Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Investigating Killings and Torture in Haiti

United Nations human rights officials urged authorities in Haiti to properly investigate and prosecute local police officers suspected of carrying out unlawful killings and acts of torture in the capital, Port-au-Prince, since last year.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights section of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have issued two reports – one on a series of alleged killings by members of the Haitian National Police (known as HNP) and the other on the torture and murder of Serge Démosthène, who had been accused of a crime.  The reports indicated that about 20 HNP members are implicated in the deaths of at least nine Haitians, with police accused of using illegal force in all cases and, in some instance, carrying out extrajudicial or summary executions.

Stressing that these cases “represent only a sample of the total cases of reported deaths at the hands of HNP officers in the course of the past year,” OHCHR and MINUSTAH said they are currently investigating allegations that up to70 police officers are implicated in more than 20 other killings in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.  The report noted that while many police officers in Haiti “operate in what are sometimes very dangerous conditions,” the security of citizens and effective law enforcement depend on the appropriate behaviour of the HNP.

“It is urgent that the Government take action to prevent killings… by representatives of the HNP and ensure rapid and effective investigations where deaths do occur, with a view to punishing those police officers responsible or clearing their responsibility where the circumstances and legal justifications for lethal force exist,” the report stated.  “Such action is essential not only to ensure protection of the rights to life and physical integrity of Haitian citizens, but also to reinforce public confidence and trust in an essential institution, such as the HNP.”

OHCHR noted that while criminal justice investigations were launched in some cases and accused police were suspended or detained, there were no criminal convictions in any of the incidents.  In several cases, the suspended police officers resumed their functions even before the investigations into their actions were completed.

The other report dealt with the case of Mr. Démosthène, who was arrested along with Feckel Plaisimond on 15 June this year by police in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Démosthène and Mr. Plaisimond were allegedly tortured by police, the report contended, to make them confess their guilt in the killing of a bank director three days earlier. Twelve hours after being arrested, Mr. Démosthène was taken unconscious to hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Mr. Plaisimond was released from detention several months later.  The report highlights the involvement of police officers based in Pétionville, the commissaire of that area, as well as the then public prosecutor of Port-au-Prince.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


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