As heavy rains threaten to flood camps, UN troops fired volleys of tear gas at a demonstration that spilled out from a university and into the surrounding makeshift camps. Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service that after UN troops entered the campus, students began to flee to the surrounding camps, where a "barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets" sent "masses of displaced Haitians running out of tent camps into the streets". Herz writes:
Edmond Mulet, the head of the peacekeeping mission - known by the acronym MINUSTAH - issued a statement blaming an unnamed student for "the provocation" of throwing stones at a patrol, but apologising for the troops' intrusion on university grounds to seize him.Partners in Health told IPS that they treated at least six patients with wounds from rubber bullets, including a young girl who needed ten stitches. One resident of the Chanmas camp where the altercation took place, and a member of the Haitian women's gorup KONFAVIV, told IPS:
U.N. troops never fired any bullets or tear gas on Monday, said MINUSTAH spokesperson David Wimhurst. He said only pepper spray and rubber bullets were used to quell an out-of-control protest.
CNN crews heard gunshots, smelled tear gas and saw gas canisters littering the area surrounding the palace. According to witnesses from the surrounding tent camps, U.N. troops blanketed the area with tear gas and fired rubber bullets at 6 p.m. on Monday.
"Everyone ran because nobody wants to be around when there's so much gas," Joseph Marie-ange, a 24-year-old mother of four, told IPS. "They're abusive. They shot the gas in here and the children and elders were falling, everyone was feeling the effects."
"How can they shoot it in the middle of the camp, where we have children and families? They say they're here for security in the country, but how can the government work with them now when they do this?"Herz writes that, "U.N. troops have been dogged by persistent accusations of abuse since their mission was established in 2004 after the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide."
On February 26, we wrote about some of the past abuses of the UN troops:
The most notorious incident was the July 6, 2005 assault on Cité Soleil by UN troops, with the stated goal of eliminating gang leader “Dred” Wilme, which resulted in dozens of civilian residents killed or wounded, including children and infants. Eyewitness claim that UN troops were directly responsible – not police or anyone else. Cité Soleil residents showed photographs of victims to New York Times reporters, and the Haiti Information Project gathered video footage and conducted interviews with witnesses just after the massacre.
The UN later admitted “it was possible that civilians were injured”, as the Village Voice reported, and launched an investigation. According to declassified cables sent that day from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to the State Department, UN troops fired 22,000 shots in seven hours in a neighborhood where many people live in structures made of flimsy sheet metal.
The Cité Soleil raid was not an isolated incident. Similar MINUSTAH operations that left civilians dead or injured have been documented by human rights investigators and the media. On December 22, 2006, for example, MINUSTAH troops staged another raid on Cité Soleil in which, according to the Associated Press, at least five people were killed (Reuters estimated 20).