FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The UN Betrayal of Haiti

by SASHA KRAMER

On February 28 Brazilian UN troops, part of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti, stood by as police opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing five and wounding dozens. Following the demonstration UN officials condemned the shooting and for the first time stated that if this happened again they would intervene “with force if necessary”. They also restricted the police from attending several demonstrations later that week.

These bold, and ultimately disingenuous, statements from UN special envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes created a moment of hopefulness and peaceful demonstrations swelled in numbers over the past weeks in response to the heightened security brought about by conspicuous police absence. People felt a new degree of safety and the nonviolent pro-democracy movement was gaining tremendous momentum.

Until last Thursday, March 24, when police once again opened fire on thousands of unarmed demonstrators in Cite Soleil as they courageously took to the streets to demand the return of President Aristide and the release of all political prisoners in Haiti. Reports indicate that between 3 and 5 people were killed. Apparently UN forces were present at the demonstration but not in sight when the shooting took place. They have yet to release a statement about the incident.

Then on Friday evening Father Gerard Jean Juste, beloved priest and pro-democracy activist, was attacked by an assailant as he returned to the church rectory. Friends managed to chase the attacker away and later he was captured and detained by community members. Then the following evening as Father Jean Juste was doing a live interview with Flashpoints radio on KPFA in Berkeley several men in black masks jumped out of a car and began firing at the rectory with machine guns.

These attacks eerily came on the same day that Father Jean Juste delivered a special mass commemorating the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a liberation theologian killed by US trained militias in El Salvador on March 24, 1980.

Calls were made to the Brazilian UN following both incidents but as of Saturday morning UN troops had yet to arrive on the ground.

Just last week Father Jean Juste said “As long as MINUSTAH’s position supports the enjoyment of our human rights, we’ll walk along. If they return to their oppressive attitude, we’ll reject them like we did for the killer policemen.”

Why this return to an oppressive attitude? These past weeks marked a critical moment for the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti. UN officials were faced with a choice between two conflicting components of their mandate: to back an illegitimate government and a violent police force infiltrated by the former military or to protect human rights.

In the first year following the overthrow of the democratically elected government UN troops primarily focused on fulfilling the first part of their mandate to the detriment of human rights, and numerous lives were lost as a result of this duplicitous and politically repressive policy. On September 30 MINUSTAH soldiers watched the Haitian National Police provoked a violent incident that left 4 policemen dead by firing into the demonstration.

Then on January 5 UN troops arrested Jimmy Charles, a Lavalas organizer. Community members begged them not to turn him over to the police, fearing for his life. Ignoring these demands the UN turned him over to the police and on January 15 his body was found in the morgue with 6 bullets.

The people of Haiti, particularly the families of those that died, have not forgotten these incidents, nor have they forgotten that it was the UN that trained the police and continues to prop up an illegitimate government in direct violation of their OAS obligations.

Nonetheless there were many who heard Juan Gabrial Valdes say that “the U.N. mandate for the peacekeepers–which requires them to support the police no matter the circumstances–is being reevaluated at the highest levels” and felt a moment of hope.

Was it possible that a combination of international pressure and personal shame would move the UN to change their policy? There seemed to be some recognition that the MINUSTAH mandate, as written, is untenable. It is simply impossible to defend human rights when one is required to back those committing the abuses.

Hope was further bolstered as the UN began to take aggressive steps to dislodge the former military from several towns where they have been terrorizing the populations. Three UN peacekeepers lost their lives last week in violent clashes with the former soldiers. There appeared to be a new willingness to take the necessary risks involved in any serious disarmament plan, unfortunately at the cost of several lives. These acts, though commendable, should not overshadow the return to a fatal UN policy of inaction and duplicity that resulted in the recent civilian casualties in Cite Soliel.

Sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, the events of March 24 and the incident with Father Jean Juste indicate that the much hoped for shift in UN policy has not occurred. There are larger forces at play that are intent on defending the legitimacy of an unelected and unpopular government at the expense of innocent lives. Troops on the ground are forced to comply with a mandate dictated by the United States, France and Canada and they will have to live with the memory of the lives lost as a result of their inaction and ongoing collaboration with a brutal police force.

On Tuesday March 29 Haitians will once again take to the streets in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien to commemorate the signing of their constitution and to demand that the international community respect that constitution. Human rights groups, international solidarity activists and Haitians ask that the UN troops in Haiti do just that by protecting the demonstrator’s rights to peacefully assemble and ensuring Father Jean Juste’s safety. They have the power to do so and once again the world will be watching.

SASHA KRAMER is a graduate student at Stanford University who has travelled to Haiti 3 times in the past year on human rights delegations.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail