UN mission in Haiti says nearly 500 prisoners have escaped from national prison

22 February 2005

Nearly 500 prisoners escaped during an “armed commando” attack on the national penitentiary in Haiti’s capital over the weekend, but the Haitian police joined in returning two jailed ministers from the government of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the United Nations mission in the Caribbean country said.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) deplored what it called the “serious events” which took place Saturday at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince from which, following the violent intervention of an armed commando, 481 prisoners were able to escape.

It accused some penitentiary workers of having collaborated with the attackers and said there were serious gaps in the security system. It offered the Transitional Government its assistance in finding the escapees and in reducing the backlog of people awaiting trial.

Three prisoners, including ex-Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, were returned to the penitentiary, “at their request and wish,” MINUSTAH said.

Last month the Security Council urged the Transitional Government to review the cases of people being held without formal charges or trial. “In this regard, the Council calls on MINUSTAH to continue its support for the provision of human rights training to Haitian judicial, police and correctional authorities to ensure adherence to international norms and standards.”

The former Prime Minister already had served nearly a year in prison without any sign of legal action, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdés said then.

One Haitian police officer, Jean Marie Guerrier, died during the events, MINUSTAH said, adding its condolences to his family and the Haitian National Police (PNH).


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