Haiti: Disarmament essential with 25,000 still armed

The organisation is calling for a comprehensive, nation-wide programme of disarmament as a priority, assisted by the new UN Stabilisation Mission, MINUSTAH.

The report reveals that armed groups are still in control of much of the country. Convicted perpetrators of grave human rights violations who were freed from prison during the recent insurgency have emerged as commanders of rebel groups. None of them has been re-arrested, and some are reportedly terrorising their victims and the judges and witnesses involved in their prosecution.

The report, Breaking the Cycle of Violence - A Last Chance for Haiti? is critical of the 3-month presence of the UN-mandated Multinational Interim Force (MIF), stating:

“The MIF did little to assist the Haitian National Police to secure the country and maintain public order and practically nothing to develop a comprehensive disarmament plan”.

The report also calls for an end to impunity for human rights abuses, and calls on the Haitian authorities to ensure that the rule of law is impartially applied and enforced.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Haiti remains awash with guns and people on the island still fear for their lives. Armed groups control areas of the country and abuse human rights with impunity. Until a comprehensive disarmament programme is carried out, this insecurity will remain.

“Unless Haiti can demonstrate that no one is above the law, and that the law is applied impartially to both government supporters and opponents, impunity will continue to be rife and there will be no end to the violence and instability that has plagued Haiti for so long.

“The situation in Haiti demonstrates all too clearly that atrocities left unpunished can be repeated without fear.”

The report, based on the findings of the first Amnesty International delegation to visit Haiti since the departure of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February, sets out key challenges facing Haiti's interim government and the new UN Stabilisation Mission, MINUSTAH:

  • The cycle of impunity must be broken. Successive Haitian governments have allowed the perpetrators of human rights abuses to escape justice. Human rights crimes are seldom properly investigated, let alone brought to trial.
  • In order to end impunity, the rule of law must be impartially applied and enforced. The interim government has swiftly moved to arrest members of former President Aristide’s Lavalas Family party suspected of acts of political violence or corruption. Yet convicted human rights abusers remain at large.
  • Given the army’s past record of human rights abuse, there is strong concern at the decision by Haiti’s interim government to integrate former army officers into the Haitian National Police.
  • Insecurity, impunity and partiality have encouraged attacks on freedom of the press and threats against human rights defenders. A number of journalists in former rebel areas of Haiti have been arrested and beaten after reporting abuses by the rebels, while pro-Aristide media such as Radio and Tele Timoun have been closed.

The report concludes that the deployment of the new United Nations mission to Haiti this month represents a major opportunity, and perhaps a last chance, to break the cycle of violence and impunity that has plagued the Caribbean republic for so many years.

Kate Allen said:

“The international community must be ready to provide personnel, training, expertise and funds for this new mission. In order to achieve success the commitment must be long-term and certainly extend beyond the Mission’s current 6-month mandate.

“However, this support needs to be matched by an equal commitment on the part of the Haitian authorities who must demonstrate to the people of their country that they are entitled to justice and that no one is above the law.”

The report can be read online at: www.amnesty.org

  • A web clip is available online ... /p>

    Please note: you will need free realplayer software to play these clips, available at www.real.com /li>

View latest press releases