What's new in the other general journalsBMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7567.542 (Published 07 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:542
- Kristina Fister, associate editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stopping violations of human rights in Haiti needs more action
Since the democratically elected Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in February 2004, reports of human rights violations have ranged from several hundred to more than 100 000 affected people. Nobody, including the interim government and the United Nations, has provided believable estimates of the number of assaults or the identity of perpetrators.
A recent survey of 1260 randomly selected households in the wider area of Port-au-Prince included more than 5700 individuals and looked at human rights violations between February 2004 and December 2005. The researchers estimated that in the studied area over that period about 8000 murders took place, along with about 35 000 sexual assaults of women, 21 000 physical assaults, 11 000 kidnappings or extrajudicial detentions, and 136 000 threats of death, physical injury, or sexual violence.
Almost half of the murders seemed to have been committed for political purposes. More than half of sexual assaults were on girls younger than 18 years, and one in ten “restaveks” (girls who work as unpaid domestic servants) had been sexually assaulted. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people whose human rights were violated in the spring of 2004 fled the area. If true, this would mean that the study underestimates the extent of violence.
An editorial (p 816) points out that 14% of participants in the survey claimed to have been threatened by foreign soldiers, including those in the UN peacekeeping forces that have been intermittently present in the area for 15 years. Kofi Annan's stand against exploitative behaviour by UN peacekeepers needs to be followed by stronger action to avoid adding to people's suffering.
Contact lens solution withdrawn from market after epidemiological investigation
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