Haiti Action Committee – 2005-07-12 22:32:31
(July 7, 2005) — On Wednesday morning, July 6th, at approximately 3:00 AM, UN occupation forces in Haiti carried out a major military operation in the working-class neighborhood of Cite Soleil, one of the poorest in Port-au-Prince and also a stronghold of support for Haiti’s majority political party Lavalas and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Presumably, the purpose of the operation was to crack down on illegal “gang activity”, in particular on “gang” leader Dread Wilme. In actuality, a US trade union and human rights delegation in Port-au-Prince discovered evidence of a massacre conducted by the UN forces, targeting the larger community itself.
According to accounts from many different members of the community, many of whom chose to remain anonymous, as well as from journalists who were on the scene during the operation, UN forces surrounded two neighborhoods within Cite Soleil, Boisneuf and Project Drouillard, sealing off the alleys with tanks and troops.
Two helicopters flew overhead. At 4:30 AM, UN forces launched the offensive, shooting into houses, shacks, a church, and a school with machine guns, tank fire, and tear gas. Eyewitnesses reported that when people fled to escape the tear gas, UN troops gunned them down from the back.
UN forces shot out electric transformers in the neighborhood. People were killed in their homes and also just outside of their homes, on the way to work. According to journalists and eyewitnesses, one man named Leon Cherry, age 46, was shot and killed on his way to work for a flower company. Another man, Mones Belizaire, was shot as he got ready to go work in a local sweatshop and subsequently died from a stomach infection. A woman who was a street vendor was shot in the head and killed instantly.
One man was shot in his ribs while he was trying to brush his teeth. Another man was shot in the jaw as he left his house to try and get some money for his wife’s medical costs; he endured a slow death.Yet another man named Mira was shot and killed while urinating in his home.
A mother, Sena Romelus, and her two young children were killed in their home, either by bullets or by a 83-CC grenade UN forces threw. Film footage of many of these deaths was shared with the US human rights delegation. Eyewitnesses claimed that the offensive overwhelmed the community and that there was not a “firefight”, but rather a slaughter. The operation was primarily conducted by UN forces, with the Haitian National Police this time taking a back seat.
Seth Donnelly, a member of the US human rights delegation in Port-au-Prince, visited Cite Soleil with Haitian human rights workers on Thursday afternoon, July 7th. The team gathered testimony from many members of the community, young and old, men, women, and youth. All verified the previous statements we had received from journalists and other eyewitness accounts.
These community members spoke of how they had been surrounded by tanks and troops that sealed off exits from the neighborhoods and then proceeded to assault the civilian population. The community allowed the team to film the evidence of the massacre, showing the homes — in some cases made of tin and cardboard — that had been riddled by bullets, tank fire and helicopter ammunition, as well as showing the team some of the corpses still there, including a mother and her two children.
The team also filmed a church and a school that had been riddled by ammunition. Reportedly, a preacher was among the victims killed. Some community members allowed the team to interview them, but not to film their faces for fear of their lives. People were traumatized and, in the cases of loved ones of victims, hysterical.
Many community members — again young and old, men and women — spoke highly of Dread Wilme, referring to him as their “protector” or “father”, and expressed fear for the future. One member said that he heard that another UN operation against the community was planned for later Thursday night or early Friday morning.
Multiple community people indicated that they had counted at least 23 bodies of people killed by the UN forces. Community members claimed that UN forces had taken away some of the bodies. Published estimates indicate that upwards of 50 may have been killed and an indeterminate number wounded, and that more than 300 heavily armed UN troops took part in the assault on this densely populated residential neighborhood.
“There was systematic firing on civilians,” said one eyewitness to the killing. “All exits were cut off. The community was choked off, surrounded — facing tanks coming from different angles, and overhead, helicopters with machine guns fired down on the people. The citizens were under attack from all sides and from the air. It was war on a community.”
The Labor/Human Rights Delegation from the United States, sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council, had been in Haiti since late last month to attend the Congress of the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH), the country’s largest labor organization, and interviewed hundreds of Haitian workers, farmers and professionals about the current labor and human rights situation in Haiti.