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Group Says Government At Root of Haiti Chaos

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page A18

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, April 19 -- The failure of Haiti's government to tackle human rights abuses has encouraged lawlessness in the Caribbean state, where armed groups roam unchecked over wide areas, an advocacy group said Tuesday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said after a 16-day fact-finding mission that the government had no control in some parts of the country, where former soldiers had taken over policing and were illegally holding prisoners.

"We believe that the failure to bring perpetrators to justice to establish accountability contributes to this climate of impunity, insecurity and lawlessness that prevails now in the country," said Anna Neistat, a Human Rights Watch official.

Neistat said she visited makeshift detention centers where detainees were being held by former members of Haiti's disbanded army.

The group said that in almost all of the abuse cases it investigated, Haitian authorities had taken no action to bring those responsible to justice.

Officials with Haiti's interim government have repeatedly rejected accusations of political persecution and human rights abuses. They blame violence on supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The interim government was installed after Aristide was pressured to go into exile during a rebellion by armed gangs and former soldiers.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has scheduled national elections for November. Despite the presence of a 7,400-member U.N. peacekeeping force, continuing violence may delay the vote.

In Pretoria, South Africa, Aristide charged Tuesday that violence in Haiti constituted a "black holocaust" orchestrated by France and the United States.

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