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11/7/05

US Labor and Human Rights Delegation: Update on Cite Soleil Massacre

 

  

US Labor and Human Rights Delegation: Update on Cite Soleil Massacre

Cite Soleil Community Turns Out En Masse For Funeral of Dread Wilme

Credible Estimates of Civilian Casualties during July 6th UN Military Operation in Cite Soleil Continue to Mount 

US Labor and Human Rights Delegation

July 9th, Port-au-Prince

For further information, contact Delegation Member Seth Donnelly: 650-814-8495

Hundreds of people of all ages turned out for the funeral of Dread Wilme, a leader of the Cite Soleil community in Port-au-Prince. Wilme was reportedly killed in a UN military operation in Cite Soleil during the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 6th. The funeral ceremony was held in the street and involved speeches by community activists, music, dancing, and carrying a coffin to the people. White banners were draped up and down one of the main streets in the community. Media, mostly Haitian, were present. Speakers expressed respect for Wilme as someone who embodied the hopes of the community, someone who attempted to stand up for and protect his community. They vowed to continue the struggle for the rights of the poor in Haiti to healthcare, education, and democracy. In this spirit, they also vowed to fight for the return of President Aristide. One young female speaker stirred the crowd with her words affirming the dignity of the people of Cite Soleil and their rights to be treated as human beings. Another speaker addressed the issue of kidnappings in Haiti, claiming that they were being used by the coup regime to scapegoat poor communities like Cite Soleil. Armed young men seemed to provide security for the ceremony.

At least twice during the service, people began to urgently run away, turning into a collective stampede, when rumors circulated that MINUSTAH forces were coming. MINUSTAH APCs (tanks) were stationed at several checkpoints in the neighborhood. People appeared to be terrified of MINUSTAH forces.

One older, Haitian-American woman who recently moved to Cite Soleil one month ago to practice her ministry gave an interview to a US human rights delegation and Haitian journalists, stating that the youth of Cite Soleil are not animals or “chimeres”, but intelligent human beings who are struggling to deal with the most harsh oppression. She described Dread Wilme as someone who worked on behalf of these youth, providing them with education and food when the larger society was willing to throw them away.

Credible Estimates of Casualties During the July 6th UN Military Operation in Cite Soleil Continue to Mount

In contrast to the claim made by the UN high military command in Haiti that they were unaware of any civilian casualties from Cite Soleil during the July 6th operation, the staff at the Medecines Sans Frontieres Hospital in Port-au-Prince reported that they received a wave of wounded civilians from Cite Soleil on July 6th. This is one of the few, if not the only hospitals in Port-au-Prince where people can from Cite Soleil can go because it provides free health care.

Ali Besnaci, “Chef de Mission” of the Medecins Sans Frontieres program and hospital staff member Olivia Gayraud met with a US and Haitian human rights team on July 9th, sharing the hospital registry records with the team. The records indicate that on July 6th, starting at approximately 11 AM, the hospital received a total of 26 wounded people from Cite Soleil who were transported to the facility by Red Cross “tap taps” (local trucks). Of these 26, 20 were women and children and 6 were men. Half of the total number were seriously wounded by abdominal gun shot wounds and were routed into major surgery. One pregnant woman lost her baby. Other victims seem to be in recovery, according to the hospital staff. All reported that they had been wounded by UN military forces during the operation and some spoke of their homes being destroyed. This number of 26 stands in contrast to the hospital’s records of Cite Soleil residents admitted on other days when the figures are much lower, such as 2 people on July 7th and none on July 8th. One Haitian human rights worker present during the meeting with the hospital staff speculated that the number of men from Cite Soleil who were admitted to the hospital was low because many men would fear being arrested by the authorities while in the hospital.

Meanwhile, one Haitian journalist who was an eyewitness to the damages in Cite Soleil on the morning of July 26th claims that he personally saw 20 bodies, and that 5 additional victims were buried by their families, and that 5 families were searching for loved ones who have been missing since the morning of July 6th. Additionally, a Reuters reporter covering Dread Wilme’s funeral told a human rights team that he had personally seen and taken pictures of 7 bodies when he entered Cite Soleil at some point after the operation. Moreover, he took video footage of gun shots through roofs in the community, indicating that perhaps there had been helicopter fire from UN forces, as many community members allege. The US human rights team also saw what appeared to be many gun shot holes through the roof of a community school and an adjacent building.

Another estimate on the death toll from one community member who spoke during the funeral ceremony ranges as high as 80 community members killed.

  
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