Otago Daily Times & UN News Service & Beverly Bell / Upside Down World – 2010-10-17 00:26:55
Peacekeepers Break Up Anti-UN Protest in Haiti
Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
PORT-AU-PRINCE (October 16, 2010) — UN peacekeepers have clashed with a small group of Haitians protesting the yearly renewal of the 12,000-member military and police force.
About 60 protesters organized by labour, housing and other activist groups blocked the entrance to the main UN logistics base near Port-au-Prince’s airport.
Most of the protesters came from the post-earthquake camps that still dominate the capital. They spray-painted anti-UN slogans on cars and burned the flag of Brazil, which provides the largest contingent to the mission.
UN security personnel then emerged from the base. A plainclothes guard struck a protester before a Jordanian soldier with the mission fired a warning shot. AP journalists also saw a Haitian policeman hit protesters with his rifle and a UN vehicle push through the crowd, knocking over protesters and journalists.
The protest was in response to a unanimous Security Council vote Thursday to renew the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, which has been in place since the 2004 ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
A statement from legal-aid group Bureau des Avocats Internationaux said money is wasted on the mission, which it called ineffective. It said protesters want “real assistance, not the renewal of … an occupying military force.”
The UN has budgeted $380 million for the mission this year.
Spokesman Vicenzo Pugliese said the mission had no comment on the protest.
Security Council Votes to Keep UN Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti for Another Year
UN News Service
PORT-AU-PRINCE (October 14, 2010) — The Security Council today voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti until 15 October 2011, while underlining the significance of next monthâ€™s presidential and legislative polls in laying the foundation for a stable political environment in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The country continues to rebuild in the wake of the devastating January earthquake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced about 1.3 million others. Countless buildings, including Government facilities, hospitals and schools, were also destroyed.
In its unanimously adopted resolution, the Council said that free, fair and inclusive elections on 28 November “is a key condition for the consolidation of a stable political environment in which recovery and reconstruction efforts can progress.”
Earlier this week, the mission, known as MINUSTAH, voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed ahead of next month’s polls, calling on anybody with knowledge of any such distribution to come forward and share it with the national and UN police and with international election observers.
The 15-member body encouraged the mission today to continue helping the Haitian Government protect civilians, paying particular attention to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups, especially women and children.
It also strongly condemned the “grave violations against children affected by armed violence, as well as widespread rape and other sexual abuse of women and girls.”
Haiti: UN Concerned at Reported Weapons Distribution Ahead of Elections
UN News Service
PORT AU PRINCE (October 12, 2010) — The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti today voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed as the impoverished and earthquake-devastated country prepares to hold elections next month.
The mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, called on anybody with knowledge of any such distribution to come forward and share it with the national and UN police and with international election observers.
“These allegations which recur every time there is an election without further specifics are emerging again,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Edmond Mulet said in a statement.
MINUSTAH called on all candidates in the presidential, legislative and senatorial elections to think of the country’s future and programs that will restore hope to the people. The 28 November polls will take place as the country is still reeling from January’s quake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced about 1.3 million others.
MINUSTAH, which now has nearly 12,000 military and police personnel deployed around the country, has been on the ground since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.
Growing Protests As UN Attacks Haitian Refugee Camp
Beverly Bell / Upside Down World
PORT AU PRINCE (June 2, 2010) — Last week, the United Nations peacekeeping mission fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowded refugee camp, leaving at least six hospitalized and others suffering respiratory problems.
Citizen organizations plan demonstrations for today, the sixth anniversary of the UN armed presence in Haiti. The march is part of growing protests against the military forces which have amassed in Haiti since the January 12 earthquake and the lack of attention to displaced people’s needs.
On May 23, students at the School of Ethnology of the State University of Haiti held another in a series of protests on the central Champs de Mars Boulevard. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH, by its French acronym) and Haitian police went into the school, firing tears gas and rubber bullets while the students threw rocks.â€¨
â€¨Then at about 3:00, MINUSTAH troops began firing in the internally displaced people’s camp in the downtown parks around Champs de Mars, where many thousands of people are crowded into tight quarters.
The firing continued for hours, according to residents interviewed for this article and other reports. Camp residents reported that babies and small children choked on the gas and passed out, as did at least two women with preexisting heart conditions. Three doctors with Partners in Health at the University Hospital reported treating at least six victims of rubber bullet rounds.
Two children were wounded in the face, one of them requiring about ten stitches, according to one of the doctors.â€¨â€¨
When the attack began, camp residents, including many elderly and infirm people, and babies and small children fled.
