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9965: NGOs Speak Against Police Brutality in Haiti (fwd)

From: Robert Benodin <r.benodin@worldnet.att.net>

NGOs Speak Against Police Brutality in Haiti
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

According to a report by Amnesty International, published at the end of
September, Haiti seems to be returning to the human rights violations
practiced by former dictatorships. The PNH – the Haitian civilian police –
created in 1994 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide when he returned to
power, in order to end brutality by the military, is now accused of using
torture. The police has links with top criminals often involved in drug
trafficking. President Aristide launched a "zero tolerance" operation
against criminals, but it is used increasingly against political opponents.
An officer’s testimony describes how "during the night, the service patrols
take care of the cleanup." In two months, he witnessed the summary execution
of about fifty persons.

SANTO DOMINGO (Dominican Republic), from our correspondent

The hope that emerged in 1994 from the creation of a civilian police in
Haiti to replace the military and end the repeated coups d’état was
short-lived. The links between police officers and criminal gangs often
involved in drug trafficking, the summary executions, the use of torture,
and the politicization of police on behalf of the Lavalas Family – party of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide – were exposed by several human rights

In a report published on September 27, Amnesty International says that "if
the current trend, which is very worrisome, is not reversed, the country
could experience increasing violations of fundamental rights." The London
based organization stressed that "members of the Lavalas movement, now
occupying almost all the official positions, are involved today in the
return of practices from which they had suffered at the time of the coup d’
état [of 1991, until the departure of the putschists.]"  Shortly after his
return to power in October 1994, in the vans of the American intervention
force which had expelled the military putschists, President Aristide
announced the abolition of the Haitian army and the creation of a National
Police of Haiti (PNH). In a little less than two years, about five thousand
recruits were trained with the help of American, Canadian, and French
instructors. In addition to the handling of weapons and basic rules of
police officers’ duties, the four-month training included sessions about
awareness of human rights.

Since the beginning, the incorporation of 1,500 former soldiers into the new
police force raised suspicion in the population. The summary execution of
eleven individuals in Carrefour Feuilles, on May 28, 1999, seriously tainted
the image of this new force. For several months, in 1999, the police
experienced quiet infightings which resulted in the forced resignation or
the dismissal of three of its top officials: Robert Manuel, the Secretary of
State for Public Safety, Pierre Denizé, the PNH Director, and Luc Joseph
Eucher, the General Inspector. Those three men had tried to oppose the
politicization of the PNH. In August 2000, the United States cancelled their
assistance program to the national police, following the crisis started by
the contested legislative elections of May. In the countryside, the police
cooperates with armed groups illegally created by elected officials of the
Lavalas Family to repress opponents.


In November 2001, the Haitian media exposed the brutal repression of a
rebellion at the National Penitentiary of Port-au-Prince. According to the
official report, five detainees were killed and several others wounded
during an asssault against the prison by two elite units of the police. When
several anti-government demonstrations were organized in different provinces
during the past few weeks, police intervened violently against opposition
activists, without controlling the armed groups of President Aristide

Moreover, the police seems unable to control the huge shantytown of Cité
Soleil, north of the capital, where bloody clashes took place between rival
groups, leaving four dead and several wounded last week.

In the wake of the flare-up in crime, President Aristide launched the
formula "zero tolerance for criminals" in a speech at the police academy in
June. According to human rights advocates, these words are an invitation to
summary justice and have resulted in about thirty cases of lynching and
summary execution of alleged criminals. The "zero tolerance" formula is
increasingly used by Aristide supporters against political opponents or
journalists suspected of supporting the opposition, as in the case of
Brignol Lindor, Editorial Director of the radio station Echo 2000, who was
savagely assassinated on December 3 at Petit-Goave, southwest of

Jean-Michel Caroit