International Human Rights and Labor Delegation Protests Attacks on Civilians by MINUSTAH
PRESS CONFERENCE : Friday, August 25, 2006 - 2:00 p.m.
UNDP / MINUSTAH Headquarters, Avenue John Brown / Bourdon, Port-au-Prince
An international human rights and labor delegation from North America, Africa and Europe will hold a press conference in front of UNDP / MINUSTAH headquarters in Bourdon, Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Friday, August 25, at 2:00 p.m. The delegation will report on the findings of their investigation of human rights abuses in Haiti’s capital.
On the morning of August 24, six of the international observers witnessed at close range an attack by UN “peacekeepers” on the community Simond Pele, in the commune of Cité Soleil. Brazilian MINUSTAH (UN) troops in four tanks fired multiple rounds of heavy caliber ammunition in a densely populated residential area. The only other presence seen on the streets were unarmed civilians, including small children.
As with other such military operations carried out by UN troops and Haitian police since Feb. 29, 2004 coup, UN troops fired from tanks (APCs) with little apparent concern for the safety of civilian residents. Almost no return fire was heard from inside the neighborhood.
US trade unionist David Welsh, of the delegation, stated, “The indiscriminate UN attacks on civilians in the poor neighborhoods have got to stop. The residents of Cite Soleil have repeatedly said they want an end to the violent repression of the country’s poor by Haitian police and the UN occupying force.”
While they were in Simond Pele, a UN bulldozer arrived and a truck dumped a load of dirt to block one of the entrances to the neighborhood. A Cite Soleil resident noted that blocking entrances was a tactic used by MINUSTAH prior to the July 6, 2005 Cite Soleil massacre, and said that were it not for the presence of the international delegation, the Brazilian force might have carried a full scale massacre.
The delegation expressed concern that after the release of a small number of high-profile prisoners, the more than one thousand other, lesser-known political prisoners may be forgotten. Like their more well known compatriots, these individuals were unjustly incarcerated by the “interim” coup regime installed by the U.S., France and Canada after the February 29, 2004 kidnapping of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
“Representatives of popular organizations we spoke with said they want all political prisoners freed and they want their constitutional government returned to office, which is why they voted en masse for Rene Preval,” said Pauline Wynter, representative of the Congolese Ota Benga Alliance, “and for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the reinstatement of government officials and civil servants sacked by the coup government.”
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Sumitted by Jeb Sprague