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Bleeding Haiti

by Oread Daily Thursday, Dec. 09, 2004 at 10:11 PM

Haitian police killed dozens of prisoners last week and carted out bodies in wheelbarrows during a riot that turned into a massacre, according to a human rights group.


Haitian police killed dozens of prisoners last week and carted out bodies in wheelbarrows during a riot that turned into a massacre, according to a human rights group. The toll differs from Haitian police who say eight inmates were killed. It also puts the spotlight on police whom U.N. officials are already probing for the deaths in October of up to 13 supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Police claimed inmates were killed after attacking guards at the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on Dec. 1, when prisoners rioted over prolonged detention without being taken before a judge and an imminent transfer to another prison.

One prisoner who witnessed the riot said up to 60 inmates may have been killed by police that day. "I saw about 15 bodies where I was, but the dead could total 60. I saw the police transporting from the prison loads of bodies in wheelbarrows," Ted Nazaire, a 24-year-old prisoner released a day after the riot and who is now in hiding said. Nazaire denied police reports that some prisoners were killed by other inmates. "The police killed the prisoners because of their opposition to their transfer and the detention conditions," he said.

The Committee for the Protection of the Haitian People's Rights said dozens of people were killed.

Another rights group, The Lawyers Committee for Individual Rights, (CARLI), said "many more" people had been killed than police reported. The group did not give exact figures. "The killing of the prisoners cannot be justified and those in charge of their security should be held responsible," said CARLI head Renan Hedouville. "It's a massacre."

A lawyer defending several Aristide allies, Reynold George, said those killed were political militants who came from the pro-Aristide slums "There is a plan to kill several other political prisoners from Aristide's party," he said.

The crowded penitentiary in Port-au-Prince holds 1,070 inmates, hundreds more than it was built to accommodate. Several high-ranking members of the Lavalas Family political party of ousted former President Aristide are imprisoned at the run-down prison, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Many of the Aristide supporters are held without charge.

Haiti has remained violence-torn since the forced departure of popular president Jean Bertrand-Aristide, who is now in exile in South Africa.

Myrtha Desulme, a prominent member of the Haitian/Jamaican community, who sits on the United Nation Education Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Haiti Bi-centennial committee and chairperson of the Haiti/Jamaica Exchange committee, told a gathering in Jamaica recently, "We have to support the call for an investigation by Caribbean Community (Caricom), the UN Assembly and the Congress of Black Caucus, we have to ask them to investigate the February 19 coup d'etat and the kidnapping of president Jean Bertrand-Aristide," she said.

"Part of the psychological warfare in the timing of the 2004 coup d'etat was to stop the world from celebrating the achievement of the African warriors who first put liberty into application in the western Hemisphere," said Desulme.

"This coup d'etat," she said, "makes it even more critical for the African Diaspora, Haitians and human rights advocates the world over to highlight Haiti's 200 year-old struggle against debt dependency and foreign domination."

The cultural activist repeated the charge that the demonization of Haiti started when it declared itself the first free black republic in the world. "Black nationalism was scandalous, unheard of, unacceptable which should not be tolerated in a world dominated by European imperialism," she said.

"They really did their best from that time to start demonizing Haiti. What I want to leave you with is this: the Haitian revolution was not just some slave getting up and deciding that they were going to fight. It was a revolution which lasted 13 long years. You have to arm yourself to prevent all of the propaganda you are going to be swamped with about Haiti through the media," she continued.

"The way to arm yourself is with the knowledge of your history... So when you hear the negative propaganda about Haiti, just remember Garvey's words that the white colonial system has made it a crime to be black and that is really Haiti's only crime, being a courageous black people who fought and won their freedom and have been paying for that victory for the past 200 years." Sources: AlertNet, Haiti Support Group, Jamaica Observer

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