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a128: Fwd: Haiti: Political Violence Condemned (fwd)

From: Mark Schuller <marky@umail.ucsb.edu>

From: Human Rights Watch <hrwatchnyc@igc.org>

Haiti: Political Violence Condemned

(New York, December 18, 2001) -- The failure of the Haitian police to 
curb widespread political violence in the wake of yesterday's attack on 
the presidential palace raises serious concerns, Human Rights Watch said 
today. Although President Jean-Bertrand Aristide called for a peaceful 
response to the attack on the palace, government supporters              
   committed serious acts of violence with apparent impunity.

"The Haitian authorities cannot allow mob violence to go unchallenged," 
said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the                      
                         Americas division of Human Rights Watch. "The 
government must take                                               
action against violence committed by its supporters, just as it reacts 
to violence by its opponents." 

In an assault mounted early Monday morning, several armed men wearing 
the uniform of Haiti's disbanded army stormed the National Palace in 
Port-au-Prince. Two police officers were reportedly killed in the 
attack, as well as several civilian bystanders and at least one of the   

In the wake of the attack, government supporters committed serious acts 
of political violence, with, in many cases, little or no police 
response. In Gonaives, two members of the opposition party MOCHRENA were 
reportedly killed. 

In Port-au-Prince, barricades of burning tires, erected by members of 
so-called popular organizations that support the party of President 
Aristide, blocked the main roads. Mobs traversed the city freely, 
setting fire to buildings associated with opposition parties and 
leaders. One such group burned down the home of opposition leader Gérard 
Pierre-Charles, who was not home at the time. According to press 
accounts, the police refused to intervene to prevent the attack on the 

Other buildings that were set on fire included the headquarters of the 
main opposition coalition, known as the Democratic Convergence, as well 
as offices belonging to the opposition parties Conacom, KID, and ALLAH. 

According to reports received by Human Rights Watch, journalists were 
also targeted. Several journalists reported being attacked or 
threatened, and four radio stations had to temporarily suspend their 

The government should ensure that its investigations into the attacks 
are prompt, thorough, and impartial, and should bring those responsible 
to justice, Human Rights Watch said. It should also take steps to remedy 
the problem of the politicization of the police forces, evident in their 
actions yesterday. 

Human Rights Watch noted that the attacks occurred in a context of 
extreme political polarization. Despite negotiations brokered by the 
Organization of American States, the government and opposition parties 
had yet to agree on a plan for remedying the flawed elections of May 

For more information on political violence in Haiti, please see:

Rights Groups Call on Aristide to Act On Reform Agenda (HRW Press 
Release, February 5, 2001) at 

Aristide's Return to Power in Haiti (HRW Backgrounder, February 2001) at 

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Injustice feeds on cowardice