Haitian authorities are condemning police violence in one of the country’s provinces, and are seeking the U.S. Embassy’s help in tracking down one of the officers involved who is believed to have fled to the United States.
“The state will not tolerate police violence,” the office of Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said about allegations involving the behavior of certain officers in the Haiti National Police (HNP).
The incident took place late on Aug. 17 during a concert in the southwestern coastal city of Petit-Goâve and involved a specialized unit of the police, UDMO, assigned to HNP’s West Department, which includes Port-au-Prince.
Two musicians who were on stage at the time told a local Haitian radio station they saw an officer beating up revelers, and others fired automatic weapons into the air and tear gas onto the crowd of 20,000 to 30,000, creating a stampede.
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On Saturday, some area residents took to the streets in protest of the incident, demanding that sanctions be taken against those involved.
The musicians — leading konpa artists Joseph “Ti Joe” Zenny of Kreyòl La and Djakout#1’s Shabba — expressed those same sentiments Monday, denouncing the violence by police and demanding authorities take action against those involved.
“The violence caused 43 casualties, including two by gunfire. Two people are still hospitalized,” Lamothe’s office said.
As prime minister, Lamothe serves as chairman of the Superior Council of the National Police (CSPN), which oversees the HNP. Other CSPN members include the police chief, police inspector general and ministers of justice, interior and defense.
The police inspector general’s office immediately launched an investigation into the incident, which has since revealed that one of the UDMO police officers accused of firing on the crowd is on the run in the United States, Lamothe’s office said.
“Contacts have already been established with the American authorities to arrest and repatriate,” it added, noting that the officer will be treated with “the utmost rigor.”
This is not the first time allegations of violence in the HNP have been raised involving musicians.
Brothers Posse, a group that has been critical of the country’s governance, recently complained about police breaking up one of its concerts by firing tear gas.
Earlier this month the country’s leading human rights group, the National Human Rights Defense Network, issued a report detailing recent acts of police brutality saying that it was concerned about “an alarming upsurge in violent beatings causing death” perpetrated by HNP agents.