News and opinions on situation in Haiti
Haiti Report for September 12, 2006
The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described in Haiti and international media prepared by Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY. It does not reflect the opinions of any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation.
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IN THIS REPORT:
New Government Commission on Disarmament:
Impromptu Ceremony Kicks off Disarmament:
The men handing in guns — one gang leader and two followers — said they were tired of fighting with rival gangs in the slum, a warren of crumbling cinderblock homes, dirt roads and open sewers only a few blocks from the National Palace. ”Now we want the freedom to go where we want without being arrested by police,” said the gang leader in Solino, known as “Bibi.” The guns and about two dozen rounds of ammunition were splayed out on a table in front of a mural of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Haitian president who has retained the loyalty of some gangs. A government commission was appointed last week to oversee the U.N. disarmament initiative. The U.N. special envoy to Haiti, Edmond Mulet, has said only gang members not wanted for killings, human rights abuses or other serious crimes would be eligible for the benefits after they give up their weapons. (AP, 9/11)
UN Troops Take Over Volatile Areas in Port-au-Prince:
U.N. troops had conducted operations in Cite Militaire and other neighborhoods near the country’s most dangerous shantytown of Cite Soleil, in the metropolitan area. They set up 32 new checkpoints in parts of the capital where armed gangs were forced to flee for their lives, Mulet said. ”We have taken over some of the territories occupied by the bandits,” including a Cite Militaire building that had been used as a gang base and a hiding place for kidnap victims, he said. Several armed groups are believed to be loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced from power in February 2004 by an armed rebellion and by pressure from the United States and France. U.N. peacekeepers were deployed four months later to stabilize the impoverished country. Some gang members said their movement was politically motivated and rejected accusations they were bandits. ”We are not criminals, we are political militants who had to take up weapons to defend ourselves,” said gang leader William Baptiste, known as Ti Blan.
U.N. officials said gang leaders who committed atrocities against innocent citizens will be considered criminals. ”If someone kidnaps for economic ransom, kill, shoot at innocent victims, I don’t see any political motivation behind that,” said Mulet. He said U.N. forces continue to come under attack from recalcitrant gangs, and called on gang members to immediately surrender their weapons. (Reuters, 9/11)
New Government Appointments:
Lancet Launches Investigation Following Publication of Human Rights Survey:
“How can Kolbe/Duff’s research into the issues of human-rights violations be regarded as objective when she herself states that for 3.5 years she worked with the Lafanmi Selavi centre for street children, where she befriended Aristide himself and presumably some of the boys who later left the centre . . . [who] then acted as armed enforcers?” Charles Arthur, co-ordinator of the British-based Haiti Support Group, wrote this week in a letter of complaint to The Lancet. ”There is a concerted international campaign to distort news and manipulate information about Haiti with the apparent aim of repairing the reputation of Aristide. I am concerned The Lancet has unwittingly been used as part of the pro-Aristide propaganda campaign.” Nobody from The Lancet was available to comment yesterday, but Ms. Kolbe said the magazine is investigating, and she is confident it will find no conflict of interest.
“The Lancet would have appreciated hearing it from me and not from an outsider,” she said in an interview. ”But it’s not like they wouldn’t have published the article. The findings aren’t at issue.” Ms. Kolbe said she used to write articles under the name Lyn Duff — an old nickname and her mother’s surname — but wanted to go by her father’s surname and her real first name once she entered academia. She also said that from 1994-1997, she worked at an orphanage founded by Mr. Aristide, met him several times, and was an admirer of the then-president. Some of the children at the orphanage maintained links with him. “I am not a supporter of Lavalas [Aristide’s political party]. I have warm feelings toward Aristide, but I am critical of some of his decisions.” She and her co-author, assistant professor Royce Hutson, defended the results of their survey, which has prompted some groups to call for a parliamentary inquiry into Canada’s role in Haiti.
