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Deadly Haiti Prison Riot Highlights Swedish UN Wardens, Mystery Guests, One American

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- When reports emerged Monday morning about UN peacekeepers in Haiti putting down a prison riot, in which three inmates died, some viewed it as a rare affirmative act by UN Peacekeeping, accused this summer of inaction in the face of mass rapes in the Congo, and the killing of civilians in Darfur.

  One aspect of the Haiti prison riot seemed incongruous: that there were five UN personnel, and two “guests,” inside the jail even before the rioting or escape attempt began.

  Inner City Press asked acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq what the UN personnel had been doing inside the jail, if the UN was now in the business of running prison systems.

  Haq didn't directly answering, saying instead that there were “five UN staff and two guests” and that everything the UN Mission MINUSTAH does is “in support of local authorities.” Video here, from Minute 12:05.

So is the UN running prisons or not?Click here for Inner City Press previous coverage of the UN and Haitian prisons.  Also, what was the role of UN Peacekeeping in the deaths of three inmates, if any?

Chelsea Clinton in Haiti, UN wardens and 3 dead inmates not shown

  We note that, despite a follow up question, the investigation of the death of a young Haitian who did odd jobs for the Nepali formed police unit in Haiti is either still ongoing, or its results covered up. Inner City Press asked first, then a follow up was put in last week.

In this incident, six of the seven inside the jail were from Sweden, one from the UN. It appears that Sweden had contributed police wardens, through the UN, to Haiti. While a training function could be helpful, one wonders what exactly the Swedes were doing in this jail, and who their visitors were. Watch this site.

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On Haiti, Why Did UN Conceal Jail Slaughter, Shoot Into University?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- Since the January earthquake in Haiti, the UN has said publicly that it is partnering with the Haitian National Police, and that it is unaware of evidence of HNP abuses of human rights including summary executions.

These statements were made by the head of the UN mission Edmund Mulet, and by deputy Tony "Rape Elates Me" Banbury, in press conferences and video links with the Press at UN Headquarters.

Now comes evidence of a slaughter of prisoners by the Haitian National Police in January, in a semi collapsed jail while UN peacekeepers stood outside. The question is, when did the UN know it, and why did the UN not come clean, but rather wait for the press to disclose it?

UN's Ban and Banbury, 4 months non disclosure of prison murders not shown

At the UN's May 26 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: In Haiti there was this incident where UN peacekeepers reportedly fired teargas and rubber bullets and then chased students into the campus of the university. What, I guess, what are the UN’s policies both on the use of these two non-lethal crowd control measures, and what training is given in terms of not violating local customs of not having armed military — armed, in this case, peacekeepers — going onto college campuses?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, first of all, the UN Mission in Haiti has issued an apology concerning this incident. The troops went inside the university to arrest a student who threw rocks at UN troops. But as you know, and as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative has said, UN troops should not enter university grounds. When it comes to the question of use of teargas and rubber bullets and so on, I would need to ask DPKO for more information on the rules for the use of those kinds of…

Inner City Press: [inaudible] and then on this, and I know that yesterday you made this announcement that the UN is going to conduct a joint investigation with the Government of the prison alleged killings. But what I couldn’t figure out is when did the UN know? It seems to many that this only became public because the New York Times ran an exposé of it. When did the UN become aware of it, that there was an issue of how, that some of the prisoners may have been killed by the Haitian National Police while peacekeepers were immediately outside the jail? And why didn’t the UN go public at that time?

