Originally: Anti-Governmental Demonstrations Manifestations in Port-au-Prince: NCHR condemns the violent acts of 7 January 2004
Anti-Governmental Demonstrations Manifestations in Port-au-Prince: NCHR condemns the violent acts of 7 January 2004
It is with great sadness that the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) notes the numerous acts of violence that took place in Port-au-Prince on 7 January 2004. These acts coincided with the official re-opening of schools and the anti-governmental demonstration organized by student organizations and the Democratic Front composed of political opposition parties and a coalition of civil society organizations:
? The day before the demonstration, threats and offensive remarks were made by government supporters – one of whom was Father Yvon Massac – and OP Lavalas leaders.
? Shortly before the demonstration departure time, an Isuzu Trooper jeep which looked like the jeep of Emmanuel Wilmé alias Dread Wilmé (powerful OP Lavalas leader in Cité Soleil) and which was full of heavily armed men opened fire on the police in the area of Delmas 62. The police returned fire, which left one (1) dead and three (3) injured with gun shot wounds within the OP Lavalas group.
? In Pétion-Ville, armed civilians aligned with the government besieged the Saint-Pierre Square, the predetermined meeting location for the demonstration; two (2) people were injured by bullets.
The presence of the police enabled the demonstration to begin, with a modification of the original itinerary to avoid confrontations with armed civilians posted in strategic zones along the route of the demonstrations with the intent to attack protestors.
? In the area of Canapé-Vert, OP Lavalas members attacked a student demonstration, using sticks, rocks, machetes and broken bottles. Several students were injured ;
? The headquarters of Radio Vision 2000 and two (2) vehicles of Signal FM were targeted by heavily armed civilians, among them children not much older than 12 or 13. The satellite dish of Radio Vision 2000 was hit by a bullet and the vehicles of Signal FM were seriously damaged. Journalists from Signal FM and Radio Ibo had to hide for quite some time in their station headquarters to avoid the physical aggression from OP Lavalas members;
? On Avenue John Brown, a citizen, caught unawares by protestors, was savagely beaten and thrown into a storm drain in the presence of police officers;
Heavily armed citizens forced the organizers to terminate the demonstration prematurely. One protestor was shot and killed. Members of a special unit of the presidential palace’s security were allegedly recognized and identified among the armed civilians;
? State vehicles and those of citizens were forcefully seized by armed Lavalas militants to improve their mobility whilst on the rampage;
? Vehicles in the service of TELECO and EDH [Eléctricité d’Haïïti] full of armed civilians supporting the government were involved all day in the acts of violence;
? Several supermarkets and gas stations were robbed and ransacked by armed Lavalas partisans and were forced to close down ;
? On Chemin des Dalles, a Lavalas supporter was ruthlessly shot dead by his peers after having stolen the cell phone of a bystander. He was accused of having tainted the image of the powers that be ;
? After the demonstration was dispersed, armed civilians patrolled the city shooting in all directions, which made it difficult for the demonstrators to get back home. The day ended with at least three (3) dead and several dozens injured.
NCHR fervently condemns these violent acts which attempt to stop citizens from exercising a constitutional right, i.e., the right to express oneself freely and through the media of one’s choice.
The events of 7 January 2004 are substantial proof that the freedom of association and freedom to meet together without the presence of weapons for political, economic, social, cultural or any other passive ends are rights not guaranteed in Haiti today.
NCHR notes that no efforts have been made by those in power to ensure the reopening of the schools – on the contrary, the government has left the streets to its armed partisans, which has made it too risky for children to go to school. Furthermore, NCHR deems it totally unacceptable that:
? Children have been used in acts of political repression. Arms should never – whatever the reason or cause may be – replace school books;
? Armed thugs enjoy impunity to operate in broad daylight with the blessings and in cooperation with the police. When the security forces become the accomplices of the thugs, the bankruptcy of the State, anarchy and chaos impose themselves;
? The repeated attacks against the press;
? There are several cases of armed theft of citizens’ vehicles for political purposes;
? The implication of vehicles from state institutions, such as TELECO and EDH in acts of political repression.
NCHR invites the government to display wisdom and put an end to those numerous acts which are likely to block any honorable solution to the crisis; to refrain from any acts that will further contribute to the coming apart of the social tissue; and to contemplate this slogan which was dear to a former African Statesman: “Serve, yes ; serve oneself, no.”