Thursday, November 16, 2006

"The general human rights situation under the administration of the transitional government was catastrophic."

Chronicling a grim roll call of murder, rape and wanton destruction descending upon the Haitian people from a variety of actors, the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) report, February 2004 – June 2006: Overview of the General Human Rights Situation in Haiti During the Interim Government, represents perhaps one of the most thorough accountings yet of the situation René Préval inherited when he assumed Haiti's presidency in May. Among that tableau was the murder of 1,821 civilians, 108 police officers and 10 United Nations soldiers.

"Even if the interim government was not the direct source of the political violence," the report states (a statement I, for one, find highly problematic). "It is evident that they failed in their mission to guarantee the population’s right to life and security. They could not prevent the degeneration of the lawless zones in the metropolitan areas where gang leaders practiced the worst violent acts on the population.”

"The general human rights situation under the administration of the transitional government was catastrophic," the report, whose findings more or less line up with those of Haiti’s Commission Episcopale Nationale Justice et Paix (which counted 2506 dead victims of violence during the 47 months it has been operating), goes on.

The farcical acquittals of Louis-Jodel Chamblain, the exoneration of all suspects in the 1994 slaying of Father Jean-Marie Vincent, the failure to pursue the investigations into the murder of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint and the fact that 86% of Haiti's prison population was (and is) held without the benefit of a trial are all cited as part of the interim government's failure. As well as, in the report's words, the fact that "the Haitian National Police (PNH) was implicated in a number of human rights violations: summary executions, kidnapping, drugs, corruption, and many other exactions." Unfortunately, the report does little to shed light on the details of the fact that the PNH regularly summarily executed individuals they, rightly or wrongly, suspected of involvement with the pro-Aristide gangs that were terrorizing the capital.

The report does, however, allude to one of the era's darkest incidents, the burning by gangsters of the Tête Boeuf Market in Port-au-Prince in May 2005, which killed seven people, and which lead to a call by four of Haiti's most politically progressive organizations - the Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatries et Refugies (GARR), the Platforme Haitienne de Plaidoyer pour un Developpement Alternatif (PAPDA), Solidarite Famn Ayisyen (SOFA) and Centre National et International de Documentation et d’Information de la Femme en Haiti (EnfoFanm) - that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide be judged for what they called his crimes against the Haitian people.

Meanwhile, proving that short-sighted self-interest is not limited to developing nations, New York's City Council yesterday voted itself a 25 percent pay raise for its part-time job, with council members now having to stagger along with a mere (!) $112,500 a year, which doesn't even include the lucrative stipends — known as lulus — that are given as perks to committee chairmen and other Council leaders which often total tens of thousands of dollars a year.

In a city where one in five live in poverty, City Council speaker Christine Quinn has proven herself to be just as corrupt, cronyistic and self-interested as any who have come before her. Perhaps the only council members who came off looking not like a bunch of overpaid, crapulent babies were Queens council members Tony Avella and Hiram Monserrate, Staten Island members Andrew J. Lanza and Michael E. McMahon and Brooklyn member Darlene Mealy, all of whom voted against the measure. Avella, for his part, stated that "it is unethical for this body to vote itself a raise,” as indeed it is.

The New York City Council and Christine Quinn should be ashamed of themselves and I for one hope voters remember this moment come next election time.

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