Haiti: UN troops beat and rob delivery workers

According to a report by the Haitian organization National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), Brazilian soldiers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) detained two water delivery workers and a friend in Port-au-Prince in the early morning of Dec. 14 without cause, robbing them and beating them repeatedly. MINUSTAH is a Brazilian-led military and police operation with more than 10,000 members that was sent to Haiti in June 2004 ostensibly to maintain peace between political factions and to control gang violence.

The two workers, Joseph Gilbert and Abel Joseph, had finished delivering water in Cité Soleil’s Ancien Fort Dimanche neighborhood when their truck broke down late on Dec. 13. Unable to repair the truck, they decided to stay there to guard it; they were joined by a neighborhood youth, Armos Bazile. At around 3 am the next morning a routine MINUSTAH patrol stopped at the truck. The soldiers arrested the three men and took the proceeds from the day’s delivery, 4,500 gourdes (about $112), along with Gilbert’s cell phone and the men’s identification cards. The soldiers took the three Haitians to the courtyard of a school, the Institution Mixte Educative de La Saline, where they beat them; the beatings left visible marks. Neighbors intervened, saying that they knew the men. The troops responded by forcing the detainees into a vehicle and driving them along Route 9 to a plantain field, where they were beaten again. After taking their victims’ clothes and setting them on fire, the soldiers drove away, leaving the three Haitians in the field.

RNDDH is calling on MINUSTAH and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the incident and punish the soldiers involved. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Dec. 16)

Haitian activists have repeatedly demonstrated against the presence of the troops, who have been accused of rapes and other sexual abuse; irresponsible sanitary practices at a MINUSTAH base in October 2010 caused a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 6,500 people. A survey of 600 Port-au-Prince households in August 2011 by two Columbia University graduate students found that 30% of those surveyed wanted the troops withdrawn immediately, 10% wanted them out during the next six months, 25% wanted them to leave over the next year, and 19% wanted withdrawal over the next two years. Only 16% wanted the troops to remain more than two years. “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch,” a blog produced by the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that the survey’s authors strangely described these results as showing that the majority of Haitians support the mission. (CEPR, Dec. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 18.

See our last post on Haiti.