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OAS Commission Urges Immediate Steps To Quell Violence in Haiti

22 July 2005

Inter-American body denounces murder of Haitian journalist

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS) is calling for immediate measures to quell what it says is unprecedented violence in Haiti, where residents in some parts of the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince are effectively being held hostage by armed gangs.

In a July 22 statement, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern that the daily violence in Port-au-Prince has claimed an estimated 700 lives since September 2004, including over 40 police officers.

Many of the victims are women and children, who are reportedly being used as human shields by armed gangs during confrontations with the Haitian National Police and a U.N. force designed to stabilize the nation.

Because of dangerous conditions in many areas of Port-au-Prince, the commission said human-rights defenders are unable to monitor the situation or provide assistance to victims.  The unsafe conditions also do not permit access to proper medical assistance, "further exacerbating the harmful conditions under which thousands of Haitians live and causing the displacement of large numbers of inhabitants in affected areas," said the commission.

Also worrisome is a wave of kidnappings, with multiple incidents occurring daily, the commission added.  In some cases the victims are released in exchange for the payment of cash, but the commission said there are increasing reports about victims being subjected to physical abuse, torture and rape during their captivity.

The commission said the violence in Haiti must also be contained in order to ensure that legislative and presidential elections scheduled for later in 2005 are carried out "within an environment free of fear and intimidation."

The United States is providing $15 million to support the 2005 elections in Haiti, part of a $44 million commitment from the global community to promote democracy and stability in the Caribbean nation.


In a separate development, the OAS commission joined the international community in condemning the murder of prominent journalist Jacques Roche, a well-known cultural editor for the Haitian daily Le Matin.  Four days after being kidnapped on July 10, Roche was found dead on a street in Port-au-Prince, having been shot several times.  His body reportedly bore the signs of torture.

Among the global groups condemning Roche's killing was the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti -- known as MINUSTAH -- which pledged its full support for efforts to track down those who committed the "brutal and vile" murder of the journalist.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement mourning Roche's death that journalists in Haiti have limited their movements in the nation in response to the country's "pervasive climate of lawlessness."

Another group, Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, voiced "shock and outrage" at Roche's murder.

"The Haitian press has just lost a renowned journalist and Haiti has lost a leading advocate of its culture, and we call on the authorities to find and punish his murderers," the press freedom organization said.

The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association said in a statement denouncing Roche's murder that it would host an August 19-20 seminar in the Haitian city of Cap Haitien, focusing on the risks that journalists face in practicing their profession in Haiti.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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