Originally: OAS rights commission hears testimony about situation in Haiti

3 mars 2006

WASHINGTON_An Organization of American States commission heard testimony Friday on the dire state of economic and social rights in Haiti but barred any reference to possible rights violations by more than 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers and international policemen in the country.
Several witnesses who testified before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights criticized the U.N. mission in their prepared statements.
Commission chairman Sergio Pinheiro ruled at the outset that verbal mention of the mission would be prohibited for “obvious reasons.” He did not elaborate.
Efforts to obtain an explanation from OAS commission and U.N. spokesmen were unsuccessful.
The U.N. peacekeepers were sent to Haiti in June 2004 to help stabilize the country during the run-up to national elections, which were held a month ago.
Some 7,300 U.N. troops and 1,750 international police are in the country under Brazilian command. Their mandate expires in August.
Pinheiro interrupted a reference to the U.N. mission during testimony by Loune Viaud, who represents a Haiti-based rights group, Zanmi Lasante.
Afterward, her testimony was marked by delays as she attempted to anticipate the forbidden references to MINUSTAH. Frustrated, she decided to cut short her testimony.
In her written remarks, she said, “If you ask anyone in the Central Plateau (of Haiti) how they feel about MINUSTAH after two years, sadly people will answer, `Se moun ki vinn an vakans.? (`They are here on vacation.?)”
Margaret Satterthwaite, of the NYU School of Law, said that MINUSTAH is failing to honor a legal requirement to “respect and ensure” the human rights of the Haitians.
“The duty to respect means that MINUSTAH should not create obstacles for Haitians? access to crops, wells, hospitals and schools,” she said.
“It should not, for example, commandeer school or hospital buildings as sites for its offices or command posts.”
Satterthwaite added that MINUSTAH must not provide water for its own employees when doing so diminishes the ability of the local population to meet their needs.