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Haïti Support Group

24/01/2006

His Excellency Kofi Annan
Secretary-General
The United Nations
1 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017-3515

11 January 2006

Dear Secretary General,

The Haiti Support Group, a British organisation promoting human rights and
democracy in Haiti for over a decade, is very concerned to read the recent
remarks made by Juan Gabriel Valdes, your Special Representative to Haiti,
regarding the proposed deployment of UN troops in the Cite Soleil area of
Port-au-Prince.

According to a January 8, 2006, report by the Reuters news agency, Mr Valdes
told a local radio station, "We are going to intervene in the coming days. I
think there'll be collateral damage but we have to impose our force, there
is
no other way."

The Haiti Support Group condemns the criminal actions of the armed gangs
based in Cite Soleil, and we are fully aware that the MINUSTAH, the UN
peacekeeping mission in Haiti, is under immense pressure from certain
sectors of Haitian
society to take stronger action in Cite Soleil. However we do not believe
that
military action potentially involving a loss of civilian lives, as
apparently
suggested by the Special Representive, is either acceptable or a correct
strategy on the part of the United Nations mission in Haiti.

We are all the more concerned regarding the SRSG's comments since this comes
at a time when The Independent newspaper reports (10 January 2006) that the
UN's internal inquiry into the July 6, 2005 raid on Cite Soleil has found
that a
number of innocent civilians may have become "collateral victims" during the
exchange of fire. According to the Independent, the UN report states that,
"given the length of the operation and the violence of the clashes", a
number of
people may have been caught in crossfire between UN peacekeepers and armed
gang members.

It is Mr Valdes' apparent acceptance of the inevitability of more innocent
victims - "collateral damage" - that concerns us. Clearly, the deployment of
soldiers - trained to fight wars, not to carry out policing duties - into a
densely-populated area with the objective of dismantling armed groups may
result in
the death and wounding of innocent victims. All possible steps must be taken
to avoid this.

We are fully aware that the criminal actions of armed gangs based in Cite
Soleil are both making normal daily life impossible for large parts of the
capital's population and undermining the planned electoral process, but
there are
alternatives to a military assault on the area. We note that in other parts
of
the capital, for example Bel Air, the Brazilian peacekeeping troops have had
some success with an altogether different strategy, based on negotiation,
confidence-building, and humanitarian relief work. As you are aware, this
approach
has facilitated the establishment of a permanent MINUSTAH base in Bel Air.
Could not a similar approach be tried in Cite Soleil?

In addition, we share the opinion of numerous civil society organisations in
Haiti that believe that the problems of lawlessness, kidnapping and gang
warfare cannot be addressed by military action, and that therefore the UN
Civilian
Police component of the MINUSTAH force should be greatly increased in size.
We
appreciate that it is difficult for you to persuade UN Member States to
second sufficient numbers of police officers and police trainers, but if the
international community is serious about restoring law and order in Haiti,
it has to
realise that a significant increase in UN Civilian Police officer numbers is
desperately required.

In the longer term, we believe that a comprehensive reform of the Haitian
National Police must be carried out, and that a long-overdue disarmament
campaign
must be effectively implemented.

We hope you will discuss this matter with Member States and look forward to
your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Arthur
Director, The Haiti Support Group
PO Box 29623
London E9 7XU,
UK

cc
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the USA,
Jorge Taiana, Foreign Minister, Argentina,
Celso Amorim, Foreign Minister, Brazil,
Pierre Pettigrew, Foreign Minister, Canada,
Ignacio Walker, Foreign Minister, Chile,
Jack Straw , Foreign Minister, UK,
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister, Germany,
Philippe Douste-Blazy, Foreign Minister, France,
Karel de Gucht, Foreign Minister, Belgium,
Petros Molyviatis, Foreign Minister, Greece,
Ursula Plassnik, Foreign Minister, Austria,
Miguel Angel, Foreign Minister, Spain,
Gianfranco Fini, Foreign Minister, Italy,
Dermot Ahern, Foreign Affairs Minister, Ireland,
and foreign ministers of other UN member states

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