Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Haitian Cabinet studies ways to disarm gunmen


Haiti's new Cabinet met for the first time Wednesday to discuss myriad woes including the urgent need to disarm gunmen in the traumatized nation where rebels, street gangs and escaped convicts terrorize much of the land despite the presence of hundreds of US-led peacekeepers.

Haitian police officers are among those accused of fueling the turmoil, with a report Wednesday that five officers have been detained on suspicion of killing five supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party.

According to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, relatives of the victims, aged 17 to 24, said the officers rounded up and executed the men over the weekend. It said the officers were detained Monday but no charges had been filed.

US Marine Major Richard Crusan confirmed the five were detained.

Police were accused of brutalizing opponents of Aristide, who fled the country Feb. 29 as a three-week popular rebellion neared Port-au-Prince, the capital. Scores of police were among more than 300 people killed, and hundreds fled before the rebels, who torched police stations and freed thousands of convicts.

A month later, rebels remain armed and in charge in Haiti's three largest cities outside the capital, while some smaller towns are under the sway of street gangs and convicts.

In Les Cayes, on the southeast peninsula, gangs carried out a public execution Monday, UN relief worker Fernando Arroyo said.

A 14-year-old boy caught stealing was chased by a mob that dragged him before an improvised jury that ordered him shot to death, Arroyo said.

In northeast Fort Liberte, there are reports that "a gang of convicts is basically running the place," Arroyo said.

A reporter watched rebel leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a convicted assassin, acting as judge this week in the northern port of Cap-Haitien, where Aristide supporters and French peacekeepers say bodies are appearing in the bay.

Chamblain holds court despite the arrival last week of 150 French troops and the return of about 50 police officers.

Arroyo said the "still chaotic" situation was stifling access for aid workers.

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