An article in a prestigious British medical journal reveals that forces linked to Haiti’s previous U.S.-imposed interim government were responsible for widespread murder and rape.
The Lancet study, titled “Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: A random survey of households,” was written by Athena Kolbe and Royce Hutson. The two researchers found that 8,000 people were murdered and 35,000 women raped between Feb. 29, 2004, and December 2005, the time during which a U.S.-installed regime ruled the country.
On Feb. 29, 2004, U.S. marines detained elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and then flew him to the Central African Republic. The subsequent U.S.-installed government, headed by former Miami businessman Gerard Latortue, ruled the country for the next 22 months.
The study reports that the Haitian National Police and other government security forces during that time were responsible for 21.7 percent of killings. Former or demobilized soldiers were responsible for 13 percent and anti-Lavalas gangs (Lavalas was Aristide’s party) for another 13 percent. Criminals accounted for the balance.
The national police carried out 13.8 percent of rapes, anti-Lavalas gangs 11.7 percent and former soldiers 3.2 percent. More than half of the 35,000 rape victims were under age 18, many of them children. The authors emphasize that the rape figures are probably conservative, as rape victims are usually reluctant to report sexual violence. Criminals and unknown assailants committed the remaining rapes.
The report also mentions a range of other crimes, from kidnapping and physical assaults to death threats, where forces linked to the Latortue government where heavily implicated.
Foreign soldiers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti were also singled out, making 19.6 percent of death threats, 14.4 percent of rape threats and 16.8 percent threats of bodily violence. “Of the UN troops identified, half were from Brazil or Jordan,” write Kolbe and Hutson. “Brazilian and Jordian troops were also noted by respondents for issuing the majority of physical threats and threats of sexual violence by foreign soldiers.”
According to the study, while Lavalas supporters were not responsible for any murders, rapes or kidnapping, participants identified them as making 2.9 percent of death threats, 6.2 percent of threats of physical violence and 1.2 percent of threats of sexual violence.
The authors of the Lancet peer-reviewed study interviewed 5,720 randomly selected Haitians living in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and its metropolitan area. The authors admit the limitations of their study, as it does not address violence committed outside the capital.
“The newly elected government of Rene Preval, the UN leadership in Haiti and social service non-government organizations need to take concrete measures to investigate the extent of human rights violations throughout the country,” Kolbe and Hutson write. “Understanding the extent and severity of abuses experienced by individuals and communities can provide the necessary information for developing programs to address the health consequences and alleviate the emotional suffering of victims.”