The Lancet peer-reviewed study of 5,720 randomly selected Haitians living in the capital found that in the 22-month period since Mr. Aristide’s ouster, 97 had received death threats, 232 had been threatened physically and 86 sexually. According to survey respondents, one-third of those who issued death threats were criminals, 18 per cent were Haitian National Police and other government security agents and another 17 per cent were foreign soldiers. Only 6 per cent were Lavalas. Mr. Arthur said these findings contradict independent human-rights investigators who report that many of the violations have been committed by criminals, Haitian police and anti-Aristide groups — as well as Lavalas supporters. “My concern is that either the conduct or interpretation of the research was skewed or biased in order to exonerate Fanmi Lavalas/Aristide supporters from accusation of involvement in human-rights violations,” he said in his letter. Nicholas Galletti, with Rights and Democracy, a Montreal non-governmental organization, said the author’s background further calls into question a study “based on flawed methodology” whereby responsibility for crimes is attributed to groups without a proper criminal investigation or trial.
However, Prof. Hutson says the study acknowledges the limitations of having to rely on subject recall. ”The charges of bias are baseless. We were aware Athena had written under another name and found no conflict. Our concern is the way UN soldiers are interacting with Haitians.” (Toronto Globe and Mail, 9/7)
Astrid James, a deputy editor of The Lancet, said the journal is investigating the allegations “as quickly as we can,” but still stands by the report, which also said up to 35,000 women were sexually abused while the interim government ruled the troubled Caribbean nation. ”We’re obviously concerned by what we’ve heard and we’re conducting our investigation and we have asked for more information from the authors,” James said from the journal’s London headquarters.
Kolbe said she had written articles about Haiti for several San Francisco publications under the name “Lyn Duff.” She said her full name is Athena Lyn Duff-Kolbe, but that she only uses Athena Kolbe in her academic work. The Lancet report cites two articles by Lyn Duff as references, but doesn’t disclose that Duff and Kolbe are the same person. Doubts about Kolbe’s work were raised by Britain-based human rights activist Charles Arthur, who sent a letter to The Lancet expressing concern that the study tried to exonerate Aristide supporters even though independent human rights workers say they committed killings and rapes after the revolt. ”How can the survey be regarded as objective if the main person coordinating the survey hides her very pronounced political sympathies by using a different name?” Arthur wrote. (AP, 9/7)
OPINION: Kurzban on Latortue:
The results of his tenure are now in. A study published this week in The Lancet, the respected medical journal of the United Kingdom, scientifically analyzed the brutality of the regime. In the last two years, reports have documented the gross human-rights violations in Haiti, but these abuses were sadly ignored by most mainstream media. The University of Miami School of Law’s Center for Human Rights, led by the prominent human-rights author and professor Irwin Stotzky, Harvard University’s Human Rights Clinic and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti all detailed executions and systematic human-rights violations after Aristide’s removal. The Lancet report, however, confirms everyone’s worst suspicions. It concludes that in the 22 months after Aristide’s removal there were 8,000 murders and 35,000 sexual assaults in the greater Port-au-Prince area alone. More than 50 percent of these murders were attributed to anti-Aristide and anti-Lavalas factions including armed anti-Lavalas groups, demobilized army members and government security forces.
Similarly, almost 30 percent of the sexual assaults were attributed to anti-Lavalas and anti-Aristide forces. The remaining murders and sexual assaults were due to common criminals or of unknown origin. Although a sustained disinformation campaign by Latortue and the Bush Administration claimed that violence was due to Lavalas ‘’gangs’’ — the study finds just the opposite. No murders or sexual assaults were attributed to Lavalas members or partisans during the 22-month period of Latortue’s regime. As in Iraq, the other lasting legacy of the Bush administration’s policies in Haiti has been rampant corruption. More than $900 million in aid was provided to the Latortue regime at the request of the United States, France and Canada. But no visible major projects warranting such huge expenditures have been recorded. In a country where the average annual income is less than $350 per year, the newly elected legislature is investigating this rampant corruption, including $6 million that disappeared from Latortue’s Foreign Ministry.
Latortue also paid a U.S. law firm $250,000 a month retainer solely to bring against Aristide a civil suit that was ultimately dismissed. In a parting shot to the Haitian people, Latortue awarded himself two new luxury automobiles, which he took to Florida until the misappropriation was discovered. The Bush administration legacy of terminating democracy under Aristide and allowing gross human-rights abuses and corruption to fester during Latortue’s regime will take many decades to reverse. Nor was the administration successful in terminating the Haitian people’s desire for the return of Aristide, who is as popular as ever in Haiti. [Ira Kurzban was the general counsel for Haiti for 13 years during the governments of René Préval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide.] (Miami Herald, 9/7)
OPINION: Latortue Responds to Kurzban: