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Haiti police on La Saline massacre: 'Even young children were not spared'

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

It is one of Haiti's most violent and impoverished neighborhoods, a no-go zone next to the Haitian Parliament that has become ground zero in a resurgence of gang-related and possibly politically motivated violence.

Now six months after dozens of people were tortured and killed in the worst massacre in Haiti in more than a decade, an internal Haiti police investigation report obtained by the Miami Herald provides the first official account of some of the atrocities that occurred in Port-au-Prince's La Saline neighborhood during four days of carnage in mid-November.

During that period, Nov. 13-17, men, women and even children as young as 4 were shot to death, their bodies then fed to dogs and pigs. Women were raped and set on fire, as was a police officer, Juwon Durosier. The culprits: bandits tied to gang conflicts over control of a sprawling outdoor market where protection rackets are the norm, but also guns-for-hire by powerful politicians and well-heeled businessmen seeking to control votes in the run-up to upcoming legislative and mayoral elections.

"Among other things that show the cruelty of the killers is the murder of infants such as Geralson Belance, a baby of only 10 months old, who was cowardly lynched and whose remains were taken away in a sack by his killers," police said.

Testimony from scores of other victims and their close relatives, compiled during the investigation carried out by the judicial police's Bureau of Criminal Affairs, paints an equally disturbing image of the depths of the atrocities, which have been the subject of several human rights investigations in Haiti but, so far, have resulted in little accountability from the government.

"Before the bewildered eyes of their relatives (husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters), victims were killed, then chopped with (knives, machetes) and their remains were left abandoned on garbage heaps, thrown into sewage canals, or burnt," police investigators concluded. "Others, notably women, were raped in the presence of their powerless husbands or partners, and sometimes even in the presence of their children."

 

Investigators also noted that a Haiti National Police Galil assault rifle, once assigned to the National Palace and presumed to be among 56 Galils that went missing during the 2016 transition from ex-president Michel Martelly to interim president Jocelerme Privert, was used in the massacre. The gun had been found in the possession of a dismantled gang police say was tied to the massacre.

Police interviewed more than six dozen witnesses, victims and their relatives. And while they refrained from saying how many people were killed or have gone missing, local human rights groups have put the death toll between 15 and 71 in separate investigations detailing the events that began shortly before 4 p.m. on Nov. 13, a Tuesday.

The police investigation, sent to the government's chief prosecutor of Port-au-Prince and transferred over to an investigative judge, suggests that more than 70 people should be arrested for the "reprehensible acts."

Among them: two former Haiti National Police officers who became leaders of prominent armed gangs, and two senior government officials. One of the officials is Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan, a former Port-au-Prince mayor who serves as the president's representative for the West region, which includes La Saline and the surrounding metropolitan Port-au-Prince area. The second is Fednel Monchery, the executive director of the interior ministry who has been implicated in a U.S. visa scandal.

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