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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Gun culture 'undermining' Haiti
UN peacekeeper standing next to a bus full of Haitian civilians
7,000 UN peacekeepers have failed to halt the violence
Haiti is awash with small arms which are fuelling violence and human rights abuses and threaten planned elections, according to Amnesty International.

The group says armed criminal gangs and police officers alike are able to act with impunity towards civilians.

It urges the US-appointed interim government and UN peacekeepers to carry out complete disarmament.

The UN mission in the country is struggling to maintain law and order following a surge in violence in Haiti.

The country has recently been hit by a string of abductions and police say that more than 450 people have been kidnapped since March.

'Little progress'

The UN has carried out a series of high-profile raids on shanty towns on the edges of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in a bid to paralyse the armed gangs they say are behind the violence.

But Amnesty says rogue police officers and demobilised Haitian armed forces are also responsible for human rights abuses.

It accuses the UN force of not doing enough to control the situation ahead of elections planned for October and November.

"Haitians remain mired in a human rights crisis despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping force," the report says, warning violence could get worse before the elections.

"Little tangible progress has been made to protect human rights since the interim government took office in early March 2004," it adds.

The report's author says that the country's interim government has not signed up to a comprehensive disarmament plan drawn up by the UN force.

The government, it says, is failing to protect the basic rights of the Haitian people.

"Durable peace in Haiti will never be achieved unless those responsible for human rights are held to account," Amnesty's Mike Blakemore said.

The country's interim Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, has admitted that police commit abuses but has maintained these are investigated.


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