Peacekeepers accused after killings in Haiti
Friday 29 July 2005
Independent witnesses say up to 23 people were killed during the raid and that many were shot in the head. Video footage seen by The Independent shows the bodies of many killed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and contains testimony from witnesses claiming the victims were killed by "blue helmets" common parlance for UN peacekeepers.
In a statement, the UN Mission in Haiti (Minustah) said: "[UN forces] did not target civilians in the operation ... but the nature of such missions in densely populated urban areas is such that there is always a risk of civilian casualties. Minustah deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life during its operation."
Yesterday, the most senior UN peacekeeping official appealed to the Security Council for specialised troops for Haiti admitting the forces available were not trained for such raids.
The footage of the aftermath of the 6 July raid in the Cité Soleil slum was taken by a team led by Haitian-based journalist Kevin Pina. Pina said: " Numerous witnesses said the victims were killed by UN forces the Haitian National Police (HNP) were not even there. I think the fact the UN did not bring a single doctor or ambulance with them on this mission is extraordinary surely you would do that whether you were targeting criminal gangs or civilians? It is interesting that so many victims were shot in the head. I think the reason they did not bring ambulances is that they were not shooting to wound, they were shooting to kill."
The raid took place against a backdrop of violence in Haiti ahead of autumn elections. Authorities say much of the violence is perpetrated by criminal gangs with links to the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
But since the ousting of the democratically elected Mr Aristide last year, human rights groups have detailed repression of his supporters by the US-backed interim government and the HNP. A report by the human rights programme at Harvard Law School said there were also "credible allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by Minustah".
Minustah said its dawn raid, involving more than 400 troops, targeted the gang leader known as "Dread Wilme", who is accused of murder and kidnapping. He and four alleged associates were killed.
But other independent witnesses support Pina's evidence that civilians werealso killed. David Welsh, of the US Labour/Human Rights Delegation to Haiti, was at a conference in Port-au-Prince that weekend. Delegation members interviewed witnesses and filmed the bodies of victims. He described the shooting as a "massacre": "Based on witnesses' testimony and the number of bodies we were able to confirm, we believe that at least 23 people were killed," he said.
Among the dead were four-year-old Stanley Romelus, who was shot in the head; his mother, Sonia, and his one-year-old brother, Nelson. The boy's father said they were killed in their house after UN forces threw smoke grenades. His testimony is to be included in a documentary Pina is producing based on the footage.
Christophe Fournier, Médecins Sans Frontières, which has a clinic close to Cité Soleil, said: "On that day we treated 27 people for gunshot wounds. Of them, around 20 were women under the age of 18."
Minustah claims it received "unconfirmed information" that criminal gangs were seen killing civilians after its operation. It said: "Subsequently, these elements attributed these atrocious acts to Minustah."
At UN headquarters yesterday, Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, asked for specialist troops for Haiti. "I have to acknowledge the forces we have do not have the kind of very specialised capacity ... that makes absolutely sure that there will be zero civilian casualties in a densely populated environment."
- 1 Reader dilemma: 'My boyfriend jokes about putting photos of us having sex on Facebook'
- 2 Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta clashes with President Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Gay rights is really a non-issue’
- 3 37-year-old black woman found dead in police custody
- 4 Kanye West praises Caitlyn Jenner on I Am Cait: 'You couldn't have been up against more'
- 5 Five-year-old boy forced classmate to simulate oral sex at primary school, claims mother
Mystery over deaths of 3,000 Napoleonic soldiers in mass grave has been solved
Global Peace Index: Ukraine tops list of countries with the worst relations with neighbours
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, 71, still enjoys 'an early morning joint' for breakfast
Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
The 9 charts that show the 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
What the Labour party could look like under Jeremy Corbyn
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides actionabl...
Negotiable depending on experience, plus benefits: Guru Careers: We are seekin...
£16000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking Account Managers to join a Digital C...