Haiti: Tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition used against protesters

At least 35 people killed during six weeks of anti-government protests

Amnesty verifies evidence of police using excessive force indiscriminately

Authorities in Haiti must end the unlawful and excessive use of force against protesters, Amnesty International said today, after it verified multiple instances of police using excessive force during six weeks of anti-government protests in which at least 35 people were killed, with national police implicated in many of the deaths.

Amnesty’s researchers and Digital Verification Corps have verified videos of several incidents of police using less-lethal weapons indiscriminately and unlawfully, including launching tear gas out of a moving police vehicle amidst peaceful protesters, firing on protesters with less-lethal ammunition at extremely close range, and beating a protester. 

Amnesty has also verified instances in which police, armed with semi-automatic rifles, have fired live ammunition during protests, in violation of international human rights law and standards on the use of force.

Protests have been ongoing throughout the year in Haiti, principally sparked by allegations that senior officials, including President Jovenel Moïse, could be implicated in the diversion of up to US$2 billion in proceeds from oil that Venezuela provided to Haiti on favourable terms.

Between 16 September and 17 October, the National Human Rights Defence Network, a Haitian NGO, documented at least 35 deaths in the context of protests, including at least nine at the hands of the police. During the same period, they reported that more than 200 people were injured, including at least eight journalists.  

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director, said: 

“The images that we have verified shed light on human rights violations by the Haitian authorities. The security forces under the command of President Jovenel Moïse have used excessive force. Such incidents must be investigated promptly, thoroughly and effectively.

“President Moïse must take urgent measures to ensure people protesting against his government can do so safely, without putting their lives at risk.

“The police must stop using firearms carrying live ammunition in the context of protests and take particular measures to guarantee the safety of journalists covering the political and human rights situation in Haiti.”

Tear gas, shotguns and water canons

On 4 October, during protests in Port-au-Prince, law enforcement officials holding shotguns opened fire carelessly with suspected rubber bullets towards two men while they ran away and scaled a fence.

On 11 October, around Route de Delmas, Port-au-Prince, a moving police car recklessly launched suspected tear gas towards peaceful protesters, causing them to scatter. On the same day, around Route de Kenscoff, an officer beat a protester in the stomach, as he ran away from water cannons.  

Live ammunition fired at funeral of protester  

On 16 October, of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, a specialised unit of the Haitian National Police, charged with ensuring the safety of the President and the National Palace, interrupted a funeral being held in Port-au-Prince for an individual allegedly killed in the context of the protests.

Carrying modern Israeli Galil ACE rifles, a weapon appropriate for combat operations and not policing mass demonstrations, one police officer shot live ammunition into the air near the location of protesters. Two people were injured during the incident according to RNDDH. Amnesty was unable to verify how they were injured. 

On another occasion on 11 October, at least one law enforcement official fired live ammunition from a handgun towards protesters running away in Petion-Ville, when there was no evident or immediate risk to the officer, which would be the only legitimate and proportionate justification of such force. Another video from the area suggests protesters were peaceful. 

Ongoing protests

Protests have been ongoing through the year. In February, 41 people died and 100 were injured in the context of similar protests, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

In September, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the shooting of journalist Chery-Dieu-Nalio, who was injured after a senator fired a shot in the air near the senate building.

On 10 October, Néhémie Joseph, a reporter with Radio Méga, was found shot dead in his car. 

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