Originally: U.N. to investigate rights abuses by Haiti police

Webmaster’s note: The author of this article, Joseph Guyler Delva, a Haitian, is described as a pro-Aristide “palace information activist” by Daniel Whitman in A Haiti Chronicle: The Undoing of a Latent Democracy, 1999-2001 (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford), forthcoming. Whitman was head of the U.S. Information Service in Haiti during 1999-2001, although the views expressed in his book are his own, not necessarily the U.S. government’s.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) – U.N. police will investigate allegations of human rights abuses by Haiti’s police force, responding pressure from rights activists for an independent probe, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.
    The probe by a team of 20 foreign officers will include the killings by police on Oct. 26 of up to 13 supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Port-au-Prince’s Fort National slum, spokesman Jean-Francois Vezina said.
    Vezina said the investigation would begin in December.
    As part of it, the United Nations will identify everyone arrested since Aristide was driven out on Feb. 29 by an armed revolt and U.S. and French pressure. It will also examine allegations of rape and kidnappings by police.
    Amnesty International and local human rights organizations have urged the United Nations to look into what they describe as an alarming number of arbitrary and illegal arrests, summary executions and other rights violations by Haitian police.
    In a scathing report on Haiti earlier this month, Amnesty said only an independent investigation could restore public faith in the local police and in the U.N. force trying to keep the peace in the politically driven Caribbean nation.
    U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday human rights remained a “cause of great concern” in Haiti and called on the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue to free Aristide allies that had been arbitrarily detained.
    Up to 700 supporters of Aristide, including his former prime minister, Yvon Neptune, are imprisoned.
    Few of those detained have been shown arrest warrants or brought before a judge to hear the charges. When charges are brought, lawyers argue that they are often spurious.
    “We are also going to make a list of the prisoners, look into the conditions of their detention and push for their appearance before judges within legal time limits,” Vezina told Reuters.
    Aristide’s Lavalas Family party has accused the Latortue administration of persecuting it to prevent it from being a viable force in elections due to be held in 2005.
    The government in turn accuses Lavalas and Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa, of fomenting violence that has killed about 200 people since early September, and describes police raids in pro-Aristide slums as operations to root out “terrorists.”