Originally: Spread of small arms threatening peace in Haiti – report

 Text of report by Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) news agency on 4 April

Port of Spain, Trinidad: A study by a Geneva-based organization says illegal guns held by civilians as well as political and criminal gangs in Haiti are posing a major threat to restoring peace on the former French colony.

The report by the Small Arms Group was released in Geneva on Monday 4 April.

It said the proliferation of weapons, including those brought in by smugglers, had resulted in the deaths of a number of people and was the main factor in the violation of human rights of citizens on the island.

The study also claimed that the guns were responsible for increased criminal activity.

“Without effective intervention, the situation could deteriorate further still,” it said in a summary.

The report, which will be issued in full on Thursday, appeared two weeks after the international human rights group Global Justice accused the United Nations peacekeeping force of complacency in the face of the ongoing violence in Haiti.

In recent weeks, at least two members of the UN Security Council-authorized force were killed and last weekend a Filipino soldier survived an attack outside a peacekeepers’ hotel.

The authorities have blamed elements and supporters of ousted leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide for the continued violence since his controversial removal from office in February last year.

Aristide, who now resides in South Africa, has accused the United States of engineering his removal, a claim denied by Washington.

The US-backed interim administration in Port-au-Prince has already indicated that fresh elections would be held by year-end and the authorities have been moving in recent days to quell the violence that many believe could disrupt the polls.

But the report said the efforts of the peacekeeping force were being compromised by the easy availability of small arms and light weapons.

“Predatory armed gangs and non-state opposition groups” alone held up to 13,000 automatic, semi-automatic and manufactured weapons, it said.