HAITI: Outbreak of recent violence should end now

The latest series of violent incidents began on Saturday 17 March 2001 with clashes between supporters of President Aristide of the governing Fanmi Lavalas party, and those of the opposition coalition, the Convergence Democratique. Lavalas party supporters have been calling for the arrest of Gerard Gourgue, the president of Haiti's self-proclaimed 'alternative' government.

Amnesty international is also concerned about reports of unchecked violence apparently spreading across the country.

'We urge all political parties to strongly and publicly condemn acts of violence by their supporters,' Amnesty International said. 'We also call on them to cooperate fully in official efforts to control the disturbances, to investigate acts of violence, to disarm the perpetrators and bring them to justice.'

Similarly, Amnesty International calls on the government of newly-inaugurated President Jean Bertrand Aristide to take all possible steps to end violence by political partisans.

'To this end, the government must support and reinforce the Haitian National Police so that it can effectively carry out its duties to ensure public security in an impartial manner that complies with international human rights standards,' added Amnesty International.

'The government must also reinforce the capacity and independence of the judicial officials responsible for investigating these acts of violence'.

'All those involved in the violence must be brought to justice,' added the organization.

Background

Several violent incidents have been reported since Saturday 17 March 2001. Among those, Lavalas supporters threw hand made explosives at the school run by opposition leader, Gerard Gourgue, whilst he remained trapped inside together with his family and 50 students. Police eventually arrived and dispersed the mob with tear gas. On Tuesday 20, 200 Aristide supporters pushing for Gourgue's arrest reportedly threw rocks and molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the Convergence Democratique, wounding one opposition leader.

Other Fanmi Lavalas party demonstrators outside the headquarters of the Convergence Democratique reported that two demonstrators were wounded by gunfire coming from inside the building. Police present at the scene were said to have been forced to take shelter from the gunfire along with demonstrators.

Violence is also apparently spreading across the country. In Les Cayes on Wednesday, armed supporters of President Aristide are said to have taken to the streets demanding the arrest of a leading opposition figure. In St Marc on the west coast, an opposition supporter died of a bullet wound reportedly received Saturday when President Aristide partisans attacked a peaceful protest. In Hinche, the Lavalas Mayors of Hinche and Maissade lead an attack against members of the Papaye Peasant Mouvement (MPP), and also on the office of the opposition's Democratic Consultation Group, allegedly shooting one member in the head and the other in the hand. These incidents in Hinche are of particular concern following the event that took place on 2 November 2000, at which an armed group, reportedly lead by the mayors of Hinche and Maissade, attacked and shot at participants at a meeting between the MPP and the Convergence DJmocratique, injuring five with bullet wounds.

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