [...].
"As most police officers in Haiti, I was also exasperated to see so many
criminals set free. Before that, we would regularly make arrests and shortly
after, under our very eyes, those individuals were free again, released by a
corrupted judicial system and/or with the complicity of some police
officers. But today, those executions do not solve the problem.
"THE WHOLE SOCIETY IS RESPONSIBLE"
In fact, the whole society is somewhat responsible, but few people can
imagine the scope of this operation. Anyone can be a victim, and any direct
or indirect witness is generally eliminated.
Are the International Community and the leaders of the best police
organizations in the world (The United States, France, Canada) aware of the
current tragedy, after they invested so much money and energy in the new
police force of Haiti? After all that I have seen, how will I be able to
teach my daughter the principles of justice and respect for others?
"Today I am trapped: I cannot resign easily from the police; many of the
bandits know me. I also fear some of my colleagues and superiors, and I
cannot speak up easily against what is taking place. Of course, I am scared,
but all that cannot last any longer..."