The U.N. mission in Haiti has launched an inquiry into the lynching of at least 20 people by vigilantes armed with machetes and by Haitian police last weekend, U.N. officials said on Wednesday.
During a soccer game on Saturday funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the interim Haitian government, hooded police and individuals with machetes attacked people they called “bandits,” according to residents of the Port-au-Prince slum of Martissant.
“Everybody gathered to watch the game, suddenly the police surrounded the area and ordered everyone to lie on the ground,” said Roland Roy, a community leader in Martissant. “Then a group of people, armed with machetes, who came with the police, started identifying people one by one, saying here is a bandit, here is another one. They cut them with machetes and killed a number of them,” said Roy.
He said up to 30 people died, some shot by police. Another community leader, Lionel Mondestin, said at least 20 people were killed on Saturday during the soccer game and on Sunday during another police operation. Many other residents gave similar accounts.
French Lt. Col. Philippe Espie, the head of international police who are part of a U.N. force keeping the peace since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted by an armed revolt last year, said the incident was being investigated and would not be tolerated. “In the first place, we can only condemn what happened. It is intolerable to accept that sort of situation where people take justice into their own hands,” Espie told Reuters.
The soccer game was part of a “tournament for peace,” funded by USAID and the interim Haitian government that took over after Aristide fled into exile at the end of February 2004, organizers said.