Soldiers' lynching leads to massacre

October 08, 1991|By Anne-Marie O'Connor | Anne-Marie O'Connor,Cox News Service

CITE MARCO, Haiti -- The crime was the mob lynching of two soldiers last week, one who died with a flaming tire around his neck, an agonizing death that Haitians call "Pere Lebrun."

The punishment was the military massacre of 40 unarmed civilians -- including two old men and two small children -- who had the bad luck to be around when Haitian troops swept through this neighborhood in a bloody reprisal hours later.

Survivors of the massacre Sept. 30 say the Haitian army is returning to the lawless violence that had abated during the seven-month tenure of the ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"For us to be saved, Aristide must come back," said Jean-Robert, whose last name is being withheld to protect him. "If he doesn't come back, they will kill everybody."

Two military officers in this impoverished neighborhood, in the Correfour district in the capital, Port-au-Prince, confirmed yesterday thatthe massacre occurred and said that it was justified. It was the only way to put an end to the lynchings that President Aristide had broadly hinted that he approved of in a Sept. 27 speech, they said.

The killings of the soldiers and the civilians, which took place during a wave of post-coup violence that Western diplomats say may have left hundreds dead, also was confirmed by the Haitian Center for the Defense of Human Rights.

"Necklacing" has been widely used for years in South African slums. It made its debut in Haiti in January, where it became known as Pere Lebrun, the nickname of a popular tire importer.

"You know Haitians. If we don't put an end to this, it will go on and on," an officer said when journalists visited the scene yesterday.

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