Open Letter To Human Rights Watch

rom Kevin Pina,
Editor |
Haiti Information Project
TO: Human Rights Watch (HRW)
RE: Letter to the U.N. Security Council on the Renewal of the Mandate of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
DATE: May 17, 2005

Dear Human Rights Watch,

In your recent letter to the U.N. Security Council dated May 16, 2005 you stated, "During a recent mission to Haiti, Human Rights Watch documented daily acts of violence in Port-au-Prince. We found that much of the violence is perpetrated by armed gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Despite security operations recently carried out jointly by MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police (HNP), neighborhoods such as Cite Soleil remain paralyzed by violence."

You then follow this statement several paragraphs down with: "Given Haiti’s upcoming elections, we encourage you to ensure that MINUSTAH has all necessary resources for establishing a stable and secure environment for the electoral process. In addition to the mission’s efforts to support the process of national dialogue and to address logistical and administrative problems, it should also take concrete steps to ensure the safety of all participants in the electoral campaign. Specifically, we encourage you to enhance MINUSTAH’s capacity to provide security for protests and public marches. MINUSTAH should also undertake to ensure that the police do not use lethal force unnecessarily against demonstrators, as occurred during the February and March 2005 demonstrations in Cite Soleil. To this end, we encourage you to consider deploying additional Formed Police Units to assist and train the HNP in crowd-control techniques compatible with international human rights standards."

These two statements are clearly contradictory. The first blames violence on "armed gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide" and follows with praise for the MINUSTAH’s and HNP’s "security operations.”

Later you make a weak criticism of the HNP for massacres they have committed during peaceful demonstrations but avoid calling for a public investigation to make the police accountable for these very same killings. With one-hand you praise the Haitian police for raids into the capital’s poor neighborhoods with the U.N. (where there is also evidence of human rights violations) and with the other hand you acknowledge abuses by the police during peaceful demonstrations without holding them accountable.
As an independent journalist living in Haiti, who puts his camera between the Haitian police and demonstrators to cover this story, I am deeply disappointed with your letter because it falls short of demanding the Haitian police be investigated for documented cases of human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings. Not only does this place journalists like myself in greater danger, but I wonder how I will explain your position to the families of the victims slaughtered by the Haitian police who are merely asking for justice and accountability? Do I tell them that Human Rights Watch agrees with the Haitian police that their loved ones were expendable because they were suspected of being members of "armed gangs claiming affiliation with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?" (It is well-documented that they were shot in cold-blood during a peaceful demonstration.) Do I tell them HRW agrees with the Haitian police tactic (captured on video) of planting guns on the corpses of unarmed demonstrators after they kill them? If you don’t believe me then trust you own eyes and visit: www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/5_8_5/5_8_5.html.

Look at the 35 images of HNP handiwork and know that this is what you are dismissing with your half-hearted and biased human rights work in Haiti.

For my part, I will publicly encourage my readers and listeners to discontinue responding to your fund-raising appeals. I will tell them that whenever they read HRW statements they should be suspicious and return any HRW fund-raising appeals marked: "What about your position on Haiti? Hold the Haitian police accountable!" I will continue to do this until HRW stops dismissing victims of the Haitian police as "collateral damage" and begins to demand a public investigation into the HNP’s human rights abuses.


Kevin Pina
Editor, Haiti Information Project
Associate Editor, Black Commentator
Haiti Special Correspondent, Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica
Frequent guest commentator on Haiti for several local, national and international radio programs.

Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network

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