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Haiti: Protestor 'beaten to death' following attack on camp

Haitian authorities must thoroughly and impartially investigate allegations that a man died after being beaten by police as he took part in a protest in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on Monday, Amnesty International said today.

Civil Merius was reportedly beaten as he was detained by police on Monday after protesting against an arson attack on a camp for displaced people. Police reportedly failed to respond to the incident and Merius, a resident of the camp, died later in police custody.

Another camp resident, Darlin Lexima, who told Amnesty International that he had not taken part in the protest, was beaten and then taken into custody. He was released without charge on Tuesday afternoon.

The arson attack occurred less than 48 hours after the alleged owner of a portion of the land told residents he would “use all possible means to evict them. ”

Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser for Amnesty International said:

 “This terrible event is proof of the consequences of continuing forced evictions in Haiti. The Haitian authorities need to carry out a full, prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the death of Civil Merius, the beating of Darlin Lexima, the arson attack and the threats of forced eviction.”

“Unfortunately this incident is emblematic of the situation of powerlessness in which thousands of people still living in displacement camps find themselves. It is crucial that the Haitian authorities use all the available resources to investigate this incident in accord with international standards.”

Amnesty International has learned that the victims’ lawyer is particularly concerned about the ability of the Haitian justice system to investigate the killing. In previous months, autopsies, following suspicious deaths, could not be performed due to a lack of human and material resources.

The arson attack began at approximately 2am on Monday when a group of unidentified individuals on motorcycles tried to set fire to Camp Acra et Adoquin Delmas 33, a temporary camp that, according to the residents, is home to more than 30,000 people in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Delmas.

Around seven tents were set alight, but residents managed to put out the fires and no one was injured. The residents then went to the nearby police station in Delmas 33 to request police assistance. After the police officers refused to accompany them claiming lack of resources, a spontaneous protest started.

Amnesty researchers in Haiti spoke to witnesses who confirmed the story. They also spoke to Darlin Lexima while he was in police custody and noticed that he had several bruises on his chest, cheek and left ear. His right arm was also swollen.

The researchers are in Haiti for the launch of a comprehensive report on forced evictions taking place in displacement camps in Haiti, where victims of the 2010 earthquake are still living. The report will be published on Tuesday 23 April.

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