Mass Killing of Civilians by U.N.-Backed National Police of Haiti

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On the morning of November 13, 2017, a joint anti-gang operation between the National Police of Haiti (PHN), who were trained under occupation by UN and US officials, and the newly-formed United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) ended in the mass killing of at least nine innocent civilians at Maranatha College in Port-au-Prince. Some reports indicate up to 14 civilians and two police officers were killed.

The United Nations issued a statement days later, condemning the violence and calling for a prompt investigation. However, the statement did not publicly acknowledge the UN’s own role in the operation, and distanced the organization from the civilian casualties. As Jake Johnston of the Intercept reported, it was not until late December that a UN spokesperson confirmed that the MINUJUSTH, the UN police, had helped to plan the raid.

UN spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe wrote in an email to the Intercept that the UN had conducted an internal inquiry following the raid which absolved the UN. The inquiry found that UN police did not enter Maranatha College where the alleged killings took place, nor did UN police fire their weapons. Instead, according to the inquiry, UN police only “secured the perimeter” of the school. The post-operation “unilateral initiative” of some PHN members was, according to the UN inquiry, without UN authorization.

However, the UN’s inquiry contradicts the account of the school’s director, Armand Louis, and other eyewitnesses. According to an independent investigation by a local group, the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, teachers and students were protesting at the nearby school when the anti-gang raid erupted onto the school grounds. Haitian police released tear gas and ransacked classrooms in an attempt to locate gang members hiding on campus, though none were reportedly found.

Later, school guard Julio Fongene discovered gang members hiding in a storage facility on campus, and Fongene notified the school’s director, who in turn notified the police.  In an effort to uncover the gang members, two police officers were shot and the gang members escaped. UN police units responded to the gun shots and entered the school grounds, where they administered first aid to the injured officers and secured the perimeter.

Haitian police shot Fongene and accused Louis of setting them up. They began to beat and shoot civilians caught in the violence. Louis told the Intercept he was handcuffed in the school by an officer in a UN uniform. When police left the campus, nine civilians lay dead in the courtyard—five of whom had been shot in the head. The bodies were not removed until the next afternoon.

An article on the Haitian killings appeared in the San Francisco Bay View on November 18, 2017. But there has been no mention of the story in US corporate media, despite the US being Haiti’s biggest trading partner. Meanwhile, the US continues to exploit Haiti’s free market economy of low-cost labor and tariff-free access for many of its exports, while distancing itself from the US-trained National Police of Haiti. Although the UN issued a press release condemning the incident four days after the incident, it is only available on the French-language version of the website but not in English. To date, no one has been held responsible and there has been no additional follow-up from the UN

Source: Jake Johnston, “A U.N.-Backed Police Force Carried Out a Massacre in Haiti. The Killings Have Been Almost Entirely Ignored”, The Intercept, 10 January 2018.

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