Grim Slaughter in Haitian Prison

A massacre took place at Les Cayes prison after police stormed the complex to quell a riot.

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Massacre was afoot when Haitian police stormed the Les Cayes prison to put down a riot.

According to an investigation in The Times by Deborah Sontag and Walt Bogdanich, a dozen or more prisoners were killed and up to 40 were wounded after police stormed the prison to put down a riot.

The government claims that a prison ringleader slaughtered other inmates before escaping. The Times found witnesses who told a different story — of days of abuse after the earthquake and then the murder of inmates by police.

Many of Haiti’s prisons were shattered during the quake, allowing inmates to flee. In Les Cayes, in western Haiti, the walls held. When prisoners panicked, guards beat the noisiest men, shoving them into cells that were already brutally crowded. A week later, a few dozen men tried to escape and set off a riot. Inmates rampaged loose for hours inside as the Haitian federal police and United Nations troops surrounded the prison.

When the police stormed the prison, witnesses said, they shot defenseless victims at close range. Some prisoners seemed to have been singled out for execution. Others were shot indiscriminately. A Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Marc Boisvert, who entered the prison while it was “still smoldering,” said inmates told him that prisoners trying to surrender were shot through the bars of their locked cells. Bodies were buried in a mass, unmarked grave. The survivors’ blood stained clothes were burned.

The Haitian government says it is investigating, but The Times found no indication that witnesses had been interviewed, bodies exhumed or even basic evidence collected. The United Nations mission in Haiti has ordered an independent inquiry.

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