“I saw one woman running with her twins that are three or four months old,” said Eramithe Delva. “She had one in each arm, and with every step as she ran they banged against her chest. Is this what they want for us?” Many spent the night in the streets, for fear of returning to the camp. Residents interviewed said they had no idea why MINUSTAH fired on them.â€¨
MINUSTAH has since issued an apology for entering in the School of Ethnology. The statement did not mention the attack on the camp.â€¨â€¨
Demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and other areas of the country have become a daily occurrence. Most of them protest the governmentâ€™s handling of the disaster and the heavy political and military presence of foreign powers since January 12. Within days after the earthquake, 12,600 UN troops, 20,000 US troops, 2,000 Canadians, 600 French, and more from other countries amassed there.â€¨â€¨
Rural organizer Selina Pierre-Louis said, “We don’t know what these soldiers came to do. They have batons and guns in their hands. They zoom up and down in their huge vehicles all day. We’re not at war and we’re not armed. We need technical support, we need reconstruction, we need psychological help. They’re not doing anything to help the rebuilding. They’re just adding to our trauma.”â€¨â€¨
Troop levels overall have abated since the first months after the earthquake. The most recent figures on MINUSTAHâ€™s web site show that just over 9,000 MINUSTAH forces remain there. The missionâ€™s cost for the current fiscal year is $611.75 million.
â€¨â€¨The Security Council-approved MINUSTAH was established on June 1, 2004 with a triple mandate of ensuring a “secure and stable environment,” promoting a constitutional political process, and strengthening human rights. Francky Etienne Remy, who owns a small craft shop in Jacmel, said, “The Haitian police are totally ineffectual so MINUSTAH fills a vacuum.”â€¨
â€¨Yet MINUSTAH troops have repeatedly been accused of killings, arbitrary arrests, and human rights violations throughout the duration of the mission. (See, for example, the reports of Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.)
These charges include an attack by MINUSTAH forces in CitÃ© Soleil on April 15, 2005, killing several ; an attack on July 6, 2005, resulting in an uncertain number of deaths ; the killing of at least five, and possibly many more, people in CitÃ© Soleil in December 22, 2006 ; and the shooting death of a young man at the funeral of a prominent priest on July 14, 2009 .â€¨â€¨
In February, 2008, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services released its findings from an investigation into accusations against Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troops. It found that acts of sexual exploitation and abuse of children were “frequent” and occurred “at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed.”â€¨â€¨MINUSTAH forces have also been shot at and killed. MINUSTAH claims it has suffered 152 troop fatalities.â€¨â€¨
Beyond charges of unnecessary force, others like the student, small farmer, worker, and popular organizations who are organizing today’s march, oppose MINUSTAH because they claim the mission undermines Haitian sovereignty.
The May 26 press statement for the march, signed by ten organizations, states, “After the January 12 catastrophe, the occupation has been strengthened with other foreign soldiers and MINUSTAH, on the pretext that they are helping usâ€¦ [T]hey did nothing to help prevent more than 300,000 people from dying under rubbleâ€¦ Now on the sixth anniversary of the occupation, we are taking to the streets of Port-au-Prince to get the country out from under the rubble of MINUSTAH.” â€¨â€¨
Community organizer Nixon Boumba with the grassroots organization Democratic Popular Movement said in an interview, “We’re asking for Haitians to be the true actors in their future, and for an end to the occupation to allow the country to have dignity and autonomy for the development and transformation of the country. We need schools, we need people in the camps attended to.
“After January 12, there have been a lot of opportunities to resolve the problems in the country. Instead, Canada, France, the US, Brazil, and others have acted like imperialists, strengthening their power and trying to undermine our chance to change the quality of our country. The US wants Haiti to serve as a military base for the Caribbean, to control resistance from Latin America. And they want to prevent a massive emigration toward the US and Canada.”â€¨â€¨
 Information gathered from author interviews as well as first-person testimony collected by Melinda Miles, KOMPAY, and reported in a May 25 email to the author; and by Ansel Herz, Inter Press Service, reported in â€œUN Clash with Frustrated Students Spills into Camps,â€ May 25.â€¨â€¨
 MINUSTAH Facts and Figures, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minustah/facts.shtmlâ€¨â€¨
 Eyewitness testimony, AP television news story, April 15, 2010.â€¨â€¨
 Human Rights Watch, “Haiti: Events of 2008,” http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79214â€¨â€¨
 MINUSTAH Facts and Figures, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minustah/facts.shtmlâ€¨â€¨
 Gwoup 77 et al., “Press Release: Let’s mobilize to get the country out of the rubble of foreign aid and the rubble of the occupation,” Port-au-Prince, May 26, 2010.
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