In robust fight against Haiti's gangs, UN peacekeepers seek to avoid civilian casualties

With the security situation in parts of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, remaining very tense, the United Nations peacekeeping mission has taken a robust posture to disrupt the activities of armed gangs and bring them to justice, while taking all possible measures to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
In a press statement, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) regretted any such casualties that may have occurred and pledged to investigate any serious allegations of the use of unnecessary force on its part.

It noted that there had been allegations that the Mission injured or killed civilians during an operation on 6 July in the Bois Neuf area of Cité Soleil aimed at apprehending a prominent gang leader, Emmanuel Wilmer, alias "Dread Wilmé", who is believed to have been involved in murder, kidnapping, rape, arson, carjacking, and extortion.

He is also suspected of involvement in the murder on 14 April of a Filipino soldier serving with MINUSTAH. The Mission has reason to believe that he was killed together with four of his associates during the operation in which the UN suffered no casualties.

"MINUSTAH forces take all possible measures to reduce the risk of civilian casualties in their operations," the statement said. "MINUSTAH forces did not target civilians in the operation on 6 July, but the nature of such missions in densely populated urban areas is such that there is always a risk of civilian casualties. MINUSTAH deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life during its security operation."

It added that MINUSTAH had received unconfirmed information from the Haitian National Police and other sources that gangs were seen killing civilians following the operation and subsequently "attributed these atrocious acts to MINUSTAH."

"In any and all circumstances the United Nations condemns the killing of civilians in the strongest terms," the statement declared. "MINUSTAH will investigate any serious allegation of the use of unnecessary force on its part, as well as of the killings allegedly perpetrated by gangs following its operation."

It noted that UN security operations followed two particularly egregious crimes that "have shocked the Haitian people recently" - the arson of the Tête Bœuf marketplace, which killed at least 11 people, and the kidnapping and subsequent killing of journalist Jacques Roche.