Spokesperson: Well, certainly — a number of things. First of all, the Mission was aware immediately [that] this incident took place. That’s the first point. The second is that they immediately, the Human Rights Section in that town, in Les Cayes, immediately began looking into this. What you have to also remember is precisely when it took place, 19 January, was very close to when the earthquake took place, and therefore MINUSTAH — the Mission — and the rest of the UN presence as well as, of course, the entire population of Haiti were still digging themselves out of the rubble, metaphorically and literally. Therefore I think you could probably understand that that was the immediate first focus. This is taken extremely seriously, and there already has been an investigation within MINUSTAH into what happened in that prison. And there are already preliminary findings. And it’s precisely because there were repeated requests for an investigation by the Haitian National Police — and precisely because that investigation has not yet been forthcoming — that MINUSTAH went ahead with its own investigation and, secondly, has also now, through Mr. [Edmond] Mulet, agreed with President [René] Préval that there should be an independent commission to look into what happened.

Inner City Press [inaudible] because there have been a series of press conferences and video hook-ups with Mr. Mulet where questions of killings by the Haitian National Police have come up. And I think in one of them he said he wasn’t aware of any; then they have described the Haitian National Police as a good partner of MINUSTAH. Were any steps, again, [inaudible] I guess go back over and look at those things, it wasn’t, I mean when you say MINUSTAH was aware, was Mr. Mulet aware of this all the way back to January 19?

Spokesperson: My understanding is that the Acting Head of the Mission at that point, Mr. Mulet, was aware from early on — I don’t know precisely which day. But as I say, there were many other things that needed to be contended with at that point. And he takes it extremely seriously. And I think that it has been pursued consistently and seriously behind the scenes to try to ensure that the Haitian National Police conduct an investigation. And that did not happen, or not to the extent that was necessary, and that’s why both MINUSTAH launched its own investigation with its own resources, and has now additionally agreed with President Préval that there should be an independent commission. And the details of that are still being worked out.

INNER CITY PRESS: And just one last one on this. Were any steps taken to not have MINUSTAH work with a particular unit or units of the Haitian National Police that the UN had reason to believe were engaged in this killing of prisoners?

Spokesperson: I’d have to find that out, I’d have to find that out, but it’s standard practice in other operational areas to take precisely those kinds of measures.

We'll be waiting. Watch this space.

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UN Defends Use of Haiti Love Boat, Belated Moratorium on Evictions, No Times

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- When the UN's top representative in Haiti Edmond Mulet emerged from the Security Council on Wednesday, only one journalist was there. One of his staffers asked Inner City Press, what happened to the interest in Haiti? What indeed.

Mulet gamely agreed to take questions. Inner City Press asked about forced evictions from the soccer stadium on Port au Prince on April 9, and from at least two schools. Mulet acknowledged these had happened, but said that he and others met with Haitian authorities "last Thursday" -- that is, April 22 -- and that going forward there would be a moratorium. But what about the 7000 evicted from the stadium?

Inner City Press asked about the so-called Love Boats, two luxury ships rented by the World Food Program and one sub-contracted to Mulet's mission MINUSTAH. Mulet said this was only temporary, that a camps is being built to house up to 500 people. Currently 200 are housed on board. At what cost, he said, he did not know.

UN DSG Migiro, watched by Edmond Mulet, April 9 eviction not shown

  On April 1, Kim Bolduc left after a mere four months as UN Resident Coordinator in Haiti. Inner City Press, which exclusively reported the departure, asked Mulet to explain it. We "discussed her reasons for leaving," Mulet said, without disclosing them. Video here, from Minute 3:45.

Press notes: Inner City Press asked Mulet about the day's front page New York Times story on seemingly forgotten parts of Haiti, assuming he would have read it. "I haven't," he said. Does this reflect on UN media readiness, on pay walls or that the Paper of Record is not what it once was? Last week, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said he would seek guidance on a New York Times editorial pillorying the UN's performance in Afghanistan. But a week later, no response. Does the UN feel no need?

  Meanwhile, at least some in the UN are thinking of further limiting press availability. A UN press aide, seeing only this reporter waiting for Mulet, said that maybe the stakeouts should be canceled. Or not be televised, so reporters had to come. Or televised on a delay. Serve sandwiches and liquor, one wag suggested. Then the press will come. And so it goes.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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